tv Foreign Policy in the Western Hemisphere CSPAN July 11, 2018 10:08am-12:47pm EDT
[ gavel ] we'll call, call this hearing to order. today we look at u.s. policy toward latin america and toward the caribbean. our relationships in the western hemisphere are forged by deep cultural and economic ties. we export a lot of goods to the caribbean. and that supports many u.s. jobs across latin america, our trade ties are just as strong. but today is the region faces
urgent challenges and transitions, the united states must be more engaged than ever. as always, the safety of americans serving abroad is a top priority for this committee. the still unexplained attacks on embassy personnel in havana. and now in china, are very disturbing. 26 americans have been medically evacuated from havana with serious symptoms including sharp ear pain, headaches, vertigo and other conditions consistent with brain injury or concussion. canadians have been impacted as well. we need to know what happened, who is responsible. and how to respond. the administration is actively addressing the western hemisphere's major crisis, starting with venezuela. the united states has repeatedly condemned the illegitimate election of president maduro, as
well as the human rights abuses and economic meltdown unfolding there. the administration has rightly deployed targeted sanctions. hitting venezuelan officials responsible for this catastrophe, not the suffering venezuelan people is the way to go. the vice president has traveled to the region three times to urge region nal leaders to do more for the venezuelan people. in nicaragua, the administration has rightly designated three top officials for human rights abuses and for corruption. we should do more to support the nicaraguan people. the repressive ortega regime has killed more than 200 advocates for free and fair elections since this april. one of the civilians murdered on a village street was a former neighbor of an orange county friend of mine. subcommittee chairman paul cook will convene a hearing to
further examine this matter tomorrow. across the hemisphere transnational criminal organizations continue to pose a major threat. these violent gangs are fueling the drug and migration crisis that the united states struggles with today. as we fight the deadly impacts of opium in our communities, we must continue working closely with our region nal neighbors, to increase counternarcotics cooperation. the recent increase in cocaine production in clom olombia is unacceptable. i'm hoping the recent election of president yvonne uke is a sign that they will redouble efforts to prosecute cartels. elval have a door, honduras and guatemala. to help shore up institutions,
combat crime and combat corruption and create conditions that will keep people from migrating north. i agree with the administration that combatting corruption in the region must be a key part of the strategy to create opportunity and stability. the committee will continue to support assistance to the region. finally, the recent election in mexico raises questions about the future of the u.s./mexico security relationship under the maduro initiative. i hope that president-elect andres manuel lopez owe bra door's campaign promise to root out corruption is a sign that our two countries can continue to cooperate on matters of security. one of those is the merida initiative. the u.s. and mexico share a 2,000-mile border and must
continue to work together to enhance security and trade, that benefits both our countries. nafta should be updated for the 21st century, not scrapped. and with that, let me go to our ranking member, mr. engel of new york for his opening statement. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you for calling today's hearing. this region is particularly important to me. as a former western hemisphere subcommittee chair. ambassador merten and assistant ambassador lynch, welcome and thank you for your service. the white house's failure to fill key positions in a timely manner means we can't hear from those setting the course for foreign policy. that's too bad, because in my view the administration has put us on a very dangerous course when it comes to the western hemisphere. the way the president talks about this region says it all. falsely insisting mexico will pay for a border wall we don't
need. language calling drug dealers and rapists. the dehumanizing language about immigrants and characterization of haiti and el salvador using a word i won't repeat. democrats and republicans have worked for two dids together to improve the u.s./mexico relationship, long characterized by mistrust. bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics was once unimaginable, but it became the norm. with the mexico extraditing chapeau guzman to the united states. on july 1, mexico elected a new president, andres obrador. i worry that if president trump continues along the same line. president-elect lopez obrador may pull the plug on security cooperation. where will that leave us the next time we're seeking an extradition or if terrorists sought to cross the u.s./mexico
border. too much is at stake and we don't know if the president will continue to do this, take to twitter and do damage. and looking south, mexico is just the start. for months, the families have been torn apart and central american children have been held ransom to a radical anti-immigrant agenda. president created this policy. he said only congress could fix it which wasn't true. made clear by the fact that he signed an executive order trying to end the policy. but the damage was done. children to this day still remain apart from their parents, that has to change. the organization of american states unanimously adopted a resolution on june 29th, criticizing the inhumane family separation policy. it's hard to remember a time in recent memory when the oas permanent council has so forcefully condemned the united states. and that's just the start. the administration is making it harder for victims of abuse to
come to the united states sighing domestic violence shouldn't be younds for asewell im. that will who have endured rape should look elsewhere for sanctuary. and the united states has vetoed a resolution on breast feeding. protected status will end for 262,000 salvadorans, and 58,000 haitians. as mark schneider of csis pointed out in the "washington post" this week, this move may result in 273,000 american-born children being separated from their parents. this is deeply troubling pattern dealing with the treatment, of families, of immigrants. is this what we're becoming as a country? i hope not. i won't accept it and fight tool and nail against these policies that betray our values and make it harder to advance our interests abroad. we're facing a real urgent
crisis in the region. president maduro has turned venezuela into a full-fledged dictatorship and rejected humanitarian aid. state department sanctions against human rights violators were a step forward. instead of working with regional partners we have again bellicose rhetoric and threatening to invade venezuela. the result, maduro is he empowered and alienated key allies at the same time. in nicaragua, the global magnitsky act has allowed us to crack down on thugs, talk to president or tako who are killing innocent people in the streets. the administration zeroed out our democracy assistance to nicaragua in its 2019 budget. and in guatemala, absurd and confounded attacks on the u.n. international commission against impunity in guatemala, which we call c-sig, threatened the institution's ability to fight
corruption and support the rule of law. we most recently i was disturbed by the guatemalan government's decision to put the c-sig security at risk. president morales should reverse his decision and i must say since i've been critical of the white house, this time i was pleased that the white house came out in strong support of c-sig just this week. i congratulate yvonne duke on the recent election in colombia. outgoing assistance is essential for implementing the peace process and promoting smart drug policies that go after kingpins while not harming small farmers or the environment. and in argentina, i was glad to join mr. mccaul in founding the ashlg tina caucus to focus on a relationship that has improved a great deal since president macley took office. finally the caribbean. in 2016, congresswoman ros-lehtinen and i authored the
u.s./caribbean strategic engagement act which president obama signed into law in his lart few days in office. last june the state department released a strategy mandated by our law, it is an ambitious and impressive strategy, but one year later it still has not been implemented. with hurricane season under way, the parts of the strategy related to disaster preparedness and resilience are especially urgent. i implore our witnesses to put some meat on the bones of what on paper is an excellent strategy and i would be remiss not to mention that haiti is very much on my mind this week. haiti has suffered far more than any countries should and i stand with the haitian people at this difficult most. i thank you again, mr. chairman and look forward to hearing from our witnesses and i yield back. >> we're pleased to be joined by ken merten, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere
affairs. and sara ann lynch, senior deputy administerer for usaid for latin america and the caribbean. we welcome them to the committee. ambassador certaining has been serving for the assistant deputy since august of 2015. a two-time ambassador, having served as the u.s. ambassador to croatia and also as the u.s. ambassador to haiti. ms. sara ann lynch currently serves as senior deputy assistant administrator for latin america and the caribbean. at usaid and prior to that, she was the mission director in iraq. so we appreciate them both being with us here today and without objection, the witnesses' full statements are going to be made part of the record and members will have five calendar days to submit any statements or questions or extraneous material for the record. if you could, ambassador, i
would ask you to just summarize your statement in five minutes, and each of you, we'll go to questions. thank you. >> chairman royce, ranking member engel, and members of the committee. thanks for the opportunity to allow us to come here and talk about the administration's aappropriate to our hemisphere, the western hemisphere. we know that a democratic prosperous and secure western hemisphere enhances our national security and benefits our economy. our policies are built upon that premise. the united states shares common values and has strong economic bonds with all countries in this region. these long historical connections bind us to the nations of the western hemisphere more closely than in any other region. our economic engagement with the americas cannot be overstated. united states is the top trading partner for more than half the countries in the region. we trade more than twice as much with the hemisphere as we do for example with china.
we also share fundamental values. in the last decade latin america has largely transformed itself into a region of vibrant peaceful democracies. the united states recently reaffirmed its commitment to these shared value and to our partnership with the region at the eighth summit of the americas in lima, peru in may. at that summit leaders acknowledge the need to continue working together to address corruption. to strengthen institutions and to improve transparency. we rely on strong hemispheric partnerships and we work hand in hand with our partners to disrupt illicit networks and trafficking routes. because our mutual security and prosperity are so connected. we work together to counter the illicit activity and the poverty that drive illegal immigration to the united states. as such, the u.s. together with our partners is renewing its commitment to he address the root causes of central american migration. while most of the region enjoys
democratic ruling, venezuela, cuba and nicaragua continue to undermine the region's shared vision for democratic governance enshrined in the charter. united states remains committed to standing with the people of cuba, nicaragua and venezuela in their struggle to achieve the liberty that they deserve. in cuba the regime continues its repressive hold on power despise the recent transition to president diaz canal. president trump's cuba policy emphasizes advancing human rights and democracy and insure the benefits of u.s. engagement flow to the cuban people in nicaragua we condemn the violence and excessive force used against demonstrators, rutting in 200 deaths and hundreds wounded since the protests began. we urge nicaragua's government to strengthen democratic
processes and institutions and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and support the proposal for free and fair elections, that would occur soon. in venezuela, maduro regime has completely undermined democracy. we join the nation of the world in standing with the venezuelan people as they seek to rern to a stable prosperous democracy they deserve. we are also addressing the humanitarian crisis. and for venezuelans forced to flee their homes. overall, the united states is providing nearly $31 million in humanitarian assistance to venezuelans in the region. we will continue to work with our partners to help restore democracy to venezuela, nicaragua and cuba and continue to build a democratic process and secure western hemisphere that further enhances our own national security and benefits
our economy. i look forward to your questions, thanks for the opportunity to speak with you. >> ms. lynch? >> thank you. >> chairman royce, ranking member engel and members of the commit tixt thank you for the invitation to testify today. i had the pleasure of traveling with you recently while administrator green and i were in peru at the summit of the americas in april and thank you so much for your continued interest in our work in the region. usaid's engagement in latin america and the caribbean demonstrates american generosity and promotes a path to self-reliance and resilience. this is a region with considerable opportunities and critical challenges. usaid works to increase the security and prosperity of the hemisphere by addressing poverty, insecurity and governor aens. our work in mexico and central america responds to challenges that inhibit business development. empower criminals and lead to out migration. recent high levels of illegal
migration come from south america including instability and poverty. therefore, usaid's programs focus on engaging young people before they turn to crime and violence. improving democratic governance and addressing the economic conditions that drive people po journey north in mexico we partner with the government to strengthen national institutions, spread the rule of law and promote the protection of human rights, with mexico we're working closely with the northern triangle governments to address those challenges for security and prosperity that we collectively face. two of our priority areas of focus are colombia and peru. these countries are making enormous strides, but remain plagued by coka cultivation. which threatens regional security in colombia, usaid is working in some of the most dangerous and hard-to-reach areas cut off from state presence for decades. our efforts to reduce the power
and influence of illegal arm groups build a culture of illegality, and enable economic growth are seeing promising results in in peru, usaid's assistance provides farmers with alternatives to cocoa cultivation. as the third border to the united states, the caribbean remains vital to american security and prosperity. i would like to thank ranking member engel and ms. ro ros-lehtinen for their continued engagement on topics and authoring hr 4939 which helps lead the u.s. strategy for engagement in the caribbean. under the caribbean base and security initiative, cbsi, we're working to improve citizen security and provide employment and education opportunity to youth at risk. we are also working with countries across the caribbean to increase resilience so they
are better able to with stand shocks such as tropical storms and hurricanes. haiti remains a focus for our work in the caribbean, where we're addressing poverty, improving health and advancing transparent and accountable government institutions. as this weekend's violence has demonstrated, haiti's progress and stability continues to be fragile and haiti is not the only place in the region where we have seen violence and instability recently. we're concerned for the people of nicaragua who are suffering a brutal crackdown at the hands of the ortega government. usaid has given assistance to the brave civil society groups, human rights organization and media and others involved in peaceful protest. we main flexible to respond to needs as they amerge. usaid helps to maintain a an operating space in cuba who seek to preserve their freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and democratic voice. one of our biggest priorities in the region is the outflow of venezuelans fleeing their
country in record numbers in search of food, medicine and health care. to help these families, usaid has partnered with these countries to provide humanitarian and development assistance to meet the most urgen needs. while humanitarian aa sissons will help with immediate needs, it cannot and will not address the root causes of venezuelan instability. only lasting reforms will provide sustainal solutions. usaid supports human rights, civil society, independent media, electoral oversight and the elective national assembly. ky not overlook the rise in competing foreign engagement in the region. we recognize that some countries have different development models than ours. but we believe we offer the clear choice. for example where other country's ace sns models, our development assistance promotes the country's own journey,
consistent with interests and values. to accomplish our goals we coordinate and leverage the work of the u.s. interagency, other donors, the private sector, faith-based communities and nongovernmental organizations. in all of our work we are committed to oversite and insure that our programs are smart and impactful. we use a range of tools such as monitoring surveys, evaluations and assessments to understand the effects of our programs and help us capture changes at the community or other subnational levels. we know well our responsibility to the american taxpayer and we take our obligation seriously. mr. chairman, ranking member engel. i want to thank you for the opportunity to give you an overview of our work and i welcome your questions, thank you very much. >> if i can begin with this question, we've got 26 u.s. diplomats and their family members, who have suffered
symptoms similar to brain injury or concussion. following sonic attacks in cuba. we have another three officials in china who have suffered similar symptoms. in response to the attacks, the state department ordered the departure of nonessential personnel and their families in havana. 60% of the u.s. mission diplomats in cuba have been withdrawn. other than the canadian mission in havana where the canadians report ten of their diplomats were targeted, have any other embassies been affected to your knowledge? >> not to my knowledge, mr. chairman. this is something which is very worrisome to us, but we're not aware of any other embassies at this point. >> what is the health condition of the u.s. diplomats and the family members affected by these unexplained attacks at this
point? >> i think you covered it very well in your opening remarks. the health effects differ from person to person. some are more serious on some individuals, on some individuals they're less serious. but the bottom line is the impact of these attacks on folks is serious. which is why they were withdrawn and we've gone down to a skeleton crew at the embassy. >> the last question i would ask you on this is how close is the administration to understanding and identifying the source and cause of these attacks? >> well we have taken this as i mentioned very seriously. both in the cuba context and in the china context, which is still very much evolving. bottom line answer is we don't know who is responsible and we don't know what is responsible for this. we have various investigations going, ongoing. the fbi is involved. the cdc is involved in looking
at this. we have outside, we have employees who are being looked at by outside medical care. but we are still unsure exactly what it is these people have been afflicted with. >> let me go to a question about the crisis in venezuela. which is worsening. while president maduro further cemented his power with sham elections this past may, we've seen the situation on the streets there and especially the widespread food and medicine shortages, that continue to displace venezuelans that create a regional crisis. refugee crisis, as well as a humanitarian crisis, obviously. meanwhile despite sitting on the world's largest oil reserves, venezuelan oil production has fallen by half in the last few years. venezuela has been sending several hundred thousand barrels
of oil every day. to china. as repayment on the tens of billions of dollars it has borrowed more recently. and china's development bank announced a new quarter-billion dollar investment to shore up venezuela's struggling oil production. is the administration concerned about china's economic stranglehold on venezuela and is chooing using venezuela as a foothold to gain influence on the rest of the region? >> thanks for the question. mr. chairman. it's not clear that china is necessarily using venezuela as a foothold. our information indicates that the venezuelan economy still continue s continues continues to to creator. oil production continues to go down. the national oil company has
been plagued by mismanage m. by political hacks replacing people who knew what they were doing. and the company continues to deteriorate. thus robbing the venezuelan people and the venezuelan government of what should be a very valuable source of income for them. we are obviously watching carefully what china does throughout the hemisphere. you know, and we monitor that very carefully. we're concerned about the role they play. we believe we are a much better partner for all our friends in the hemisphere. we share values, we share goals. it's not clear to us that the chinese government or entities operating overseas share the same goals as our friends in the hemisphere. >> let me ask you a question, ms. lynch in terms of the greatest health concerns that are caused by the crisis in
venezuela and by the refugee crisis. and what is being done for example to insure vaccinations and other medicines are made available? because there's widespread shordage throughout veterans right now on the vaccinations. >> thank you for the question. yes, we are also deeply disturbed by all the images and the news reports coming out of venezuela. as such, we have been able to identify as the ambassador said several millions of dollars of assistance that's going to the almost two million venezuelans that have fled that country in search of very basic needs like food, medicine and health care. and colombia obviously is taking the brunt of the movement of people. i was up on the border not too long ago and witnessed firsthand the venezuelans crossing the simon boulevard bridge and it's very disturbing. we are, the bulk of our
assistance to the colombians is in those areas, food, medicine and health care. but also to help them manage the crossing of the great number of people. we're also assisting brazil in the region. we were able to get an assessment team, usaid assessment team into venezuela in order to get the context on the ground and do a full assessment and this was a team that spent nearly two weeks there. did not just stay in caracas, they went throughout the country and visited schools. they visited clinics, they talked to ngos, they talked to the private sector. church, they talked to as well as organizations, civil society, organizations that could provide humanitarian assistance at scale. one issue that we found is that they lack capacity so what usaid is doing to respond right now is training these organizations to be able to provide humanitarian assistance at scale to deal with
the logistics involved in that kind of effort and to identify the truly at-risk people. with that we will be able to address the concerns that you mentioned. >> mr. engel? >> thank you, mr. chairman. nothing can quite make people understand the horrors that are occurring in our own country as a consequence of the president's family separation policy, than hearing the individual stories of central american children. i would like to briefly talk about jose, olivia and their sons, mateo and andre who came to the u.s. from el salvador seeking refuge from gang violence. a close friend was killed by the same gang when he was unable to pay them. fearing for their lives and the lives of their children, jose and olivia joined a caravan of asylum seekers and traveled for a month through mexico to reach the border. upon arrival, they presented their papers, and their children's birth certificates,
proving their familial relationship to avoid agents suspicion that he was a smuggler. regardless, u.s. authorities separated the family and sent mateo, only a year old at the time, to a facility 1500 miles away. olivia and andre awaited news of mateo's status from a migrant shelter in mexico when olivia called the facility where mateo was being held, she was told he was doing fine. no further information on his well being and certainly they weren't allow her to speak with her son. she was reunited with mateo finally after 85 days. according to her testimony. she said after reuniting with her toddler, quote he continued to cry when we got home and he would hold on to my leg and would not let me go. when i took off his clothes he was full of dirt and lice, it seemed like they had not bathed him in the 85 days he was away from us and that's a quote. obviously this is child abuse, it's unconscionable and should not have happened. so i recently introduced a
central america family protection and rue unification act with representatives torres and espallat, both members of this committee. this would require the state department through our embassies in el salvador, guatemala and honduras, to play a more active role in supporting central american governments and parents on family reunification. ambassador merten, can you please tell us what our embassies in these countries are doing to support family reunification, if anything. >> thanks for the question, representative engel. what we are doing in central america, we have a central america strategy, which seeks to get at the root causes of my dwra gra migration, our efforts have been focused on implementing that strategy, particularly in
northern triangle. we're looking at using tools to eliminate corruption, that allow a climate of impunity for those who seek to abuse people. we are supporting law enforcement activities, through our partners in the region. we are working to help them improve their judicial system so that criminals can be put away in a clear and transparent way according to local laws. we are working to help these countries grow their economies. and we believe that addressing these issues will really obviate the need for these kind of, that drive people to want to leave their countries and force them into situations like you just described. >> our embassies, specifically our embassies helping to reunite families?
are embassies playing in any role in the reunification? >> i would rather take that question back and get back with an answer to you. i don't want to give you an answer which sin correct. >> thank you. because that's what our bill, our legislation does, it involves the embassies which makes sense to me. because anything we can do to help expedite this would be good. ms. lynch, our legislation also requires a state department strategy to address pervasive gender-based violence in the northern triangle. can you please describe the impact of gender-based violence and specifically, domestic violence on women in el salvador, guatemala and honduras. >> thank you for the question. all of our activities in the northern triangle are based at focusing on the root causes of illegal migration. and certainly we work on the security front as well as
governance and prosperity. this would fall into that security front and governance as well. we find that the gender-based violence, the rates that you see in the northern triangle are just horrific. what we do so incorporate women as well as other marginalized communities that suffer as well. at higher rates than others. violence. we incorporate them into all of our programming. and that means on the governance front, making sure there's legislation that addresses these issues on the citizen front, making sure that there's citizen awareness and there's the capacity of certain civil society organizations to address those issues. sand in addition, you know prosperity, economic opportunity, is really what gives these women power and control over their lives so specifically with all of our programming that involves increased jobs and economic growth, we involve women in
marginalized communities to the fullest extent. >> let me just say that given the pervasiveness of domestic violence in the northern triangle and the low rates of prosecution for these horrific crimes, it's really horrifying that attorney general sessions says he'll no longer allow these crimes to be grounds for asylum. i just think that's a very bad thing. and finally let me piggy back on the chairman has talked a lot about cuba, and our embassy officials being targeted. one of the things that i've called for is to have the cdc, to involve the cdc. and swi has the administration referring to the health, well, let me just say this, why has not the cdc yet been deployed to cuba? it certainly seems to me that we should if we're going to get to the bottom of it.
and i don't understand why that hasn't happened. does anyone have any insight into that for me? >> thanks very much. yes, one of the things that we've done in the past past month or so, is secretary pompeo has asked that deputy secretary sullivan chair a task force to look at these incidents. both in china and the attacks in cuba. and this task force is chaired by the deputy secretary. he participates in it i participate in it, representing the bureau of western hemisphere affairs. we have one a week a meeting of the task force with the inter-agency community in that community, cdc is present. they are an active member of that community. of the inter-agency community that participates in this task force. i don't know if, if they have plans to travel yet. i think their involvement in this is relatively recent.
but i think, i think there's a possibility they could become more involved. i'm not, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to explain what their plans are to do. but they are participating now in this interagency task force. as i said. we remain very concerned about this and i think we're looking for any tools we can find to get to the bottom of what's causing this. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. engel and i are going to be meeting with deputy secretary at 4:00 so we'll raise that issue with him at that time. we'll go now to iliana ros-lehtinen. >> thank you so much chairman royce and thank youing ranking member engel for holding a hearing on a timely and important topic. since widespread protests began on april 18 in nicaragua we have seen over 300 people killed under the direction of daniel
ortega and his henchmen and in venezuela, nicholas maduro continues to rule with impunity. ignoring the pleas of the venezuela for new leadership. and in cuba, raul castro continues to call the shots, while hiding behind the veil of the so-called transition of power. under diaz-canal nada has changed for the people of cuba. activists are being held for days at a time. they're still being beaten and arrested and the regime continues to rule with an iron fist, more worrisome, mr. chairman, is that cooperation between these rogue regimes has actually increased. just last week there were reports indicating that maduro had sent a shipment of weapons to ortega, to help him further suppress and silence the nicaraguan people. instead of using the country's resources to alleviate the venezuelan people suffering, suffering he caused for his
failed policies. he sends weapons to his crony, making him complicit in the deaths of so many in the nicaragua. but this u.s. administration has shown a willingness to lead and hold those abusers accountable. and start contrast to the previous administration and i thank our witnesses here for explaining all that has happened. we've seen a reversal of the disastrous cuba policy we've seen a more active use of sanctions. particularly the global magnitsky sanctions in nicaragua and targeted sanctions against the maduro regime in venezuela. on two occasion is i have read letters urging sanctions on several nicaraguan regime officials for their roles in the human rights abuses being perpetrated against the people of nicaragua. the administration has included most of these individuals on the global magnitsky list, but i intend on sending another letter shortly with more names. and the administration has begun to provide assistance to
venezuelans who have fled to neighboring countries and signaled that it will make freedom and democracy in the region a priority. but more must be done. and you had explained, ms. lynch about what the administration and specifically usaid has been doing to support the venezuelan refugees who are in colombia and brazil. i wanted to ask you about ecuador. what help is being given to the venezuelans there. the vice president pence was just there. what more can be done? and i worry about china's growing presence and influence in the entire region. using its resources to bully nations, to further isolate our strong ally, taiwan. and what is the administration's strategy then to counter chinese aggression, to help taiwan strengthen its relationship with its partners in the region? thanks again, mr. chairman.
>> yes. some small-scale assistance was requested from ecuador from the u.s. interagency and that is being provided. we stand ready to assist other nationes if they are interested in additional assistance.assist. we know this is a horrific regional problem that may impact other nations in the region, other strong partners of ours. regarding from our perspective on the development side on china, for example, what -- you know, from aid's vantage point we believe in building strong relationships as well as strong economic investment from the u.s. are good antidotes to the influence of nations that have a different development model than we do. you know, some of these other donors as i mentioned in my opening are more -- their development model is one more of dependence rather than partnership.
ours is a partnership where we look to, you know, work with partners who are self-reliant, eventually. >> thank you. >> and we look forward to working -- >> thank you, mr. lynch. mr. ambassador? >> just to talk briefly about the china -- influence of china in the hemisphere. yes, it is something, as i mentioned earlier, something we're concerned about and watching very carefully. we have -- we regularly talk to our partners in the region. i have done so myself, to explain what it really means to sign up with the prc in terms of loans and other things. these are things we've seen in the recent past that don't necessarily -- don't necessarily help these countries out in the long term. they may be quick political fixes but i think we are trying to explain and in very clear
terms it makes more sense for long-term development of all our partners in the region to focus on rules based and normal economic development. our assistance programs in the region seek to support rule of law and governance and to make these countries better places to live, better places to do business and, thus, ultimately reduce migration. but its an issue we continue to work very diligently on and are paying close attention to. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, ileana. we go to brad sherman of california. >> chairman, we have a knowledge anl witness here but he is, as i understand it, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary. we used to have under secretaries and assistant
secretaries come here. they were higher ranking in the state department. the administration took over a year to appoint an assistant secretary for the western hemisphere and senate still hasn't acted to confirm. the administration is hollowing out the state department and i think we as a practice should be compelling the testimony of those at the national security adviser's office and counsel, if you're going to hollow out the state department, if we're going to oversee foreign policy, we have to have those witnesses. i had a chance to visit the kids who were separated by the united states at the border. i want to commend the state department for the trafficking report which identified and condemned foreign governments for separating children from their families. and relate of story of one
particular family. jose and brian arrived in california. brian's mother had been raped and brutally murdered. she was seven months pregnant at the time. jose and brian thought they might face a similar outcome. ji was jailed for 20 days and asked to sign papers he couldn't understand because they were in english, deported back to honduras. this after brian, the son, had been separated from his father. there are news reports that say this began as an effort to deter immigration from central america. has there been any effort of the state department to try to tell people in central america, don't come to the united states, we
will treat you harshly, separate you, et cetera? ahmadineja ambassador. >> we tell people not to make a journey that is dangerous, illegal. we have always encouraged legal, orderly migration of people. legal and orderly travel of people. that is what we've been focusing on. >> i want to move on to one other issue. ecuador, wanted by law enforcement authorities in britain and sweden. one thing we know about julian assange is we did collude with russia to use cyber files stolen from the democratic national committee to affect the u.s. election.
in 1972 when files were stolen, members of both parties condemned that action. i understood that to be because we had such respect for ecuador's sovereignty. and then i find out in "the new york times" that we threatened ecuador with punishing, trade measures and withdrawal of critical military aid if they wouldn't withdrawal their support for a world health organization resolution encouraging breast-feeding. ambassador, can you, on the record, indicate that you know that these reports in "the new york times" were false and is that we did not threaten ecuador on this issue?
>> my understanding from our ambassador and colleagues that work on this issue on a regular basis is that we did not threaten anybody. that the u.s. supports breast-feeding. >> but we don't support efforts at breast-feeding beyond what the companies that make billions of dollars on the formula industry by discouraging breast-feeding want us to do. we support only mild resolutions and we force the world health organization to back down and adopt a milder resolution. you're certain now ecuador can introduce a stronger resolution and there will be no diminution of aid or trade? can ecuador count on you for that? >> i can tell you what's happened thus far and -- >> what is our policy? is our policy to threaten ecuador or allow them to go forward? >> my understanding is there has been no threatening and i believe -- >> they're free to go forward? you can guarantee?
>> i cannot gash tee -- >> maybe they'll be threatened or not threatened -- >> they will not be threatened, sir, but i can say -- >> they're not going to be threatened? >> this is a policy -- >> the new york "time's" reports are false? >> as i understand, our am back doer and from the folks that work on this in our bureau that nobody was threatened. we have not, you know, threatened to pull trade sanctions or anything else on ecuador. that is my understanding, sir. >> well, a lot of infants are going to get worse nutrition as a result of the successful efforts by the united states at the world health organization to water down this resolution. and i yield back. >> missmith of new jersey. >> thank you for testimony to our two witnesses. on april 27th i chaired a hearing on serious incredible allegations of collusion between csig and the russian government and the persecution,
mistreatment and incarceration of a russian family who fled russia after putin's cronies threatened their lives, took away their business and, of course, the young daughter was raped, anastasia, who is obviously still dealing with the aftermath of that. our prime witness was bill browder, the main man whose tenacity, courage led to an account act of what happened to sergei magnitsky. it is because of bill browder we have the magnitsky act. so, when he speaks, everyone should listen and listen very carefully. and i share his concerns about the bitkovs. let me say to my colleagues, in 2013 the russians fled -- the bitkovs fled and got to
guatemala. they used documents that were not true but for having documents that are not true, and they are true refugee, the preliminary protocol says you don't prosecute when someone is fleeing tyranny. igor got 19 years in prison, irena got 14, anastasia, 14. igor spent three years in pretrial detention, jail, and a very unseemly pattern that csig is a part of. my question to our distinguished colleagues today is, one, have you investigated, and has there ever been, is there now any collusion whatsoever between vtb, gaspra on. m bank and csig, including velasquez on any matter relating to the prosecution and inkar
incarceration of the bitkovs? second, can you tell us what information you have? is there any accountability? i've asked the secretary-general of the united nations, gutteres, why aren't you looking into this? he says, we have no authority to do that. told me that a few weeks ago when i met with him. i am asking today, i'll do it by way of letter, that the inspector general investigate the potential of collusion. my hope is in answer to my question, you'll say that you have thoroughly investigated this and you either found it or didn't or to some degree there is some collusion. that's my opening questions. and i do have some further ones. if you could answer that. >> thanks for the question. you know, we -- this is an issue we follow closely. our embassy and department have looked into these allegations of collusi collusion, thus found no evidence that has occurred. >> can you give us a detail of what that investigation
included? was it done just asking mr mr. velasquez and a few others, hey, is there collusion or did you really dig into documents and look into this? i call your attention to this, and we'll give you a copy, an excellent piece put together by mr. bill browder. this just reeks of collusion. so, i would like to know exactly what that investigation entailed. >> sure. i look forward to receiving that document. i think if you allow me -- allow us to get back to you with exactly what's been done, i think that would be a more effective way of answering your question. >> is there any mechanism for holding csic on their account? there's a $6 million hold now that's gotten their attention. two days before i had their hearing, a constitutional court found in their favor. we're talking 19 years, 14 years, 14 years. people don't get that many years for murder in guatemala. and csig then appealed that ruling and is now -- now there's
going to be another prosecution of at least igor, which is absurd. if i was doing that with my family, and i would say the same to you, wouldn't you use every means possible to get out of a country that is going after you, trying to -- hurting your daughter, putting you into prison and maybe even killing you? we learned that from sergei magnitsky, i thought, and many others. we called our hearing the long arm of the russians. what kind of -- let me ask you again. is is there any kind of connection between cicig and the rush shaps? russians? >> thus far in our investigations we found no collusion between them. >> and no cooperation? >> the information i've been given, we have not received that. we have not seen that. so, maybe -- >> maybe the ig can ferret it out. let me ask you about the guatemalans, anthony segura.
i've been in congress 38 years, mr. chairman, and i know, i've been to places like bolivia where they use prosecutions as a way of getting political retribution, and morales does it better than anybody else on earth. what is your view about these pretrial detentions that go on for years with cicig full complicity in that? >> pretrial detention is a problem in a number of countries throughout the world. we try to get countries to establish mechanisms to reduce or eliminate pretrial detention. our work in that area is certainly ongoing. obviously, it's not a situation we like. we are working in a number of countries to help address that. >> let me just ask finally, because my time is running out, mary and anastasia o'grady from "the wall street journal," guatemala bitkovs the family
remains in jeopardy. she points out immediately after the high court decision, cicig launches a full scale press on capitol hill to cover up the u.n. agency's many transgressions. how do you respond to that? >> i'm not aware of any such cover-up. if you would like to ask, we can get you more details on what we know know. i'm want aware of that, sir. >> so, there's no cover-up? >> i'm not aware of a cover-up, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we share the concerns of mr. smith. in committee will continue to work with the state department, u.s. u.n. on reforms to preserve the essential functions of cicig while responding to concerns of overreach. >> thank you very much, chairman, for holding this full committee hearing on the western
hemisphere. and i want to thank our panel that's here today. thank you very much. i think that while we sleep, there are people out there plotting. basically i'm talking about china, i'm talking about russia, i'm talking even about iran, which started with a couple schools, now 100 schools throughout the area. the signs are there, even in venezuela. you have 30,000 cubans basically running the show there. they started with the national assembly, that destroyed democracy or anything that was there. in venezuela, you have the same thing destroying all any signs of democracy. then you go to nicaragua.
you have the russia selling them $80 million worth of tanks. they're asking the people of nicaragua to contribute more to social security. i mean, the signs are there. and i don't know what we do, basically, insult some people in central america, which makes your job a lot harder when you want to talk about democracy and talk about investment. where do we go from here? we have a new president in mexico. i don't know how we deal with the new president in mexico after all the insults we have laid on the mexican people. and before we know it, all these people are going to be in the backyard. all these countries that are plotting as we sleep. you know, i'm not all that bullish on this area. i see more and more democracies going down in the future.
you have venezuela and nicaragua, ecuador, some of these other areas. so, where do you see democracy in the area? can you tell me about that? >> thanks for the question. i think we see the hemisphere largely united behind the american democratic charter. we've been working the oas. i think we've seen a pretty significant amount of support in the oas to voice their opposition to undemocratic steps taken in countries like you've mentioned. you know, i think that we continue to do work to promote civil society, to engage with civil society and to enable, you know, opposition parties to have a voice. we have supported those people in nicaragua, calling for elections. we have acknowledged that.
i think we're still working very diligently on this. but it's -- you know, these are countries that several have -- several members have already noted that are not -- they're not squeamish to use repression to stay in power. >> we have a bill that doesn't take them international financial institutions. why should we allow them to have loans from financial institution when they go and spend $80 billion on russian tanks to oppress their people. i think we have to bring some sort of pressure on these governments to realize that you can't run over people and expect
us, the united states, not do anything. especially when it's our western hemisphere and our caribbean. we really have to focus more on those areas. >> as you know, we aapplied individual sanctions on regimes in venezuela. we have applied the global magnitsky act to three people in nicaragua. we have revoked 21 visas from government officials or officials response i will for these type of things. there's a possibility we could look at more of those kind of tools as well. >> thank you, chairman. >> mr. dana rohrbacher from california. >> thank you very much. this condemnation of our president for the policies we
now have in terms of people coming to our country legally and separation of families, let us just note that policy was in place and put in place during the obama administration. and i consider singling out our president today is very political. i didn't hear any complaints from that side of the aisle during the obama administration when they were exactly the same. with that said, i have somewhat of a disagreement over the idea of using the word migration. maybe you could tell me, what is the population of latin america. >> i don't know off the top of my head. >> you don't know what the population of latin america is? i think these are fundamentals people need to know when they're talking about migration.
we're talking about -- we're talking about 10 million people. we're not talking about 50 million people. we're talking about hundreds of millions of people, are we not? and when you have societies like we see in latin america, and elsewhere in the world, i might add, but now we're focused on latin america, where you have millions and millions of people living in countries that are somewhat chaotic or -- and very clearly repressive. let me identify myself with the remarks of ileana and her concerns about nicaragua and venezuela, but those same type of repression can be found in other countries, latin america as well. we do not have a policy or -- do you believe we should have a policy and labeling those people migrants who are -- thus, giving them some other definition
rather than a legal entry -- or illegal immigrants into our country. you think that should be open to hundreds of millions of people when they end up suffering under their own government? >> well, sir, our policy with central america is to address the root causes that drive -- >> i understand that. that's not my question. because i understand -- that's a good point. i voted for nafta for that reason, because i felt making sure mexico had a very good economy would take the pressure off of people coming here illegally. let me ask you this. how many people are immigrant -- are permitted to legally immigrate from those countries into the united states every year? >> sir, i don't have those figures. that's a dhs/homeland security function. >> all right we have, however you can correct me if i'm wrong.
i'm assuming we're talking millions of people over a ten-year period coming from that area legally into our country. we have over a ten-year period, we permit more legal immigration into our -- into our country than all the rest of the countries of the world combined. and -- but what i'm worried about after hearing your testimony today, and the use of the word migration, is that that in some way gives credence to the united states has to accept millions of more people into our country over and above the million we allow in already legally, which as i say, is more than the rest of the world combined. now, is there a limit that you think we should have on people who -- you call it migration? is there a limit on migration into our country? >> my understanding, again, this
is not an area of expertise for me. this is really a department of homeland security issue, is that there are rules established for this that the administration has established. there are rules for people who can apply for asylum -- >> let me say, i disagree with you totally. i think members of our state department should be concerned about massive flows of people coming into our country illegally. and i think the use of the word migrant in some way adds some kind of problem with us for not accepting migrants as compared to people who come here illegally when we have a very robust legal immigration system. as i say, it's the best in the whole world. no one comes close to us. and now we're supposed to feel guilty about not permitting another -- a more massive flow, which basically would change the nature of our society as it has.
let me just note daniel ortega and these folks and the nicaragua, we -- when they were removed from power, there was a relatively free system established in those countries. and when they came back into power, mr. ortega all of a sudden people began being murdered. that's something i'm very proud the reagan administration did take the moves to make sure that that mr. ortega and communist dictatorship was removed and replaced with a democracy. with that said, thank you very much for your service. i do not believe that the president -- the criticism that the president is hallowing out the state department is ridiculous. the fact is that if he's hollowing out, we'd be complaining he's putting his own
people in. welling, when you have people with expertise like yourselves who are still in position, that the president hasn't replaced yet, that's not something people with an open mind should complain about. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we'll go to karen bass of california. >> once again, thank you, mr. chair, and ranking member for holding this hearing. i wanted to talk about the situation in central america and specifically would like to focus on el salvador. i was listening to your responses, mr. ambassador, about what we're doing to address the root causes. it seems as though your focus was a little on law enforcement. we have spent a lot of time trying to address violence and crime-related issues with a strictly law enforcement strategy in the united states and it hasn't fared very well. i wanted to know what you have done beyond law enforcement. i focus on el salvador because there's a lot of discussion
about ms-13, which is a gang that started in my city, los angeles, and we exported this problem to el salvador. and so i want to know what responsibility we are taking for our contribution to the problem in el salvador? >> thanks for the question. and i think an element of this here should be fielded by my colleague from usaid. our central america strategy, yes, it has a component of law enforcement to it but it is also designed to address the root causes of why people are leaving this country. and -- or why people seek to leave. and this involves working with governments to improve the business climate, the investment climate to create economic opportunity. my colleagues at usaid and our economic sections and embassies are working to help these
countries attract investment, attract and grow their economies so people have less reason to have to leave. >> which is a catch-22 because it's hard to do that with the gang violence. i want to know, since we exported the problem to el salvador, i was wondering if we also exported some of our best practices. we actually do have best practices in the united states of how to address gang violence. there's a lot of examples of gang violence being reduced in communities, however, we have not taken a sustained investment in communities, which is why we still have the problem. so my question is, are we exporting some of our best practices and how to reduce gang violence? >> well, i can -- one of my colleagues from the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement would be better equipped to answer that. we can get an answer as to what specifically we're doing to address gang violence. >> i appreciate that. let me move on to another subject. like all of my colleagues, and
i'm sure all of us in congress are deeply concerned about these children. i'm concerned that many of these children will never be reunited with their parents again. so, there's a number of examples of parents who are deported. and then not being able to find their children since we did this in such a haphazard way. my colleague over there, mrmr. mr. rohrbacher, there was a big outcry about that and what was happening with those children. but my question is, i have heard of numerous examples of when the parents are deported -- number one, if they're fortunate enough to find their children, then what we're saying is now you have to pay $1500 to transport your child and a guardian to get your children back. and so i want to know if in the
budget of usaid, the state department, somewhere, it seems as though if we take the children away, then our government should be responsible for reuniting those families. i'm introducing legislation that makes our government responsible. i'm also very concerned that the children put in foster care -- foster care is time limited. if you languish in foster care for more than 18 months, parental rights can be terminated. which is why i'm concerned some of these children may never find their parents again. i want to know if within the budget of usaid, you are considering setting money aside to help facilitate the reuniting of these children that we took away. >> great. thank you. all of our funding is dedicated to working in the countries of the northern triangle on this issue. >> right. so, the question is, are we setting aside money so we don't charge the parents? we took the children away and
now we're charging them to get their own children back. you know, you also mentioned, mr. ambassador, an information campaign to let people know not to come over here because we take their children. and i'm wondering if that's a massive pr campaign on radio, on tv, social media, or just doing it one by one? >> i think what i said, certainly what i meant to say is that our -- what we -- our public diplomacy in all countries is to encourage people to travel to the united states, whether that's as a tourist, as a student or as a legal migrant to come and travel to use legal methods to do so. >> are we telling them we're going to take their children? >> i don't believe we're telling them that. we're telling them they need to avail themselves of legal routes of travel and legal routes, should they qualify as immigrants, that they should pursue legal ways to do that.
>> this is going to go down in our history as a real moment of shame. thank you. >> we go to joe wilson of south carolina. >> thank you, mr. chairman. as i begin, i want to thank the statements of sir rose, his observations are a fulfillment of democracy in the western hemisphere which reflects the bipartisanship, not always, but usually. so thank you for your service. sadly, american diplomats in 2016 were part of sonic attacks. it's in a totalitarian regime with heavy, static surveillance. what is the status of the investigation? have we been able to determine the cause and the source of the attacks? when can congress expect a thorough report on the cause of these attacks? >> thanks for the question. as i mentioned earlier, this is
something we find very troublesome at the state department. the deputy secretary chairs a task force which is made up of various elements of the state department but also has an enter agency component as well. we have ongoing fbi investigations. fbi has traveled on a number of occasions to cuba to investigate the sites where this has happened. our diplomatic security agents in the state department are investigating. we have other elements participating now in this task force like cdc and others who are really examining all the data we have thus far been able to bring together. but as of today, we still do not know what the cause of this is nor who is responsible. >> and i would tell you, with the technology we have today, ambassador, this should be determined. so, i hope you will make every
effort to proceed. the next question -- i'm grateful to partners of america program with nations of colombia. we have hosted students from colombia to liv with us. two of my sons were in exchange program in cali. what an extraordinary country it is. i know we're assisting colombia in achieving everlasting peace as well as combating narcotics trafficking. the election gives the u.s. a reliable partner in combating cocaine production in a modified approach to the peace process. what do you see usaid, the state department doing to promote peace and security for the people of colombia? >>. >> yeah, from usaid's program is focused very much on peace. in fact, we work predominantly
in helping the colombians and supporting their efforts to extend state presence in some areas that have not seen a government in sometimes decades. we are actually working in over 50 of the hardest hit communities in colombia to help the colombians provide the local institutions that can provide basic services to people as well as improve the environment to improve the rural economy. specifically when we work jointly with state department inl, they on eradication and us on alternative, it works well where the cocoa crop is eradicated. we come in with opportunities to have solid economic opportunities/jobs for people in the illicit economy. >> thank you. what an extraordinary nation of 40 million people in colombia. sadly, another country that was dynamic, was democratic, is
venezuela. we now see the consequence of what margaret thatcher said, and that is, socialism will work until you run out of spending other people's money. so, now they've converted one of the wealthiest countries, one of the most dynamic in south america into a destitute, poverty-stricken, authoritarian regime. i'm grateful for the sanctions by the president. what more can be done to try to help the people of venezuela? >> as we talked earlier, we are mounting colleagues at usaid and state department bureau of population resources/migration are providing humanitarian assistance to those people who have been driven out of venezuela. we have regular outreach at the embassy with the opposition parties encouraging them to get unified and form a unified opposition to the maduro government. you know, we have applied
targeted sanctions to government officials and to venezuela. and we're working with our partners in the region. we have pretty much, i would say, unprecedented support of other countries in the region who are really share our concern at what they see as a rich and democratic country descending into abject poverty and dictatorship. >> thank you again. working on behalf of the people of venezuela, mutual benefit to the hemisphere. thank you. >> mr. bill keating of massachusetts. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the president's made it very clear and the administration's made it clear the threat of ms-13 and the gang violence that's present in countries like el salvador. this has been echoed in homeland security, where i'm also a member, where administration officials have clearly said how dangerous and violent it is there, what danger it represents. so, i'm going to just address a
couple of administration's response to this. simply doesn't make sense. for instance, when it comes to parents and their children fleeing this terrific violence in el salvador, the president's response was to separate the children from their parents, traumatizing them, deporting them back to the crisis they fled from. one of these people, jessica, had two sons taken from her when she crossed in texas in march. they were separated for three whole months. jessica fled the brutal violence of el salvador. she and her sons received death threats from ms-13 and she herself was beaten in front of her children by gang members. yet that's one response, is to separate the children. the other one that just does not have any semblance of consistency is ending the tts program for those countries,
like el salvador. those people have hundreds of thouszs of people here legally and they're being sent back because it's safer now? there's a definite contradiction with sending these people, many have been here for years legally, to escape violence, sending them back because now it'ses safer, yet at the same time, the administration is saying what an enormous threat it now is becoming. how can you reconcile such contributions? these things simply don't make sense. they contradict each other by their own definition. >> thanks for the question. as i mentioned earlier, what our goal at the state department is and our view is that we need to help these countries address the root causes of these problems. that analysis, root causes are corruption, impunity, lack of economic opportunity for people, lack of effective judicial systems, lack of effective law enforcement. our central america strategy for
which congress was generous enough to give us $2.6 billion is working in all these areas in these countries. >> i apologize for interrupting because where you're going is to the root causes. that's great. but there are present dangers. we could deal with the root causes of ms-13 but the president and administration aren't talking about the root causes of ms-13. they're talking about the prept danger. the same kind of timeline should be usesed when looking at the present danger of these people. i know what you're saying in terms of root causes but you're avoiding the contradiction that's quite clear. you know, one, these two instances of the response to this kind of violence contradict the fact that the violence is there, they're escaping from. you can't have it both ways. i want you to address not just the root cause but the present danger and that contradiction.
>> again, you know, we work with the tools that we have both in usaid and the state department. and these are the tools we have to address these issues. if you're talking about other issues such as tps, that is a decision taken by department of homeland security. they have made that determination. >> i just think there should be better coordination. i echo the gentleman from california who said those are issues for homeland security, sure. they're also issues for foreign affairs and also issues for state. i would like to echo the concerns in terms of the violence in rick rag what as well. people like father jose albert has had his life threatened, he's been targeted because of his work through the jesuits and through education. i want to make sure people like that, that have been targeted, that that be known to know. with that i'd like to yield 40 seconds to my colleague from california, miss torres.
>> we go to mr. -- >> no, he yield me 40 seconds. >> oh, yeah, that's right. somebody was going to give you extra time. norma torres of california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have to be on the floor at 12:00 noon to present on a rule. i want to thank the department, and specifically the white house, on continuing to support cicig in guatemala specifically. while i agree we should demand fair treatment for all refugees in guatemala and here in the u.s., too, i hope that we don't lose sight of the significant progress cicig has made not just carrying out investigations but also helping to bring about important reforms and strengthening guatemala's institution. that progress is real. turning back that progress, in my view s a big mistake. ambassador merten, i had nine
questions for you, is have the state department, which i accused in the past, with the certifications process in honduras and guatemala. because of the lack of time i have, i will submit them for the record as well as a longer statement on cicig. i do hope that you will respond to me. the certification of guatemala after the ongoing problems with the congress trying to impugn themselves for their criminal behavior and stealing the purse of the people, to me, is something we should be more careful about in how we go about. at the end of the day us here in congress have to be accountable and we have to have a transparent process on how taxpayers' dollars is being spent. with that, mr. chairman -- >> would the gentle lady yield? >> yes. >> i would like to add a quick observation here as well, because as our witness stated
today, and i think ambassador nikki haley reinforced this during her trip to guatemala in february, cicig is providing critical assistance. that's want an easy task. it's bound to be controversial. but cicig is way at the culture of corruption. there was an issue raised here by mr. smith. as we know, the consequence of that is -- has been adjudicated through the courts there in guatema guatemala. that family is freed. this committee will continue to work, as i said, with the senate, with the state department, with the usun on essential functions of cicig
will responding to legitimate criticisms of overreach. with that, the gentle lady's questions will be submitted to our witnesses. we'll go to ted powe of texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. as the chairman mentioned, i am from texas. we have a strong and long-time history with mexico, back even to the days of the 1500s when mexico were part of spain. at least spain claimed the territory. i'm a great believer in trading with mexico. 10,000, 10,000 18-wheelers a day cross back and forth across our southern border. thousands of people from both countries cross the border. and i think the united states as a nation needs to refocus our attention to our next door neighbors. i mean, we're all over the
world. 190-something countries and we're in all of them. that's not a bad idea but we need to focus on our next door neighbors, mexico, canada, as well as latin america. as many members of congress have point out, things are not good in the hemisphere from mexico south. corrupti corruption, incompetence, violence, humanitarian problems with the nations and as mr. cirrus pointed out, i think things are getting worse. i don't think they're getting better. i think they're getting worse. so, i mean, that's my position, as some other members pointed out. i'm a believer in nafta. let's talk about some of the issues specifically with mexico. there are a lot of foreign workers in the united states from mexico. going back to 2003 when vin
tincy fox was president. 20 million mexicans in the united states generate a gross mrukt that is slightly higher than the $600 billion generated by mexicans in mexico. our biggest source of foreign income, bigger than oil, tourism or foreign investment. that was in 2003. most repeatedly the pew research organization has listed how much remittances from the united states go to other countries. in other words, foreign nationals working in the u.s., sending money back home. no surprise mexico is the number one country that receives remittances from their workers in the united states back to their country. 28.1 bhillion, according to the pew research organization.
surprising to me, another issue, china is number two as far as remittances go. we're talking about 28.1 billion for mexico. total amount, $138 billion a year of remittances go back to foreign countries by their workers working in the united states. my understanding is today, remittances are the number one source of revenue to mexico, except maybe for the sale of autos. so, tourism and sell of oil is still behind remittances. so, we're sending a lot of money, economic development money from the united states to mexico and a lot of other countries. it's no surprise the mexican government has long supported more people coming to the united states by any means so remittances can go back to their nation.
so, my question is, and this has been brought out by the administration as welling, if we just think this through, if we can use the phrase subsidize these countries all over the world, shouldn't the united states charge a fee, 1%, for these transactions to occur? specifically foreign workers in the u.s. sending money back to mexico and any other country where those remittances go each year so that part of that income generated in the united states stays in the united states? the taxpayers don't have to pick up the difference of that $138 billion with a small fee, 1%, 2%, makes no difference. my question is, what's your opinion of that, ambassador? then i'll ask miss lynch her opinion. >> that's an interesting thought. i don't think it's -- i think that could be potentially subject for legislation should you decide to go that route.
you know, we -- i will say there are other countries in the hemisphere that do tax remittances as they come in. haiti is an example of that. beyond that, i don't think i'd choose to comment. >> okay. miss lynch, you have an opinion? >> i also think it's very interesting. we would have to do further analyses. sometimes remittances are something we look at as a way that we reduce foreign assistance, so -- but we would be happy to look into this and analyze it. >> i think congress ought to consider that strongly so we can keep some of that money in the united states. $138 billion, that's a lot of money, even for us. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we go to greg meeks of new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you know, there was this -- i found out about a mr. mazario
corila and his daughter. his daughter was 5 years old. they fled from their village in guatemala. fleeing a local gang that had threatened to kill him. he and his daughter encountered a border patrol agent and were properly arrested. at a border patrol station in california and he was told he would be sent to jail. his 5-year-old daughter was taken by border patrol agents. he said, my daughter was screaming and crying and so was i. his daughter was put in custody of the office of refugee settlement and transferred to my state, new york. he subsequently abandoned his asylum claim and flown back to guatemala. the five weeks he spent in u.s. custody, he was never once able to speak to his daughter.
now, i visited a facility in new york. one of the things that was noted to me that each and every one of the children they had there also had their birth certificate, which tells me that they were not trying to seek in. they were truly trying to seek asyl asylum, have a hearing. they wanted to stop and see border patrol so they could have a hearing. they had some evidence of who their kids were, but they were treated like criminals. in fact, one of the children that was examined by the daughter, we were told, thought they had a toothache. upon further examination, in the child's mouth were pellets from a bullet. that's what they were fleeing from. so, sometimes, you know, i do feel inappropriate asking you
questions because i really do acknowledge you and the service you are given our nation in the state department and the diplomacy and how you -- and watching you. i know you have to answer some of these difficult questions. problem is, i think the president of the united states doesn't understand diplomacy and the value of -- of the state department. in fact, i was looking at him today when he was -- and international organizations when he was talking to nato making all kind of horrendous sdpaments separating us from our allies there. i couldn't help but see the pain that ambassador kay bailey hutchinson when she had to admit this was right up putin's ally, what was going on, and looking at general kelly as he was looking away, drinking water, drinking water, drinking water as the president made his statement. i say all that because my question to you was going to be about the united states and our
affiliation with the oas and terms of american international declaration of rights and duties of man, which obligates the states of the americas to protect the right to life, liberty and security for every human being and to give protection to families and to grant all children the right to special protection. we know that we're a member of the oas has filed a complaint to the oas's intercommission of human rights concerning this administration's zero tolerance immigration policy. so, my question to you, and i know sometimes the president doesn't believe in multilateral and international organizations, does the trump administration plan to respond to the oas member's complaint to the oas? do you know? >> sir, i'm unfamiliar with that specific issue.
i'm happy to take that back to my colleagues and get back to you with an answer on that. >> thank you. that might be something -- it's difficult for me to question you because i know of your work and some of it may be more appropriate for other members of the administration. i think we touched on this. again, to miss lynch, i agree with you and the work administrator green is doing and what the usaid does all over the region and you're addressing the root cause of the problem. but these deportation, whether it's daca or tps, sending a lot of these daca kids, who have never been there before, sending them back, does that help our relationship and the work you're trying to do dealing with the root causes of the immigration problem we have at the border now?
>> thank you for the question. we work very much in those countries. in the northern triangle in partnership with the interagency and host country. so, our role is really to support the host country in their efforts in receiving some of these folks. we worked in the reception centers and through the international organization of migration, iom, and working with them to refurbish those centers and also make sure basic services are available to folks with the ultimate goal they would return to their host and home communities and there would be institutions there that would be stood up to also provide basic services and xhibeconomic opportunity. >> i thank you for your service. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate you both being here. this is a timely hearing on the western hemisphere. i think we pivoted away from that over the last -- you know, not just the last administration but the last 15, 20 years.
it's time we really put an emphasis on there, whether it's energy security for our caribbean nations, like puerto rico, our territory or the u.s. virgin island, or other caribbean nations. instead of them getting their energy from venezuela, we're implementing energy from north america and allowing us to break the ties from venezuela. i think this is something that's imperative that we do. but i hear over and over again, ambassador merten, you were talking about better governance, we have to do more. miss lynch, you were talking about we have to do more and help the economies. the numbers i have pulled up, central america from mexico down to pavnama, there's roughly 170 million people. over the course of ten years we've gwynn 5.74 billion in aid to guatemala, honduras, el salvador.
people are living the northern triangle because of poor governance. we're putting money into our aid program, usaid, mcc, opec, other organizations to get good governance, to get economic development in those countries yet we're not getting the return on that. we've got to do something different. we can't do the same thing over and over again. if i throw in the war on drugs, we spent over $2 trillion since the '70s on the war on drugs. i think we're all convinced we're not winning the war on drugs especially with mexico with 72,000 acres of poppy fields which goes into heroin which goes into my country. colombia has more coco planned. what do we need to do as a nation, more specifically this committee, to direct foreign policy so we get good governance, we get a better economy and we get allies on board with us that seriously want to fix this problem?
ambassador merten? >> thanks for the question. and, you know, we certainly share your concern about all of the above. i think particularly the particn about the drug issue which i'll briefly talk to. you know, we have developed a good level of cooperation with mexico, and one of the things that secretary tillerson started was discussions with mexico on how we can work together to stop these transnational criminal organizations -- >> let me ask you that, because we were down there with the chairman a couple years ago, and we want them to get better on their drug cartel and the drug production, but i didn't see the want and desire there as much as we did. how do we get the desire with them? do we pull money back? do we threaten to block trade?
because we're not getting the results. i hear what you're saying, yeah, we want to do this. >> we have a new governor of mexico, a new president will take over. secretary of state mike pompeo will be traveling there in the coming days, along with secretary mnuchin. >> what's going to be different? >> we have a new government to work with. i think we need to see what our leverage is and what their interests are. >> i think we have a cookie. they want the trade, they want access to our markets. i think we need to play hardball different than we have. miss lynch, what's your recommendations? >> i do think we have considerable successes in the region. specifically i'll talk about in central america where we see, on the governance side, for example, we see the governments of these countries putting their
own successes to it. >> define success. >> when civil society acts az watchdog and can hold their government. >> which government are you talking about? >> i think we're seeing successes in all the northern tribal countries whereby with our u.s.-central america strategy, they proposed a similar strategy which aligns very well with ours. >> are we seeing a decrease in crime, a decrease in migration. >> it's an example, again, where we work really closely with an agency or honduras in one area. the area is of pompeii is a good example. yes, we have seen in past years the homicides reduced by 50% there. >> i'm out of time. i wish i had more time to talk to you. thank you for being here. limited time. i'd like to talk to you further. i yield back.
lois frankel of florida. >> thank you both for your service, and please, my comments are not really directed at you. i have a lot of respect for what usaid does and the development that state department takes part in. so first i want to start with -- yes, sometimes i think i'm just living totally in a bad episode of "saturday night live." i happen to represent beautiful palm beach where mar-a-lago sits, and very interesting. trump asked permission to hire 7,000 workers for the season. doesn't he think there are americans who can take those jobs? very interesting. anyway, on to a point which i think is more important, which is the fact that we are witnessing what i call a
trump-induced crisis at our mexican border. we've heard many people comment on this, but i'm going to say it again, because until these families are united, i am not going to shut up about this. mothers and fathers who are seeking refuge from extreme danger and persecution, they finally think they come for refuge, and what do they do? they get to our border and this government steals their children right out of their arms. and you know what's happening now? our government is so incompetent and so uncaring that they are -- they can't even match up most of these children. total -- this is going to be a dark stain on this country with wha what's going on here. i went to the border a couple weeks ago with some other members, and, you know, look, i am the granddaughter of an
immigrant. probably everybody here is probably either the granddaughter or grandson of an immigrant, right? what i saw was heartbreaking. i'm just going to talk about meeting with the mothers who, listening to their excruciating crying because their children were taken from them, they hadn't seen them, didn't know where they were, and one woman told me that she was told she was going to go to court for 48 hours, and then it's a month later. she doesn't even know where her child was. the other day i had a little roundtable at the guatemala center in my -- where i live, and they do wonderful work there. i heard from a young woman who told me that her cousin came over from -- fleed from gangs and violence in guatemala.
got to the border with her 10-year-old son. the 10-year-old son is now in homestead, florida and guess where the mother is? she was deported back to ga guatemala. it's a good thing i get these little alerts from your phone. this is what's happening now. listen to this one. one mother had waited four months to wrap her arms -- four months to wrap her arms around her little boy. another mother waited three months to see her little girl again, and when it finally happened tuesday in phoenix, the mothers were met with cries of rejection from their children. the children didn't even recognize the mothers. they were screaming for their case workers. and what i heard yesterday at this roundtable from child professionals, psychologists, was the trauma that these
children -- toxic trauma that these children are experiencing. well, we can see that right now. can you imagine, they don't even know who their parents are. here's what i want to say. i mean, a lot of the questions i was going to ask was -- have been asked and answered. i want to thank you for that. but i think there is no question, and i want to say this. building a wall is not going to solve the problem. separating children inhumanely from their parents is not going to solve this problem. we have got to get into these countries and do the work, and i just saw that there is a proposal now to cut $180 million in funding for central america. to me that is just dumb. that is really dumb. i don't have to ask you what you think about it. you're good people. i'm not going to force you to answer that. but, mr. chair, i just want to conclude by saying that we have
to step up our efforts to try to get to the root causes and we need immigration reform that congress is responsible for, and we should do that as soon as we can. thank you for patiently being here with us today. >> thank you, congresswoman frankel. we go now to adam kinsinger of illinois. >> thank you, mr. chairman. this is an important hearing and i'm sure there are other hearings where my colleagues on the other side of the aisle can discuss their desire to abolish ice, but this is a very important issue on the western hemisphere. with a lot of the issues we're seeing on the boarder, i think t drives home the importance of motivating people to fix their own countries and live in a better situation. if you look at our friends in columbia, for instance, they went through difficult times, and with a little help from the united states and a lot of desire from their internal community, have really been able to not just overcome their problems but also be a refuge
for people in tough areas like venezuela. that's a good example of how we should be handling this issue so the issue on the southern border does not continue to haunt us. and frankly, we don't have to abolish ice in the process, as some of my friends want. since september 11, our security focus has primarily been on the middle east where we spent the last 17 years combatting islamic extremism. for years there's been economic instability and economic security. as a result, many people have migrated north and arrived on our doorstep. i have mentioned before i worked with ice as a member of the international guard as well as customs and border protection officers on our southwest border, and i know firsthand how those insecurities not only affect our nation's security but also how it endangers those traveling north for freedom. that's why it's important to
enganl e engage our own hemisphere. i believe we can usher in an air of prosperity we've never seen before. we talked a lot about venezuela. it's been the problem child of our region for the last two decades. in may we swept the presidential election which was called fraudulent by our u.s. and global partners. last congress introduced legislation passed by the aa and would enhance the global enforcement center. so mr. merten, given venezuela's freedom of expression, can the bbc be used to sample human protests while advancing the rights of venezuela? and what other tools do you have for handling that? >> we've not been at all shy about calling out the
venezuelans and their abuse, the regime's abuse of their own people. we've done that in the very forum of the united states. just at the recent summit here in washington, we -- the oas, we were able to get an unprecedented resolution in support of members of the oas condemning venezuela and putting them on a path to perhaps eve eventual suspension from that organization. again, we will not be shy. we have used targeted sanctions to focus on those people who were responsible for tormenting the venezuelan people. >> can you say specifically whether you see a role for the global center in this area? >> i'm not an expert in that particular thing, and i would be happy to take that back and get you an answer on that. >> when you talk about what's been done in oas, can you talk about the benefits of removing
venezuela from the oas that you see? >> we have discussed that in the resolution we passed representing 90% of the hemisphere that puts us on a path to consider expand, venezuela from the oas. >> we saw popular regimes drive the country in and out of economic despair. however, in 2013, the argentinian government settled their debt and opened the third largest economy for business. still a lot to do speckifically in helping the kuncountry's poo but they showed priority. what concerns me is in the past, argentina has crawled out of an
economic collapse through trade and new depressions. >> state or government, do you have ways that the government could be more efficient in spending their money. >> argentina has a rell 'til w new. in our experience, asset forms are generallyized through the country and realizing mistakes they've made in the past is the way they'll find the proper way forward. we are very optimistic about their approach to resolving their own problems. >> mr. castro? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for your testimony today. many americans and many around the world have been shocked by the trump administration's use
of family separation, separating young kids from their parents as a der ter reterrent, what the administration would consider a deterrent, as a way to keep people from coming here. i went down and visited two of the centers who were keeping these kids. one is what is called a tender age shelter and it's called casa presidente in brownsville, texas. myself and michelle and a few others held an eight-month-old named roger who had been separated from his family. the staff told us they believe he came with his sister because his mother had died. there was a one-year-old girl malia who was also in the room with us. what role does the state department play in rhethe reunification of these young children? >> shir, thanks for the questio.
as i believe i said in an earlier question similar to this, we work in countries with our host governments, we work in places like central america to try and eliminate the root causes of this. >> specifically when some of these parents have been deported now, does the state department work with them when they're back in their own countries? because hhs wants them all out. >> i'll be honest with you, i am not sure that our consular officials are involved in that process. i can take that back and get you a clearer answer on that. >> i hope that you will and i'll submit my question for the record, because i'd like to know if a state department that deals with other nations and, of course, our domestic nations here, whether they can represent to the american people that none
of these children has died or been severely injured while in the custody of the united states government. that's my question. i would also like to echo my representatives' comments in the work to fight corruption in guatemala. although i think it's fair to always be critical of any organization and take a critical look, i think it's important when we think about helping these countries get back on their feet to make sure that we have an organization that's trying to root out corruption and really restore the rule of law. let me ask you this, because congressm congressman kisl ing er wants to make sure that the economy will
support them. that's a good idea, to make sure the economies there are strong. let me ask you, if you're mexico, and there is the united states, and an incredible demand for drugs coming to the united states, what strategy is going to be successful to completely root out the trafficking of drugs to the united states where you have a huge demand for it? and because mexico is not colombia, which obviously is in south america, but has basically got a 2,000-mile border with the united states. so geographically, essentially it's a kcountry for drug trafficking roots. how do they combat that? >> this is not an area in which i have expertise. in terms of domestic demand, my understanding is that the administration is bringing together policies to look at fentanyl and look at ways that
we can reduce people's use of these drugs. in terms of working with other countries which is where we operate, the state department, we have excellent cooperation with mexico and with other countries in the region, including colombia, to work with them, to reduce the amount of these things that they produce, that they prosecute those who are responsible. we, as i mentioned earlier, have this working group with the mexicans on combatting and central americans combatting transnational criminal organizations. this is ongoing work, it's important work, and we are hopeful it will ultimately be successful. >> and my last comment. the reason i posed that question, i think for them if you're a relatively poor nation where the rule of law is not what it should be and there is incredible corruption, and you've got people who are not making much money, very poor,
who are basically tempted to be in the drug drtrade or go into e drug trade, and there is a demand up north for those drugs, the challenge of rooting that out is gigantic. i yield back. >> mr. garrett. tom garrett of virginia. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to the witnesses. i want to ask the chairman for a brief question. i want to understand the nature of the hearing today. the hearing i was briefed on was expanding policy in the western hemisphere, is that correct? it seems the entire room is almost focused entirely on separation at the border, correct? a lot of questions on that. in the state department, did you have control over hhs? how about dhs? >> yes. >> how about ice?
>> we do not. so none of you work as its purview. in fact, the number of people under five that will be separated by the talking poi point -- are there roughly 4,000 americans killed every year for unlicensed drivers who are here automatically? while we know ls about however, what we do know, in ten states where you're licensed to drive regardless of your legal status, the number of deaths on the local highway is more than 15
percent. i guess if we compare the numbers and we have a number of people under five, there would be about 30 americans separated from their fathers for every one of them, but nobody is talking about that. you guys are in the state department, and my thought is maybe we could have saved some time because you're not in charge of dhs, hhs, or ice which people want to abolish. so i'm sorry for wasting your time. my good and distinguished colleagues across the aisle, to include mr. meeks, mr. sherman, ms. bass and ms. frankel all have talked about horrific abuse of gang violence in honduras and guatemala, in el salvador and mexico. i don't think these countries are full of gang violence, are
they? they're not all gang members, right? >> of course. >> and yet we've heard horrible stories. in fact, we heard about jose and brian whose mom was raped and murdered, so they came to this country because, quote, so much was available. the people there are good people, right? likewise what we haven't heard of is that any gang members might leave that scope and took here. do we have reason to believe that some of the people coming into this country illegally could also be gang members? could that be? mathematically speaking, just. >> do you think it's possible. >> i mean, in the realm of
possibility, a lot of things can remember. just like a door being closed skppsd -- it might also be part of a solution, while it's not a pani cea rgs por these just over 100 poechl under the age of 5, but not within the purview sflt and not just in addressing the u.s., the west and the hemisphere. what is it you've acted very lo long. >> i think the questions today are relevant. >> what would you have liked me to ask you? >> i would have liked you to ask about the situation in haiti.
>> i've got about 10 minutes. miscontinue on the situation in hai haiti. >> very quickly, we are disturbed by the recent unrest in haiti. we hope the haitian government continues to work to pacify the political situation in the. we rarely see the answer to rememb rememb remember, and they need to attract investors who want to come to haiti. and there are investors who want to come to haiti. and i yield back. >> i appreciate it. >> myself and another colleague was here on the phone over the weekend with a situation dealing
with some of our constituents in harm's way in haiti. we thank our constituents to get that resolved. we're going to go to robin kelly of illinois. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i hope you don't find my question a waste of time, but thank you for being here, and i would just say there is a lot of things -- a lot of ways people get killed so we don't talk about here likeour position. thank you for being here. our young children escape violence in these initials. it's a mother fleeing violence after her stepfather was murdered in a church. they worked to save their lives.
after they got there, the president announced a zero tolerance policy. we saw thousands of thinner, as they bury with it will s. not -- after being transferred to a shelter in connecticut, the little girl has been detained in texas. finally after 10 days she was allowed a 10-minute call. and now in july, she and her mother are still separated. we must find the root cause. the united states must do more to recall, surrounding the hon
duran election disputed election with the organization of american states jor as visual lacking in integrity. president hernandez said he would move forward with electoral reform, yet he has done very little to date. in the past he said he would remove military on the streets. and what will have to happen to take this off the streets? what leverage did you have to s say. >> on the honduras certification, it's my
understanding that is a process that takes some time to do. i know we do it for other countries. they were told by the secretary of state that they had met criteria for that situation. >> can we hear some of the criteria that they -- >> i can't speak exactly to the right. regarding the idea of military, you know, servicing as police, it is unfortunate, like i say, in many countries in the hemisphere where military police form functions. generally our view is that's not a good thing. there is a role for military and a role for police and -- or the military? >> i don't know that there is a
timeline shls. >> is their general certificati certification used? >> there is a different criteria that is established usually by the appropriaters. >> we can get the stipulations to you if you would like. >> i would appreciate that. >> believe it or not, i yelled quickly. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to apologize being late to the committee. i had to mark up newt. miss lirchl, it's good to see you again. we had nine pebz sf it went lou the summit of the americas and really, really impressed with what you're doing and skm.
so thank you for being here. mr. ambassador, i did want to discuss the peruvian bonds. this is something that's been bouncing around for a while. it affects san bernardino county. this is to resolve the claims of many of my constituents. these are land bonds, as they're known in the -- they've been floating around for long years and directly affected. the role of the government right now is they dent, and thefr not tair they just don't want to address it. i keep pushing it on and i get pushback.
i'm hoping you can help me out with that. are you familiar with it at all? >> i'm generally aware of the case. not the specifics, though. >> we had a great trip down there. it was only a weekend, basically. left on on a friday and met on monday. we met with constituents and i came back just exhausted but i never had more fun in my life. we met with the nine caribbean countries, and you hear things over and over again, that the united states has forgotten, ignored the western hemisphere, our relationship with these smaller countries. it's no wonder that some of the smaller ones are susceptible to some of the economic
manipulations that the venezuelan government is making in returns for rebates on oil and this is going to be a continuing problem. you have to do the math in regards to ocs. most of these countries have one vote. same with the united states. you add them together and whatever change you want to do in the oas, it ain't going to happen. i'm not very good at math, i'm not very good at a lot of things, but something -- we have to talk to these countries in the caribbean. one of the big concerns. a hurricane comes in. every year we're going to have a hurricane and here we go again, trying to get "a" down there. here we go again. we had talked about this prepositioning. of these supplies, have
compounded xrealizers so we don't start from scratch. i hope we gender sized and we're going to continue to push that. the other thing i just wanted to ask you in terms of -- i know that secretary pompeo is interested in mexico and everything else, but do you get that same feeling that, hey, we got to -- we have to start paying more and more attention because there's a lot of countries down there. we got china, we got iran. ambassador, i didn't mean to talk so much, but if you could just address that absence of
attention to the area. >> thanks for your comment and question, sir. i would respectfully disagree that we have been neglectful of our neighbors in the hemisphere. we have a bureau that works with this. usail has a large database that works with themful we have a vice president who has traveled to the region several times. the hsb has been the lieding light -- >> let me just say perception is reality. if you poll those questions down ther there. >> we go to dina titus. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm going to have to go with
dean cook. . there is nothing more important than our relationship down there, but history tells a very different question. our have been shoring up. now we are rimg chirapurath from the arms of their parents and currently policy is so bad and, and the u.s. unanimously passed a resolution confirming our behavior. so i don't really think that's something to brag about. i want to bring up something that was discussed hours ago. you brought up miss lynch. we have a policy that's more about consistency, but we have one that's more about diligence.
we see it in africa and central europe the the u.s. pulls back and in moves russia, here moves china. we heard about the tanks that russia is selling in latin america. we know that they're increasingly meddling politically, economically through propaganda. i wonder, have you asked the president if he's going to bring this up with mr. putin when he meets with him next week? this is going to be a problem, the tanks and other activity. they installed a satellite system in monogws. they're moving in when we're not doing much. africa is now the second place
to invest for something. they are putting $2 billion parts in injuring, even if it is creating dependency, when toes kind and we have a policy, unless you can tell them, mr. mertens, that i'm not shoe the about -- how can we compete when we have a dinl although budget zs we have kind of a demoralized understaffed state department. you have a president who snults our allies.
you've got a policy of zero tolerance at the border. how can we compete with the competition down there to build those strong relations that we need? >> i do think we have a strong relationship and strong involvement. we have a history with canada, mexico, caribbean countries. we have other countries that contribute to our national well-being. so i think that we have a lot to offer. we also have, aside from all the good things that our colleagues at usaid are doing throughout the hemisphere and our colleagues why the state inl are doing, we also have a very private sector. i think that while our private
sector does well exploiting and trading with all of america, we also have a lot of investment there. >> i agree with you, and i think usaid does a wonderful job. they're one of the best agencies. we get more from them than by giving less. the one party in this congress doesn't even support the import/export. on what front are we really being successful. . i think we need to be realistic as well optimistic. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> we go to mr. chris smith of new jersey. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me be clear on the record
that after being unjustly jailed for three years, igor bitkoff and his wife and daughter, who spent three months for being unjustly jailed. igor got out on bail, but they're told they're not free. they're under house arrest, that -- on may 23 shd, i, on two days before my hearing, which was ns this room, the court ruled and allowed them out of jail this wasn't enough fofr seasig, however. he went back to the constitutional court and another action.
>> this would be the third time the constitutional court rngt -- these are asylum seekers, a family that was escaping the impunity of vladimir putin and his cronies. article 5 makes it clear that theshl not become available for public scrutiny, and then it is clearly pointed out that producing a fraudulent travel or identity document. so the protocol couldn't be cleared, and anyone who doubts they were escaping a tyrannical outlook against them, just look at the record. it couldn't be more clear. and the constitutional court has
now allowed to be a mission. you see. >> he have witness protection in this country, when someone wants to explain their judged. that's another ranch in fortunate part of an action that got 14 years for igor, 14 years for his wife and 14 years in prison for their daughter. that's what the judge found, that's what the court found. what is the driving obsession here? when you say there's been an investigation and you found no evidence, how deep was that investigation? how much was looked into the russian connection here?
we know for a fact that thousands of businessmen and women have their businesses here. there are socioeconomic jews who had all these false charges brought against them, often were sent to psychiatric prisons or places like pro-cam 35, and i actually visited pro-cam 35 in the rural mountains a few years later. and her hard tales of men who had been taken and tortured by the russians, in that case, the soviets. but now the russians went looking for the bitcoffs, it took them a while to find it, and yet there are people who suggest this is an overreach on
part. i said it before, bill brower, he is the subject of attacks unrelenting by the central government. i was at a bilateral as head of the litigation. in that meeting there was chair from the duma are some of the people who were held up blts. they don't like it, we believe in sanctions, we believe in personalizing them as a way of really trying to inhibit bad behavior and hold to account. but then we have a situation where a family, who is at grave risk, in my opinion, their physical safety is my overriding concern. i want to keep them out of prison because i think they've
done no wrong. do what any of us would do for our families. if a gangster group came behind us, and now siz i can. it's beyond the pale as to why. can you tell us why? >> sir, i can't speak to the peculiar tarts of you what i told about you the bitcocks of the we have agreements with guatemala and they since the russian are now asking that the
young son be returned from guatemala to russia. do you have assurances there, too. i don't want to -- ambassador, i would suggest that in a situation where you're looking at sentences of 17 years, 14 years for the wife, 14 years after her daughter after certain ids in the bakr trying to cayle. for her to get 14 years for the younger son to be in a situation where the russian. and given the past pattern of behavior, you would have to ask yourself are longer than
sentences for drug trafficking, for murder, for even terrorism in country. there is something a little unusual about the particulars of this case. and that is why, when i said earlier we're going to work with the u.s. u.n. on investigations here in terms of such circumstances, it is, i think, incumbent upon all of us to dig a little deeper and get a little bit more understanding of this case. and i would ask you to do that and then get back in touch with chairman smith and the other members, because at the end of
the day, the goal is to have it work effectively in the one area there is corruption. if the russians tried to influence the outcome, in any case would they go after anyone who tries to flee their government's control. and if you ask yourself how far they'll go, apparently poison by radiation is not out of bounds. we know of two cases where that was done in the u.k. so when you have an arm of the state, a state bank, bringing a case in guatemala after bringing a case where they had previously -- anyway, iver exhaue --
i've engs haaxhausted our time, want reforms in place -- i see mr. cook here. were you seeking time? >> no, i came back in because we're planning a trip as part of my committee to guatemala, and obviously this is a huge, huge issue. we're all concerned about it. i know, ms. torres, it's something we're concerned about and i share the chairman's feelings about the russians, their history. so this is something that's not going to go away and obviously this will be our top agenda when we go down there. thank you. >> if i can just conclude, and i thank you. >> i yield back. >> so the by have very poor
treatment in prison. they had a s.w.a.t. team taking them to prison in the first place, totally beyond reason. what that has done especially to anastasia who was abducted -- they go after businessmen and women who are successful to fleece them, and if you don't play ball, they set examples for certain people. to think cc had anything to do with that absolutely undermines their mandate. who doesn't want to get rid of corruption? every single one of us. if there were any corrupt people within the organization called csig, that needs to be weeded out. beyond that, not just weeded out. anyone who is complicit in this, that's why i asked very specific questions about collusion, they need to be prosecuted. and no games. >> okay.
family leave. they are hosting family leave benefits. and coming up tomorrow, peter strzok, the former chief of the fbi counter-espionage section will testify into the investigation of the clinton e-mail investigation and russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. live coverage begins tomorrow morning at 10:00 eastern on c-span3, on line at c-span.org. the c-span bus is traveling on our 50 states tour. we asked people about alaska. >> our economy is the worst right now. the state of alaska has been in a hole for years now. we experienced, just like the west coast, a homeless issue
that's not been seen before. so we have poverty reaching out, people camping in our parks and people struggling. we have neighbors trying to figure out how to coexist. the fact is the state and the feds aren't investing in making sure this is taken care of, and we need to do that. >> the most important issue to me is protecting the wildlife refuge. i was there last week with friends. it's an unbelievably beautiful place that's iconic in the same way that yellowstone national park and the grand canyon is. unfortunately, the tax law is not going to allow drilling on the coastal plain. we're doing everything we can to stop that drilling. the native indian and other natives are doing all they can to stop it.