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tv   State Dept. Officials Testify on Latin America  CSPAN  January 5, 2022 11:32am-1:42pm EST

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caribbean before the senate foreign relations committee. they're asked about several topics including drug trafficking, the removal of a colombian organization from the foreign terrorist list, and the kidnapping of american missionaries in haiti. this is just over two hours. >> this hearing on u.s. policy and democracy in latin america and the caribbean will come to order. in march, this committee hosted organization of american states secretary general to review the state of democracy in the region. we heard concerns about the uptick in fraudulent elections, shrinking space for civil society and independent media, efforts to politicize judicial institutions, and the loss of hope in the region plagued by
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insecurity and kleptocracy. while the intraamerican democratic charter marked its 20th anniversary in september, the harsh reality is that we are witnessing a fraying of democratic consensus in the americas. given the secretary general's diagnosis, it is critical that the biden administration continue efforts to restore the defense of democracy as a central pillar of u.s. foreign policy. in his june memorandum, the president made it clear that combatting kleptocracy is a u.s. national security priority. and american diplomats are again using the language of human rights. after four years with the trump administration failing to stand up for our fundamental values, we have acutely felt the effects and these initial steps are welcome. but we must do more, because the truth is that since march, the situation in the hemisphere has become even more challenging.
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the regime attacked, detained, and disappeared citizens for demanding fundamental freedoms during unprecedented countrywide protests in july. the regime decreed criminalizing free expression on social media. while i welcome the administration's four rounds of targeted sanctions, we must move more aggressively to hold security forces accountable and we must launch a strategic effort to demilitarize the cuban economy in parallel with our support for the cuban people. in nicaragua, the ortegas' regime to jail and persecute political opponents and independent media resulted in the recent sham elections. this month, congress passed my
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bipartisan act ushering in a new era of international accountability. i'm pleased that the biden administration is issuing new sanctions and bans on nicaraguan officials complicit in the dismantling of democracy. in haiti, following the president's assassination, gangs now control large parts of the country and kidnap and terrorize civilians including american missionaries and children. i look forward to hearing how the administration is working to restore security, facilitate dialogue between civil society and political actors, and help chart a haitian-led path to new elections to overcome this chaos. since march, the maduro regime has continued its campaign of torture, disappearances, arbitrary jailings and
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subjugating the venezuelan people. it has walked away from negotiations with the national unity platform. talks that could help address urgent humanitarian needs and set the country on a path towards recovery. instead the regime prioritized holding deeply flawed elections that no credible democratic actor has called free and fair. we have observed the surgical deconstruction of el salvador's justice system as the president appears intent on taking the training wheels off his autocratic project. and in brazil, president bolsonaro is plagiarizing the trump playbook by invoking the specter of political violence and fraud in advance of next year's elections. it's no wonder, given the state of democracy in the americas, that irregular population movements are at an all-time high. our hemisphere is at a critical infection point. we must help democracies deliver, especially as they
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recover from the economic and social impact of the pandemic. we must continue supporting civil society efforts to reverse democratic backsliding. we must help pro-democracy movements harness the power of technology to confront dictatorships. the upcoming summit for democracy presents an opportunity to coalesce around a global strategy to confront repressive regimes and strengthen democracies. it's my sincere hope that it produces tangible outcomes. as we said in march, the cost of inaction is too great. and it is increasingly exponentially. when democracies in the americas fail to provide their people, those looking for a better life will come knocking at the door. if we do not increase our engagement in the hemisphere, others from further away, china, russia, will be only too happy to gain a stronger foothold to exploit tensions and divisions. i look forward to discussing these and other issues as it
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relates to the hemisphere to this hearing. now i turn to the ranking member for his remarks. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the united states has had an enduring interest in a stable and prosperous western hemisphere and the democratic order is the best guarantor of those things. the people of latin america and the caribbean have made great strides toward democratic governance over the last several decades, however it's disheartening to see how quickly that progress can be lost. nicaragua joins cuba on the seemingly bottomless descent into authoritarianism. chavez has turned venezuelan into a failed state. last year president biden promised to use smart sanctions and greater multilateral pressure on the maduro regime. ten months in, president biden has not imposed a single sanction on the regime or any of
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its cronies. and the european union is not any closer to match the diplomatic pressure brought forth by the united states and canada. equally disturbing is china's predator practices. the adoption of technologies developed and controlled by firms vulnerable to chinese communist party pressure undermines privacy and human rights. russian disinformation campaigns exacerbated the protests that rocked democratic countries in south america in 2019. putin openly endorses authoritarian rulers. russia's export of repressive laws and practices allows authoritarian leaders to suppress independent media, civil society, and political opposition.
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lastly, malign threats to the safety of our communities here at home and in the region. the nation's efforts to remove countries from the terrorist list undermines stability in colombia. as this administration plans its upcoming summit next month, i hope this summit is more than just a ceremony of words and hollow promises and instead will produce real results to improve democracy and rule of law across the region. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses about all of these important issues. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. so we'll start with our panel. we're pleased to have assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, brian nichols, who has served as ambassador in various locations including in peru, was the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law
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enforcement affairs and was deputy chief mission at the u.s. embassy in colombia, so you're very well familiar with the hemisphere. thank you, mr. secretary, for joining us. we also have the assistant secretary for the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, todd robinson, who previously has served in a variety of positions. senior adviser for central american bureau of western hemisphere affairs. previously the charge d'affaires in venezuela. both witnesses have deep and significant experience to draw from. we'll start off with secretary robinson. your full statements will be entered into the record without objection. and mr. secretary, you're recognized. >> good morning, chairman menendez, ranking member risch, distinguished members of the
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committee. thank you for calling this hearing and bringing attention to the issue of erosion of democracy in latin america. i am pleased to be here today with my friend and colleague, assistant secretary nichols, with whom i am working closely to address the challenges raised by the issue. democratic institutions that effectively and adequately immediate their citizens' needs are critical building blocks in this region. supporting democratic norms and transport institutions is something we should all support. mr. chairman, ranking member, i was expelled from venezuela in 2018 for speaking out against the maduro regime's illegitimate elections and corrupt governance. before that, in 2015, i saw firsthand as guatemalan citizens demanded the investigation and prosecution of corrupt officials including their president. i am no stranger to the threats facing democracy in this region.
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i'm clear-eyed about the challenges but i am also confident that working with our colleagues across the department and the interagency, my team in the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, inl, is well-positioned to address them. throughout the western hemisphere, endemic corruption drives authoritarianism, irregular migration, crime, and violence. corrupt government actors and other elites are incentivized to allow drug trafficking and other organized criminal groups to operate, driving instability and contributing to un-democratic practices. the biden/harris administration is moving to protect and reinvigorate democracy both at home and abroad and inl is working to build capacity to fight the cycle of corruption, and our efforts span the region. in columbia, inl supported prosecutors and police are helping root out corruption and
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enable greater transparency. in mexico, our partnership helped strengthen the capacity of security and justice institutions to reduce opportunities for corruption, prosecute offenders, and promote a culture of accountability. however, we must recognize some governments lack the ability or, frankly, the political will to tackle corruption. indeed, many of these governments and their elites are benefiting from it. our strong preference is to work with governments but ultimately we can't want this more than them. as secretary blinken testified in june, if governments are unable or unwilling to do what's necessary, we will increase our work with civil society, local communities, and international organizations and trusted partners in the private sector, particularly if they are willing to fight corruption rather than seeking to benefit from it. we strongly support efforts by watchdog groups and
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investigative media outlets to expose corruption, advocate for justice, and democratic institutions, and support anticorruption reforms in their countries. no one understands the corrosive nature of corruption better than those whose livelihoods suffer because of it. in venezuela, the cycle of violence, crime, and corruption has eroded the democratic process, the economy, and the security situation. in response, the department to date has issued 13 transnational organized crime and narcotics rewards offers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of maduro and his cronies. we have also designated three individuals under section 7031-c under the appropriations act who abuse their public position in the region by accepting bribes and kickbacks and misappropriating public funds for their own self-enrichment.
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we've also taken similar actions in central america in places like nicaragua, guatemala, honduras, and el salvador and we will continue to do so. in haiti, weak institutions and pervasive corruption contribute to the proliferation of gang violence, including kidnappings for ransom. gangs control nearly half of port-au-prince and key transportation infrastructure. when i was in haiti twomet with minister, the acting minister of justice, the new director general of police, and our international partners to emphasize our concern for the security situation and discuss inl's planned support to help the haitian national police establish a tactical anti-gang unit. i stressed the need to ensure officer accountability, respect
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for human rights and transparency, particularly for the anti-gang unit. inl will continue to support longer term prevention efforts and institutional capacity building of the hnp including through additional embedded advisers, vehicles, and protective equipment for hnp units for supporting election security. mr. chairman, i will end my testimony reiteraing an important point. the political will of partners is absolutely critical. even the best-resourced intervention cannot succeed if our partners are not equally or more committed to the challenge. thank you and i look forward to your confession. >> thank you. secretary nichols. >> chairman menendez, ranking member risch, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding our efforts to promote inclusive democracy in the americas. two decades ago we and our
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western hemisphere partners committed to promote and defend democracy across the region through the inter-american democratic charter. following that historic commitment, the region's democracies enjoyed a period of relative prosperity, security, and stability. unfortunately too many ordinary citizens in the region's democracies saw their governments failing to meet their aspirations for a better future. street protests broke out in several countries in 2019, as citizens expressed anger and frustration with political and economic elites. the covid-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the region's underlying governance challenges. as secretary blinken said in his october 20th remarks in ecuador, we find ourselves in a moment of democratic reckoning. and the question for all of us who believe in democracy and believe its survival is vital to our shared future is, what can we do to make democracies
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deliver on the issues that matter most to people. our defining mission in the bureau of western hemisphere affairs is answering that question and doing all we can to deliver the benefits of democracy to the nations of to combat corruption, enhance civilian security, improve government service delivery and address the social and economic challenges facing the nation's vit sit zns. we work with partners across the globe. we hold corrupt people accountable, including naming over 50 individuals in el salvador and honduras to the section 353 list. we will expand our commitment as
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host of the someone in americas next year. to strengthen civilian security, the united states invests billions to combat transnational criminal organizations. we lay the groundwork at the october 8 high-level security dialogue with mexico and the dialogue with columbia. we'll adopt similar approaches with other partners. we must address social and economic challenges as together we -- we have delivered doses to 30 countries in the hemisphere. the united states has invested more than $10 billion in latin america and the caribbean through the can d investment finance organization. the president's build back better world initiative will frame our network going forward.
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we support the unity platform in venezuela and the demand for human rights and democracy. nicolas maduro should release nationals immediately so they can return to their families. in nicaragua, following the sham elections, they sanctioned nine entities under the global programs. we impose visa restrictions on 169 people related to the ortakau government and issued a proclamation on nicaragua with individuals in undermining democracy. we look forward to working closely with you to implement it. our cuba policy focuses on accountability for cuban government officials involved in human rights abuses.
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we condemn the violence and oppression by the cuban regime. since july, the treasury department has imposed four rounds against cuban officials and entities within the cuban military services. imposing tangible consequences and promoting accountability for human rights abuses. and they support efforts to counter censorship. we'll continue to identify viable options to insure greater internet access for the cuban people. we see these and other challenges confronting the region. but democracy remains the best form of government to address them. the president will host the summit for democracy september 9th and 10th, where we'll take on bold new commitments to fight corruption and promote respect for human rights at home and abroad. and i'm honored to partner with inl and my friend, todd
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robinson, assistant secretary, in that effort. thank you again for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you both for your testimony. we'll start a series of five-minute rounds. secretary nicholls, let's talk about some of the things specifically. the cuban military has long claimed it draws its power from the people. like the castros before him, is using the military to perpetrate the communist party's strang hold on the cuban people and stifle democratic openings. and it continues expanding the military's control of the cuban economy, fuelling the rise of a new generation of military oligarchs in the process. the biden administration rightly designated under sanctions but it's become clear the problem is
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bigger than one general. do we agree the cuban military has an expansive control of the economy, which stifles out, for example, independent entrepreneur trying to get a foot hold in the economy? >> yes, mr. chairman. the role of the cuban military, in dominating the economy and controlling the largest businesses and policing itself in a position to suck up resources that go into different parts of the country is of great concern. the military's role in repressing citizens who seek only to exercise their fundamental rights of free speech, assembly, has been documented for decades. and everything that we can do to prevent that conduct, i think will be important. >> we agree the role they're
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playing is a rather nefarious role. what steps will the biden administration take to increase accountability for the military's role in repression and decrease the demilitarization of the cuban economy? >> we continue to look at individuals to sanction under the full range of our authorities. we look to block resources from moving into military controlled organizations and companies. and we will continue to prevent military individuals from traveling and we'll work with allies and partners around the world to highlight the abuses the cuban military perpetrates on its populous. >> there's a lot more that can be done and sanctioning that should take place so people understand they don't get away with impunity.
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one of the things we should look at is revoking the visas of a variety of cuban military and cuban officials' families that had visas to do the united states. sends a clear message we won't tolerate and give them the benefit of doing what every day cubans cannot do. i really would urge the administration to look at that. we have been talking for some time about how do we facilitate freedom through the internet. i understand we have been using and seeing an exponential use of tools that the department and usagm has been working on. we don't want to give the regime greater information for circumvention. but why have we not been able to find a pathway to greater
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wide-spread internet uses inside of cuba? what are the obstacles we're facing in that regard? >> there are a number of challenges regards to internet in cuba. first is the amount of bandwidth that goes into the country, which is quite limited. if there were greater bandwidth overall, there would be greater ability to access the internet at higher speeds. the regime uses a number of techniques to block access to individuals to small groups of people, to specific geographic locations. and actually does not typically shut down entire internet. so, defeating those techniques and technologies is a focus of our efforts.
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i'd be happier to go into greater detail in a private setting. >> we could more successfully get access to the internet for the cuban people. we've researched those and the challenges is bandwidth on the island. that's what you're saying? >> that's one of the challenges. but projecting a wireless signal into the island from a balloon or aircraft or a static location, when the cuban authorities would be actively trying to jam that signal, presents a significant technological challenge and again i'm happier to go into greater detail on that. >> let me close on venezuela. i think the administration has
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rightfully called the elections a sham. i'm concerned about the purposes of eu commissioner's intentions. an elite memo shows he ignored recommendations from his own staff not to send an observation missions to venezuela. and if we want a credible alternative about elections in venezuela, it has to be by a credible organization. can you confirm that the united states does support a solution as codified and make equally clear that any calibration will be tied to concrete results at the negotiating table. >> yes, and in fact, i'll be meeting with members of the uniitary platform this afternoon. >> the national unity platform
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have shown their willingness to participate in negotiations. however, in a sign of bad faith, maduro suspended the talks because he's upset about someone who was apprehended from the justice department who may spill the goods on him. shows where we're at with maduro. i home the world recognizes that. my understanding is that he's been invited to the summit of democracies. is that true? >> yes, and he'll have a speaking role in that event. >> thank you. >> i wonder if both of you could speak to the fact that, in the last presidential campaign, then candidate biden had promised sanctions on maduro and the regime and nothing's happened in his 10 months. can you explain that? .
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>> thank you, ranking member. we continue to support a negotiated process in venezuela when we have the information regarding actions of certain individuals. we take action to use all the authorities that we have been given. we believe that the crucial elements in the way forward is the negotiation process and hopefully they'll return to the table promptly. >> what information are you looking for? every time we talk to the administration, they say we're working on it. what information are you looking for and what on individuals? >> it's our goal to collect comp
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rehengsive and detailed information on government actors that violates u.s. law or international norms. and that will withstand judicial scrutiny. >> what information are you looking for? >> well, participation in human rights violations. >> and you don't have any information on -- >> acts of corruption. those are the types of areas we seek information. >> do you plan on doing any sanctions at all in the near future? >> the administration has aggressively used the sanctions available and we will continue to do see. >> you want to comment on this? >> no. i would just add that i don't think the previous administration or the current administration are holding back on using sanctions, certainly
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not against members of the maduro regime and we intend to continue to do that. >> were either one of you consulted on removing fark from the list, the terrorist list? >> yes. the bureau of western hemisphere affairs was consulted and played a role in the listing of the fark ep and the sagunda marketalia. and delisting of the fark. >> did you recommend the delisting take place? >> it recognizes the reality on the ground that the original fark, if you will, which targeted me when i served in columbia. so, i have no love for them. but they've participated in the peace process since 2016,
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demobilized their structures. while the fark have carried out continued terrorist activities, attacked individuals, carried out bombings. participated in drug trafficking. and we want to focus on those currently carrying out solicit activities. >> the bureau of international narcotics was consulted and we came to the conclusion. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman, for holding the hearing. let me thank both wnlszs for the service to our country in this hemisphere. our hemisphere has always bragged about having democratic states and yet we've seen decline of democracy, the decline of countries where they
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have free and fair elections so that people can have self determination of their leaders. we see a growth of systemic corruption, as you've pointed out, which denies the people of that country effective democratic governance. so, it really is a critical moment. and i was listening to your response. i understand you're collecting information. i know you're using the different legislative authorities that you have to identify actors for sanctions and to use country activities to express our concern in the decline of democracy. but i want to be clear. to me, the sanction that has gotten the most international attention is the munits key
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sanctions. others have identified individuals for visa bands and for denial of the use of our banking system, which is critical for those that participate in krupgds. they like to travel and hide their money in states that have rule of law. if we can deny them that opportunity t effects their ability to carry out the corrupt regimes. i think we got to be clear about our commitment to use these sanctions. and i must tell you i have not seen a robust use of the munisky sanctions. that statute really anticipates a collaborative effort between congress and the administration while working together to identify and impose sanctions against those committing these types of tevez.
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pub's been clear to identify corruption as the fuel to undemocratic regimes. so, can we be more open and robust so there's a clear message that those participating in corruption, they're going to be identified by the united states. if we don't have u.s. leadership, there's not going to be in our hemisphere. we've got to take the lead. i understand you got to collect information. but we also have to be very clear about our willingness to identify those corrupt actors and impose tough sanctions against them individually so that they cannot benefit from their corruption. why aren't we being more aggressive in this area? >> senator, thank you for that important question.
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from our standpoint, i think again the administration has not been leaning back on this. i think they've been leaning forward. but i think we have to recognize that shangzs are parts of amkit that weef can use to go -- not just go after those committing corrupt acts but we have to look at other tools that we can use, support for democratic institutions. making sure that we are -- >> i agree with you. that we need to have programs in place to support democracy and i strongly support those partnerships through the state department. i agree with you. but you also have -- it's got to be a carrot stick. do you know how many have been
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imposed in the last 12 months? >> i don't know off the top of my head. i think over 40. >> and how many are under consideration? >> i can't tell you how many are under consideration but we look to deploy them across all the areas we sheaf problems and a key part is brichking along international partners. so, when we're able to enlist the european union or canada to apply sanctions to secure supportive resolutions in multilateral legislation. thapt increases the pressure in our hemisphere. >> i would ask for a commitment that you work with our staff, with us and the committee on the
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list that you're working on and the countries you're working on. it's our impression we could be more direct and visible on the use of the sanctions to make it clear that america's leadership is there. i ask that you work with us and our staff as we identify companies and individuals that need to be cleared for these type of sanctions. >> absolutely. senator. >> secretary nicholls, i think you would agree that supporting democracy begins by supporting existing democracies. and you would agree that columbia is one of the strongest, most stable democracies and one of the best partners and allies in the region. >> absolutely. >> did we consult with them
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before we delisted the fark? >> yes. >> what was their take on it? >> this has been part of the implementation of the 2016 agreement between the government and the fark, the peace accord. from columbia's standpoint is to prol vide assistance where the fark has demobilized. >> were they in a fravr hof delisting? >> they were in favor of providing assistance for those that have demobilized. they're in favor of us listing fark ep and the -- >> in terms of providing assistance to those that demobilized, is it not true they wanted the assistance to be
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channelled through the columbian government. >> we have a robust partnership on these issues. a great partnership. >> but they didn't want a delisting. to the extent you're going to provide assistance to the people that abandoned the guerilla fight. we want you to run it through columbia, not unilaterally? >> they and many governments whom we partner have an interest in us providing direct budgetary support. it's important for us to implement the programs the congress authorizes that usaid be able to directly carry out the program. >> even if it goes against the wishes of the democratically elected partner of the home
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country? >> everything we do with our partners in columbia is negotiated and agreed with the government of columbia. >> so, they agreed to this agreement? 100%? >> they signed an agreement on assistance programs, whether it's with u.s.a. id or inl. >> did they agree with the delisting and direct delivery of aid to former fark or fark elements? >> i did not personally participate in that conversation. >> who did? >> our ambassador in bogota was crucial in this prosres. again, i don't want to give the impression there's any daylight between the government of columbia and the united states. they're superb partners. >> i know what their opinion on. they wanted it to the extent aid
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be provided through them and not directly. so, after the so-called peace process, there's fark. the people that laid down their arms, have done so through a political party, correcting? >> yes. >> that group is not sanctioned. they're not on a list of foreign terrorist organization. and the group that did not have become disdant groups. correct? >> correct. >> we sanctioned the group that became the dissidents and the people in the political party are no longer sanctioned because they're now part of the political process. so, who exactly are we delisting? if people in the fark were, a, dissidents or, b, members of a
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political party not part of a sanction list. who's not getting money as a result of this? who's not a disdant group and needs money from the yurnls? >> in order to carry out the development programming with a former member of the fark, from a legal standpoint, delisting is required. >> you're no longer considered -- wouldn't that have been easier and more straight forward than delisting an entire group because a new group could show up tomorrow and say we're the fark? the disdant group could rename themselves. >> the nomenclature is covered in the way we address this. we named specific leaders of the fark ep and their structure.
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>> frankly, going against the wishes ofory democratically elected allies in columbia. thank you. >> thank you. senator murphy. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for your work. i think it's safe to say president trump's policy towards venezuela was a failure. they essentially decided to push all of our chips to the center of the table on the first hand, recognizing him ahead of allies in the region and assuming that would lead to the immediate collapse of his regime. that's not what happened and there was no plan b. bit more, y
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because this certainly is a case to be made that our sanctions can be effective, they can begin and punish bad actors, but there is of course a flipside. there's the humanitarian crisis in venezuela today, there's a report from a few years ago suggesting the sanctions have dramatically reduced caloric intake and increased mortality. and a number of other really serious and potentially catastrophic effects on the venezuelan people. it also has a potential, the sanctions do, to provide fuel behind the anti-americanism that is essential to hang onto power. there is no shortage of
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individuals in venezuela who deserved them. at the same time, there are the humanitarian consequences and there frankly isn't a lot of evidence over the course of the last four or five years that the sanctions are actually weakening the regime. so let me ask about how you view both of the upside and downside of the existing sanctions policy and prospect of additional sanctions. >> thank you, senator. the sanctions are in important tool and as secretary robinson said, it's also important to have other tools that we can use to both induce positive behavior and dissuade people from taking improper action. we need to balance all those tools to the greatest extent
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possible. i think it owes much more to the horrible policies of hugo chavez and nicholas maduro which destroyed the economy, healthcare sector and they voted to leave that country so i think those are the sort of root causes of the suffering but i also believe the negotiated the process between the platform and regime is the best way for a process led by venezuelans themselves and we should be flexible and creative and supporting that process. the unconscionable moral leadership of the regime, but the sanctions can be
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contributory and provide so as to blame the economic suffering rather than have it land on his shoulders and i hope that is a consideration that we will way. with respect to gun violence and small arms proliferation in mexico, despite the increased deployments. they continue to rise. the statistics suggest over 70% of the guns recovered originated in the united states and earlier this year they went so far as to file a lawsuit accusing the gun manufacturers of helping to fuel the rise by knowingly flooding mexico with firearms that are designed to end up in the hands of the cartels.
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what is the administration doing to cut down on the arm straight into mexico? >> thank you, senator. that question came up earlier this year. i participated in mexico and we've committed to working, my inner agency partners at dea and fbi and atf to working with mexican officials on the illegal arms trade and flow of arms and money, frankly, from the united states to mexico. i look forward to working with you on that as well. >> senator portman. >> thank you, madam chair and let me say to both of you think you for your service and
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appreciate your comments today. you've had some good conversations regarding the kidnappings in haiti and i want to find out where we are and i do appreciate your personal involvement. for those who don't follow as closely in my home state of ohio, the ministries that have 17 people kidnapped, it happened six weeks ago and typically result in some resolution prior to that time so i'm very concerned about it, two hostages have been released and i guess that is encouraging but of the remaining hostages requiring the state department to work on the basis to coordinate efforts like
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kidnappings in haiti and do address the broad issue of violence. this criminal gang of 400 i believe 41 u.s. persons into u.s. citizens have been kidnapped for ransom in 2021. the embassy team including u.s. law enforcement agencies are
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cooperating with police authorities to support a resolution of this case and the two u.s. citizens have been kidnapped in connection with that case and we hope that there would be a rapid resolution and favorable resolution for the remainder you think that we should be doing and we are not and i would ask you to let me know and we will continue to help however we can expressing our deep concern we have to rely on people on the ground doing the right thing and making sure
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this is a priority so i think you for that. let me change to another topic. i think that it should be the top issue of the bilateral relationship with mexico today. senator murphy mentioned the gun as she was totally related to this issue. cash and drugs and guns are coming back into mexico and that means it's an issue for both mexico and us in a very significant way. here's the crisis and it's pretty extraordinary we've got 100,000 people that died of drug overdoses during the most recent
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twelve-month period which would be april to april. it's probably worse than that now. that's a record and more people combined. the blue line is a number of overdose deaths related to fentanyl. you can see we've gone from 2015 to 2020 and that's fentanyl. let's look at the next chart you can see what's happening. we were told that there is a 42% increase in one month of the fentanyl seizures and.
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we have a huge crisis and it's not slowing down. people have supply chain issues in the country right now. we met with mexican authorities and stressed the importance of the coordinated intelligence operations. to one that takes down the entire networks.
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better cooperation between mexican authorities and u.s. law enforcement. we've already seen progress in that area in terms of closer cooperation, better access for the law enforcement officials and as you know, fentanyl is smaller in size and cheaper to produce and easier to smuggle. it's a tough nut to crack. i worked together on this issue. we are working with our colleagues to defeat this problem. a. >> i appreciate the indulgence and i will follow-up with you on what they specifically are doing and whether it is an item a priority and secretary nichols, thanks again for your personal involvement on the issue. >> thank you, senator portman. senator mccain. >> thank you madam chair and to the witnesses for your service i
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want to talk about two things. columbia and the northern triangle. i agree on the position the first thing we should do is make sure we have strong relations with our allies and shore up democracies. unlike some of my colleagues, i don't have a problem with the biden administrations of the listing of farc. today's the fifth anniversary of the peace deal that was done between the administration and farc, and i would hope that virtually everyone on the committee would view that as a historic achievement. i think the u.s. deserves some significant credit. we were involved in those negotiations. and i think the delisting essentially the five-year anniversary of the peace deal was the right decision. the colombian architect of the negotiation said, quote, for the biden administration, this is a
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low-cost thing to do. it sends the signal that it's been five years. you've done your bit and behaved properly and we are delisting you. the u.s. envoy that was involved in the peace negotiation is one of the finest diplomats, quote, if the groups that were once violent revolutionary groups are never allowed to get off the list that is one lesson for them to make peace. you undermine incentives for other groups to renounce terrorism and violent struggles. so i think the decision to remove farc after five years of participating in a new life and a new chapter in colombian life, that designating groups like the farc, and as far as i know it is still on the terrorist list, so there's three colombian groups that are carrying out terrorist activities that are on the list and i think it's the right thing to do. i just want to start there. let me go to the northern triangle. honduras, guatemala, el salvador, i know none of them have been invited to participate
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in the summit for democracy next week. nicaragua has not been invited to, haiti hasn't been invited, bolivia, venezuela hasn't been invited, cuba hasn't been invited but none of the northern triangle nations we've invested billions and billions of dollars in this region, and yet none of the northern triangle nations have been invited to participate. i will just say parenthetically, with the summit coming up next week, i'm a little bit surprised no 190 in the senate has received any outreach about what we think are the topics that should be brought up in the summit. to be on the senate foreign relations committee and to have surveyed my colleagues here and on the intel committee and armed services committee, has anyone reached out about the summit for democracy and so far everyone's told me know. ..
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>> senator rubio and i wrote a t well and senator merkley had went about the concerns of election in honduras thus far if i read the reports head looks like maybe things are exceeding our expectations. the cow is not yet done, we cannot celebrate prematurely. el salvador has backslid after the first election who is not part of the flm or the right wing death squad groups from the past, promise there must be a new chapter the president of el salvador is like an authoritarian. our best partner in the region, guatemala, has backslid since senator and i were there in july
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in terms of sacking anticorruption prosecutors. that is the reason they've not been invited to participate. this is an import crisis at the border is being driven by instability in the northern triangle, much of the drug trade is being driven by instability and the northern triangle. talk to us about this particular part of the americas and what the biden administration hopes to accomplish. >> thank you very much. it's a good part of the region week, i met with the candidate and every meeting i urge the importance of a peaceful electoral process. talk to the press about that and as you know it appears at this juncture, we have achieved that,
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let me rephrase that, the honduran people have achieved that with the support of the international community. the region is one that i have seen jobs of incomes over the past decade. problems due to climate change, challenges due to gang-related violence in a bubble intense, acute corruption from key leaders and the northern triangle. we are working to address all those issues. i think we made progress in that. but we still have a long way to go and were dealing with entrenched elites, political and economic elites who do not see reform as their friend. we need to push moving carrots and sticks to encourage change. i'm hopeful and honduras that we will see the kind of change that
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we've been asking. the leading candidate at this moment has stated her commitment to attack corruption and deal with the causes and drivers of migration and promote jobs and better income in our country and we look forward to working with her in that regard. >> my time is up, i appreciate the inter alia lid back to the chair. >> think you senator kaine now we have senator young on webex. >> yes chairwoman, thank you so much. >> can return us down a little bit, that is too loud. we are trying to get that done now. sorry go ahead. >> how is that? is that better. thank you so much. ambassador nichols previous
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ministrations have rightly noted effectively a third quarter with the united states. the time i served in the marine corps in the 1990s as a member of joint task force and i was operating on the southern border, working in collaboration with other countries to deal with issues like illegal migration and drug trafficking and at the same time promoting strong trading relationships with countries in the caribbean. were seeing a growing decline in democracy and government in that region. we seen instability in haiti lead to migration and each person descending on their own border, wheezing authoritarian governments throughout the area, cuba in particular, he continued his aversive activities.
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migration is destabilize many countries and population of economic stagnation and uncertainty. mr. ambassador, i want to know how does the administration view the caribbean to use you as a c baseboard with united states customer. >> take you senator the caribbean is a crucial partner in region where we need to stay engaged. the hop onto bahamas alloy 41 miles away from the united states under minor programs.
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>> it's a major challenge, i don't of my colleagues want to add to that? >> absolutely, we know that drug traffickers use the same words, they are moving people and guns and money. they move drugs. we see it as a significant challenge for us. in the threat to our national security. we have, fortunately, a very good relationship with the government and the caribbean. we work very closely with them on training and equipment to help us, help them target those
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roots and to try to keep the drugs from reaching our shores. >> thank you ambassador. >> ambassador nichols i know some of my colleagues have asked questions pertaining to china and how they're seeking to undermine democracy in latin america. this is covered extensively by the shoes report of the economic security review commission. do you believe the u.s. has the capability to counter china's efforts to undermine democracy in latin america, if not, what else do we need so we might counter china's efforts? >> i do think we have the capability but we need to use all the tools available and a development finance corporation is important tool that gives us the ability of support private
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sector in the region. the kovacs and our efforts to survive covid vaccine to countries in the region is vital. our presence in the region is crucial in my travels in meetings with 24 ministers and government something to get all my duties. >> ambassador, i regret, my time is very limited. does the administration have a strategic policy played out for countering china and the region. he just gone through a list, is there register added. >> we are working with the state department and the interagency to sharpen our strategy for the region and is an ongoing process with the department. secretary sherman is leading the effort. >> will be a written work product that you can share with
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me and other members of the committee. >> yes. >> we will follow-up and receive a timeframe. >> senator shaheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for being here today and your ongoing good work. ambassador robinson i would like to begin with you new hampshire, like ohio has a very difficult problem with substance abuse. as i hear from law-enforcement and are dea agents, the majority are coming across the southern border from mexico. i wonder just a follow-up on senator portman's question what specifically are we doing with mexico to address this problem? whatever we have been doing has not been working. >> think you senator, i agree with you. there is nothing more heartbreaking than what drugs like fentanyl is doing to our
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communities across united states. i was in mexico with my colleague for negotiations at the high-level security dialogue. we work very closely with the government of mexico they have agreed with us on a number of things that we were to do including greater cooperation on intel exchange, working more closely with the inner agency and fbi, dea, they just agreed to more visas for dea agents and mexico. one of the aspects that we missed that is not as public his great work that we do, high and elementary agencies with the state and local mexican, state
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and local governments in mexico. they clamor for greater opportunities to cooperate and collaborate on security issues, equipment, training. we are trying to keep up with the demand. the last thing i would say we have some work to do at home on this issue as well. if we cannot get a handle on the demand side for these drugs. >> you don't have to argue that with me i would agree with that and we are working hard and new hampshire and other states to address that. thank you very much. assistant secretary nichols. as a region latin america has the highest rates of violence against women and girls in the world. this is been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic and
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exacerbated in venezuela where we see women and girls flee backcountry and be subject to sexual assault and other means of gender-based violence. can you talk about what the ministrations policy to help support venezuelan women and girls? >> our goal is to combat sexual and gender-based violence throughout the atmosphere but migrants in particular venezuelan migrants are exceptionally vulnerable to gender-based violence. we work to provide training to first responders. we partner with international organizations for migration and the high commissioner for refugees to provide support and combat gender-based violence. we fund shelters along the
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migrant route as well in a variety of countries in the hemisphere. we work with gender champions and when i was the ambassador peru i was honored who won the international courage award while i was there. >> thank you, we have more work to do. can you speak to the challenges that we face because you don't have ambassadors and a number of latin american countries and what that means for our ability to enact foreign-policy in the best interest of americans. >> it is crucial to the president's personal representative they can deliver tough messages that no one else can. there are highest-ranking officers with the level of understanding and discernment with the washington policymaking. their presence signifies the
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importance of the relationship and will not having an abbasid or should be seen as a flight, that's often how it's perceived. >> something that we need to do everything that we can to move forward in congress. i would like to point out i had a recent case in my office where new hampshire citizens daughter was in the hospital and having real issues with the hospital and after they got a call from the embassy, the attitude in the hospital in the treatment and the family changed dramatically. it's that different that our embassies and ambassadors make not only in latin america but around the world. hopefully we can get these people confirm. >> senator haggerty. >> assistant secretary nichols, good to see you again. during your nomination you committed working with me on this committee to curb illegal immigration and address the root cause of the border crisis.
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i want to ask you a couple of basic questions, yes or no answers are fine. you agree to solve the border crisis the united states needs policy and diplomatic agreement to discourage illegal immigration. >> yes. >> do you agree making it easier to cost of the border and remained in the u.s. encourages people to come here illegally all else being equal. >> we should encourage orderly legal migration. >> i agree with you on that. >> may of 2021 i traveled to guatemala and mexico to meet with officials with long-term strategies to address the border crisis. they told me the key root causes is that the biden administration is sending a message if you cross the board right now you be allowed to stay in the united states. this is been sent because abiding the administration
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cancel commonsense policies like the migrant protection protocol, remaining mexico policy policies the diplomatic agreements with mexico that were hard to go she did with the previous administration. they require persons crossing the border from mexico and seeking asylum in the united states should remain in mexico and not be released into the united states while there asylum claims are being adjudicated. this policy makes sense to me and many others we should not allow people who don't have valid asylum to enter the united states for any period of time. if a migrant nose by crossing the border he or she can achieve indefinite release for years before the asylum is heard were permanently if they decide not to show up. that is enormous to cross the border right now. despite court orders to the contrary the biden administration is trying to terminate the policies and diplomatic agreements. why had the face of illegal immigration is abided
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administration terminating policies and double medic agreements that would otherwise serve to reduce migrants incentive to illegally cross the border. >> the migrant protection protocol is subject to ongoing litigation. the administration is committed to following the law protocols is asubject to ongoi litigation. the administration is t committ to following the law and court orders. i can't get into this in greater detail due to that wongoing litigation, but i will note our cooperation with mexico on the full w range of migration issue is excellent. the first trip that i took was to haiti, and among other things, i talked to the prime minister about migration issues. i accompanied secretary blinken to colombia, where we had a regional migration conference to address sillegal, irregular migration, to deal with issues related to the root causes, to promote regular migration, to
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attack trafficking networks, and we're committed to following up and pushing on these issues every day. >> i got it. i appreciate the meetings and conferences, but the biden administration is trying to undo these diplomatic agreements that were o put in place and were working. i think it's simple. obey the law, that's the proper answer ambassadoror robinson, i would like to turnto to you if i migh. the fentanyl problem plaguing the united states is getting worse. weal34 talked about this, senat shaheen, senator portman. in tennessee, overdose rates for individuals have skyrocketed from 4.8 per 100,000 in 2015 to 37.6 perer 100,000 in 2019. and every time i am home, i hear from local sheriffs it's gotten much worse's this year. the large newspaper in our state a fewew days ago interviewed tennessee's former opioid czar, and he said, i quote, i can't remember the last time i have
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looked at a drug screening of a new patient comingee off the street that didn't have fentanyl in it. mexico is the major transit and production point for fentanyl. the fentanyl that's coming from china. while direct shipments have declined after the trump administration's crackdown, the amount of fentanyl shipped from mexico has ffincreased dramatically. and i have been told that more than ch90% of that fentanyl crossing the border, at least chemicals used to produce it comes from china. assistant secretary robinson, what percentage of fentanyl coming across our border ultimately originated in china including thec precursor chemicals? >> i would say a great percentage. i don't have the specific number, but i would say a great percentage comes a from china. > well, i'll ask both ambassador t nichols and ambassador robins if you would commit to c putting together an estimate for me and for this committee how much of this fentanyl coming from china, what percentage of it is coming from
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china, whether it's a precursor or actual fentanyl coming across the border into america annually and how much of it specifically can be traced to china. thank you. b chairman., mr. >> senatorvi van hollen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for your testimony andue for your servic. secretary robinson, a question with respect to haiti. i understand you had a trip there recently. and as you know, it's a desperate situation. as i understand it, right now, gangs control about half of port-au-prince, hijacking fuel, kidnapping people for ransom. senator portman mentioned the 17 u.s. and canadian missionaries who were abducted, 15 who are still being held. whatho is your proposal as to wt the united states can and should be y doing right now with respe to the situation in haiti? >> thank you, senator, for that
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question. very important. as you noted, i was there two weeks ago, i think. iin had a chance, an opportunit to meet with the prime minister, the acting minister of justice, and the new director general of the police. we have also sent advisers down toad assess the situation and lk at mid to long term actions we can take in terms of advising on setting up a new s.w.a.t. unit that will directly go after gang leaders for prosecution, either in haiti or in the united states. but as you know, much more complicated than that. there are s political parties, there are political and economic
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elites that support these gangs. we know this. wet are tracking, trying to trak the money. and we're going to use every punitiveo measure we have to go after the elites that are supporting these gangs and to go after the money of these gangs. >>ut well, that raises a questi as you point out, a lot of the elites are supporting the gangs. is there a risk of a coup, essentially led by the gangs with the support of the elites? and whatf measures are we takin to try to prevent that? >> i don't -- you know, i don't know if there's a risk of -- what ihe should say is there ar risks in haiti today, after the assassination of the president, certainly anything is possible. but ween believe that if we
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continue to work with the current government officials, certainly the current -- the new director general of the police, if wehe can train them, if we c equip them, if we can give them need to go on they after these gangs, we will lessen many of those risks. >> appreciate that. secretary nichols, there was an alarming poll in the economist by a reputable polling organization that showed a big drop inme the percentage of lat americans who believe democracy is important to their future. is think they said 49%, so just less than half t of the population. you see a number of trends in the region where people are sort of cracking down or preventing
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independentt judiciary. and a number of other concerning developments. and in the case of brazil, you have the current president who has essentially stated that he'll either be killed or he'll win in the next election, and there'sio been concern expresse about whether or not the elections next year will be free and ssfair. and accurately counted. can you talk a little bit about your assessment of the situation in brazil? >> so brazil is an important partner. it's a country with whom we have robust dialogue and exchange. national security adviser sullivan has been there, their national security adviser has visited us. v we'll have a number of high level visits and engagements early inn the new year. omicron variant permitting. and one of the topics that we discussed is democracy in the
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hemisphere. andnuil the importance of joint working to continue to build democracy in our hemisphere. and we stress that we have seen challenges in our own nation, as you wellit know, senator. and they need to take steps to insure that their institutions can meet any test that are put before them. >> just very briefly, mr. chairman, with respect to theef elections next year, do y expect o them to be conducted ia free and fair manner or do you have concerns as of the present moment? >> i believere they willl be conducted in a free and fair manner. and i believe that brazil's institutions s will meet the te. but every nation, and again, we have seen this in our own country, every nation needs to strengthen their own institutions because they'reut t only weakened by cynicism and corruption on the inside in many cases, but they're also being outside our hemisphere very actively, and we
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need to be cognizant of that. >> thank you. appreciate it. >> senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, thank you for your testimony. mr. wnichols, i would like to start with mexico. i am increasingly concerned that the mexican government is a systematic campaign to undermine american companies. and especially american energy companies. that have invested in our shared prosperity and in the future of the mexican people and economy. over thehe past five months, mexicaniv regulators have shut down three privately owned fuel storage terminals. among those, they shut down a fuel terminal in tuxpan, which is run by an american company based in texas. and whichch transports fuel on shipsme owned by american companies. this is a pattern of sustained discrimination against american companies. and i worry that the mexican government's ultimate aim is to roll back the country's historic
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2013 energy sector liberalization reforms in favor of mexico's mismanaged and failing state-owned energy companies. the only way the mexican government is going to slow and reverse their campaign is if the united states government conveys clearly and candidly that their efforts pose a serious threat to our relationship and to our shared economic interests. i hope that the biden administration is willing to do that. and i want to ask you some questions about that b specifically. what leverage do you believe the united states government has and what leverage should we use to secure a w course correction in mexico's behavior? >>. so we have an incredibly complex and rich relationship with mexico. we have a structure for that relationship under thehe usmca.
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and the integration of our energyl, markets in north ameri and our supply chains in north america is critical. we're mexico's largest trading partner. and thousands and thousands of americans and mexicans cross the border every day as part of that relationship. >> how a concerned are you abou the mexican government's behavior and in particular their targeting of american companies? >>ge the -- i don't believe tha the mexican government is targeting american companies. i think the other point that you madede about consolidating the energy sector in public hands rather than private hands is more the issue. >> youca believe they're targetg just all private energy companies, mexican and american. >> yes. >> is that a good thing for america? is that a good thing for mexico?
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>> i believe that we need to talk in a comprehensive way with our mexican partners about the energy security and how the private sector is vital toow maintaining energy security. >> let me m try again, mr. nichols. in your judgment, would mexico destroying the private energy sector c in mexico and throwing out or american companies and moving everything to the corrupt and failing state-owned energy companies, would that be a good thing foror mexico and would th be a a good thing for america? >> it's important that we talk torg mexico about a future of reliable vaenergy, a future whe our energy markets can remain integrated, where the private sector plays a leading role, particularly in working together to achieve -- >> you know, i have to say, mr. nichols, your answer is discouraging because iff you're not willing to tell me candidly that mexico nationalizing energy
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and targeting american companies is a bad thing, i have even less confidence that's you're willing to convey that to mexico. let meor shift to another count. colombia. this ermorning, the biden administration removed the farc, the revolutionary armed forces of colombia from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. the farc is an organization of marxist, leninist narco terrorists, they havee kidnappe and anextorted colombians, they have murdered and seized american citizens. they continue to pose an acute threats to colombian security ad american interests across the region. this is sadly a part of a pattern of biden foreign policy. when it comes to dealing with terrorists, and it is a pattern of appeasement and weakness towards terrorists. it's a pattern we have seen with the taliban and the absolute disaster in afghanistan. it's a pattern we havee seen wih the houthis in yemen where the
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biden administration lifted sanctions on them, andve it's a pattern that has h led to disaster. given that appeasement didn't work with the houthis in yemen, given itha didn't work with the taliban in afghanistan, why does the administration believe that weakness and appeasement and delisting the farc as terrorists will produce anything but terrible results in colombia? what makes you think weakness towards these terrorists is going to bes. successful? >> thank you, senator. the administration is focused on the current terror threat. we designated the farc ep and the sugunda marketalia the two activeve elements that are carrying out terrorist attacks. we continue to have a $10 million award for the head of the segunda marketalia. we're focusing on supporting the peace process five years in and those elements of the -- >> final question because myhe if and when the farc responds to
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being delisted with more violence and more terrorism, will you commit to coming before this committee and admitting that it was a mistake to pretend they m weren't terrorists and i was a mistake for president biden to delist them today? >> i'm always available to appear before this committee. >> thank you very much, senator merkley. >> thank you, mr. chairman, an ambassador nichols, thank you for your service. and i particularly want to focus on honduras. we have t the early returns favoring the libre party, and the woman who ran against corruption, many people see this as a referendum on corruption in honduras. but there's a lot of concern that yesterday the counting was suspended for ten hours. and that the counting is not disclosed for thehe national assembly, their congress. we know this is a nation that has military coups in the past, including ms. castro's husband
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who was ousted by a coup in 2009. but there is'ss an opportunity here, anpp incredible opportuni, that itot is the united states s to seize it with both hands. and to send a powerful message that no military coup will be tolerated because if one could happen a m week from now. the power elites are deeply entrenched. the corruption extends to the mayors, the legislators, inpolice, the military, all the way down. no one should underestimate how difficult it is when this type of corruption permeates every level of authority inn the country right down to gangs that control street vendors. so it's a possibility but a challenging moment. and i just would like to hear what measures the state department is taking to make sure, a, there's not a military second, that thess counting is completed in g honest fashion, third, that there's not
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shenanigans that happen with the national assembly trying to undermine her ability to get anything done, and i must say y am impressed that she campaigned on restoring the international corruptionm investigators, whic was the team that started to finally tackle corruption at its highestsi levels in honduras an that the previous president and its allies shut down. she's promising to bring them back. she's promising to address inequality that isio at the foundation of the deep desperation of millions of honduranst and helps drive migration, and when president biden's team talks about root causes, therefore she's talking about root causes. what are we going to do to make the mostit of this rare moment promising opportunity? >> thank you, rasenator. this time last week, i was in honduras. i met with castro. had meetings with the foreign minister, public security
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minister, defense minister, chief of defense. i talked about the importance of free, fair, transparent elections, and the importance oa a peaceful process, where everyone respects the outcome. met with the national electoral council, talked about their vital role in insuring a free, fair,ea transparent, and peacef process. following my meetings with them, both ofir the leading candidate put out statements reiterating their commitment to respect the results and encouraging their supporters to remain patient and peaceful throughout that process. we have embassy observers on the ground in honduras who also partnered with the organization of american states and there was an eu electoral observation mission through usaid we supported, a civil society broad umbrella effort too observe the elections.
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there are a observers who are wh the electoral council, taking a look at the actual vote counting process. there were,e as i think you noted, some technical issues in the vote count process, but there are international observers at every stage looking at how that's working. >> let me cut to the chase here. because those conversations were fine and good. i'm glad you sent thosees messages. are we conveying that there will be significant powerful consequences if there is a military coup or if the voting count is suspended or corrupted in some form here at the last moment to try to give a new assembly and at new president a real chance to t enact reforms? and if so, what is that message we're sending, if you're free to share? >> so again, in my conversations with the leading officials, including the defense minister,
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the foreign minister, the chief of defense, and the minister of public csecurity, they reiteratn to me their commitment to free, fair elections and respecting the results. if there were some violation of thatat commitment, that would b unacceptable. and we have the interoamerican democratic charter, the organization of american states, and we have ample confidence that all parties are going to respect this outcome. >> okay, well, my time is up. so i'llay just conclude by noti that people always give assurances until the moment a military coup starts or the counting iss suspended and not resumed.ul ich specifically am encouraginge send a very strong message there be concrete consequences should this fail to m happen, which is different than just a positive encouragement. because we have seen this go off the rails many times before. and we should be absolutely
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there, accelerating the return of the international investigators that she has as soon as she is in office. i hope thel national assembly will be one that she can work with, if not, none of her reforms will be able to move through. itor is extraordinarily frustrating to see how the corruption has infiltrated throughout every level, clear down to the street level, and how difficult it is to reform, and all of oour root causes strategy won't work when a society operates on that complete 100% corruption from top to bottom. >> thank you. senatoren booker is with us virtually. >> thank you, chairman menendez. i appreciate both mr. nichols and mr. robinson being here. i want to jump right in. i know this issue was discussed arl little bit earlier, but i would like to get back to. reports really suggest that both
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china and russia are engaging in an active propaganda and disinformation campaignf in latn america. as they're doing in other parts of the world, obviously, but china and russia have really sought to undermine the democratic values and damage the overall reputation of the united states. i'm wondering what is the state department's global engagement center doing to counter the chinese and russian governments' disinformation in latin america and the caribbean? and what more could the gec do in the future? >> thank you, senator.en our focus is insuring that, one, we identify where the negative messaging trolls are coming from, that we work with friendly governments to alert them to what the realities are. that we actively message the reality of the situations that
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we're facing. that we have very direct and comprehensive conversations with region as in the well as civil society and publics aboutc, the realities o what the presence of prc, russia, others in the region, and we need to also offer a positive alternative, whether it's 5g technology or whether it'str support for infrastructu projects, we're actively working to make sure that countries know that p there are alternatives available to them and we will work with them n to put togethea package that works for their nation. >> mr. nichols, could you be a little more specific about the tactics of the gec? what are some>> of the specific activities they're doingc and what more would you like to see them e do? >> so the global engagement center both measures public
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opinion and social media trends throughout the world. they actively work to counter falsey messages from our strategic competitors. and they prepare media products oris talking points that our embassies andy consulates aroun the hemisphere can use to combat disinformation. i think they do a great job. obviously, it's a huge task, so thebi resources that they have bring to bear to this limit somewhat the ability to accomplish those goals. but i think they're doing vital, vital alwork. >> just jumping really quick to haiti. i heard atre least one of my colleagues bring up theis sever issues that are going on there. we're in a state of extreme crisis. and the democracy there is really faltering, as violence is
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sort of almost at pandemic levels throughout the country, not to mention the challenges with thelm natural disasters th we have seenee there. i just wantll to know, maybe overall, what's your sense of hope in haiti and how effective is the u.s. strategy there in countering some of these both natural disasters as well as the faltering of the democracy and the endemic violence? >>st thank you for that questio senator. the situation inn haiti is a es critical challenge for our hemisphere. haiti faces collapsed government institutions, deep political polarization,es criminal and ga violence, lack of economic progress. we are working together with our partners around the world to trm and support the haitian people at this crucial moment and to
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promote a haitian-led solution to those challenges. that promotion means our advocacy and encouragement on the ground, leadership that involves interaction at high levels with be it secretary blinken or other senior officials in washington, and collaboration with international partners like canada, france, brazil, to support haiti. >> and then lastly, a few secondssa left. i continuesi to be dissatisfied with the o level of diversity a department. and i knownc there's a lot of gd efforts going on to try to get more diverse and inclusive members, themployees at the sta department and i myself have worked with other senators to try to do things from sponsoring intership programs and other fellowship programs, but i'm curious if you have any advice for me who just especially as i
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travel the globe and visit withi our state departments, i'm surprised at the lack of diversity. i wonder if you have advice to me about what more we could be doing to promote diversity within the state department. >> ims think recruiting is the first crucial step. i think thent fellowship progra are vitally important. i think retention is crucial in our bureau. we have several parallel programs to support retention of a diverse workforce. we have h a senior foreign serve officer who actually ledco the department's recruitment efforts, marianne scott, who leads our diversity, equity, ad inclusion efforts from the front office andgt works not only to support that in washington but o also in all of our embassies and consulates around the world. i think if you talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, whend you visit our embassies and with foreign partners, i think that definitely helps.s. i hope that you will support our
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recruiting efforts in universities and colleges around america. >> thank you, mr. nichols. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator markey. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and to you, ambassador nichols. i just want to talk about, in following up on senator t bookes questioning on haiti, just want to make sure that the actions which we're taking in haiti aren't solidifying opportunists over the interests of the haitian people, andou i saw whe you met withof representatives these montana group made up of haitianee citizens and civil societys leaders in late september. what were your takeaways from thatat meeting in terms of how e united states should move forward with an inclusive haitian-led focused policy? >> so, my number one takeaways are, number one was the importancety of security. a we need better security to be able to get to free and fair elections iniv haiti, and we're
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long way away from that. the role of civil society in its broadest construct, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, is vital. and bringing together a broad set ofm actors to agree on a wa forward without an artificially imposed timeline from the international community is also vital. those would be my t main takeaways, sir. >> thank you. i just urge you to continue to reach out to those civil society leaders in haiti because ultimatelyly they have the visi which is going to be necessary to just change this underlying historicalpo dynamic which exis there. thank you for yourf good work. but let's just continue to focus on that. community of leaders who are risking their lives every day to try to provide the long-term vision for what has to happen
1:20 pm the subject -- >> yes, sir. >> absolutely, senator.n >> thank you. on the subject of climate change, the science is clear on the fact that climate change is an underlying driver of widespread humanitarian crisis and displacement throughout latin america and the caribbeanb therefore, i reintroduced legislation this year that aims to create a u.s. resettlement pathway for climate displaced persons given the united states bears an outsized responsibility for fueling global warming, still the majority of the co2 is red, twhite, and blue, after 2 years off leading the industria revolution. and i was glad tod hear that int response to my persistent calls for action t on this topic, the is now a national security council interagency working group aimed at finding solutions to issues of climate migration. do either of you have anything more you can share on the progress of this interagency
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working group and what potential solutions might beal offered? >> thank you,u, senator. i have not participated directlc in that specific conversation, but i can tell you that climate change and its effects on the countries in our hemisphere is a central concern that i have. i had the pleasure of participating with vice president harris in her meeting with the prime minister of barbados and that was a key topic in that conversation. we areth integrating climate issues into all of our diplomaticoc engagement throught the hemisphere and we are actively focused on mitigation measures for those states most at riskrg as well as adaptation particularly in the energy sector. >> well, i would urge you to continue to stay very engaged on this very important issue. we have to tackle the issues of climate i resiliency and solutis
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for climate displaced persons, which is just going to increase as each year goes by. and if we are doing that, we're actually working on one of the underlying k drivers of mass migration. t coming out of latin america, coming out of the caribbean. so i d just urge you to continu to i elevate it as an issue, to drive it at the national security council, as an issue that has to be addressed, and factored into all of the resultant issues that are a consequence of our long-term ignoring of the climate crisis. >> absolutely, senator. >> senator, i would just add, it's even more broad than that. thee environmental degradation from narcotics trafficking throughout the w region is also major problem.
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and we're both working very closely with our partners in te region. we have seen the effects of illegal mining, we have seen the effects of run-off from waste, from drug trafficking or drug production areas in mexico. and inat colombia, and we're working to raiseal that as well. >> thank you. thank you both foror your great work. thank you.h >> thank you. i may have some final closing questions.ou let me start off with haiti. a lot has been discussed here, but here's the one thing i don't understand. haiti obviously is a challenge, number one, because of the suffering of the haitian people, of both natural and manmade disasters. it is destabilizing to its neighbor that it shares the island of espaniola with, the dominican republic. we have seen, if one is facing thee challenges that the haitia citizens are facing, fleeing the
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island is clearly may be a desiablele alternative, which means migration to the hemisphere and the united states, sors these are real tangible challenges we are facing right now. i have heard your answers about our overall goal of a haitian-led democratic process. ios share that, but when doctor without borders are closing up because they can't get fuel to operate their circumstances, when i'm getting calls from orphanages that american sponsors who want to close up the orphanages and bring the childrenm to the united states because they can't secure them, when people are sequestered and kidnapped, it seems to me that none of that h t can happen in s of ourur aspirations for haiti unless there is security. so what is our initiative to try to create some semblance of
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security so that all of these other things can happen? >> thank you, senator. that's a great question. you know, as i mentioned before, it's a complicated issue. we are -- we inl are working very closely with the haitian national police, the new director general. we are going to send in advisers. when i was there two weeks ago, i arrived with -- they had asked for greater ability to get police around a the city. i showed up with 19 new vehicles, 200 new protective vests for the police. the 19 was the first installment of a total of 60 that we're going to deliver to the haitian national police. we're going to get advisers down there tok work with the new s.w.a.t. team to t start taking back the h areas that have been taken from ordinary haitians. but it's going to be a process.
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and it's going to take some time. >> well, first of all, is it haitian national police actually an institution capable of delivering the type of security thathe haitians deserve? >> we believe it is. it's an institution that we have worked with in the past. there was a small brief moment where a haitians actually acknowledged thatt the haitian national police have gotten better and was more professional. our ngoal, our long-term goal to try tod. bring it back to th. >> how much time before we get security on the ground? >> i can't say exactly, but we're w working as fast as we c. >> months, years? f >> well, i would hope we could do it in less than months. but we're working as fast as we can. >> well, here's the problem. i don't understand whyn there i a reticence to, for example, seekve a u.n. action to try to create stability. because when the gangs control
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theth ports and everything you y to get to the haitian people are stopped at the ports because the gangs control it, something is wrong. how do you do all the things we want tohe do to help the haitia people if at the w end of the d you can't get through the gangs? >> we're absolutely going to need, as you rightly point out, we're absolutely going to need the help of international organizations. we were a little bit stymied in this just recently when we tried to extend the mandate of the current group of police advisers. we wanted to get them extended e for a year, but we were blocked by russia and china. and they were only able to be extended for nine months. butt it's going to -- it's goin to take a collective effort. >> why do you think russia and china stopped us? because they want total unrest in theat hemisphere. that's their whole purpose in this hemispherent is creating instability. is to move people to a point of
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saying democracy doesn't work. let me try something else. authoritarianism. >> absolutely. >> they systematically work at it. at some point, we have to think about how we circumvent that. secretary nichols, in the trafficking in persons report that the state department put p out, cuban doctors were listed as among a group of people who were trafficked. is that correct?nn >> that's correct. >> now, when an entity like paho uses cuban doctors in a way that allowsha them to be trafficked, shouldn't we be doing something to change that at paho? >> we have had strong conversations with the leadership ofwe paho about the unacceptable nature of that relationship. we have talked about the importance of better governance and oversight within that organization and that in order
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for us to work with paho, we need to bee assured that something like that can never be repeated. >> well, they continue, though. for example, right now, cuban doctors arere being used insidef mexicot in a way in which they'e being trafficked. how is imit, you know, i understand thathe trafficking i persons by a country ultimately is a violation of the usmca. >> so we talked to all countries about the reality of cuban medical missions program. and that it's a massive trafficking risk, t and we encouragese countries to avoid . it is --an it is an abuse of cun people. misguided attempt to
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provide health care -- >> but when a country engages in it, knowing that, then there has to be some type of consequence. for those who w might be viewin and understand what we're talking about, cuba sends doctors to different countries in the world. they ultimately -- those countries payma the cuban government for the service of those doctors. those doctors get a fraction of their wages. and theiric passports are taken away i so they can't leave. that's human trafficking. and it's being done right here inin our hemisphere, with international organizations likr paho, and done with countries who supposedly we have a relationship with, likenss mexi. and there has to be consequences to it, or else we are complicit in the trafficking. let me ask you, with reference to nicaragua and el salvador, secretary nichols, we can agree in case of nicaragua, we have a new dictatorship arising and in
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the case of el salvador, we have dramatic backsliding in democracy. is that a fair statement? >> yes. >> so w both of them are part o dr fcafta, should we be consideringap suspending them a an action that is a strong action to be taken so that we can hopefully turn the tide? >> i think we should be thinking about all the tools that we have available to us. therehe is an urgency to demonstrate tonc countries in t region that actions have consequences. the ability of countries to flaunt their own constitutions, their own laws, to abuse their own citizens is a huge problem when we should use every tool available -- >>we i think that part of the tools, one of the strongest tools is take away trade preferences. when weno entered dr cafta, it
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wasn't withe countries that wer moving in the opposite direction from democracy. they were moving towards democracy. they were moving towards a respect for n human rights. they weree moving towards a respect for the rule of law. they should not be able to benefit from trade preferences when they go in the opposite direction. that'sre a strong action the administration can take, and i to them. it let me ask secretary robinson, while the united states has traditionally stood with principled activists andub publ officials whoks seek to reverse democratic backsliding, combat kleptocracy and uphold the rule of law, those courageous individuals often face significant threats as a result of their work. far too often, these individuals are forced to flee their countries when the situation becomes untenable or when they finish their term in office. now, i know you're familiar with thesein dynamics. what more does the united states needrn to do to support those
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individuals who stand against effortss to undermine democrati governance? how can we address the challenge, for example, in central americaen countries where the problem is particularly acute? >> thank you, senator. that is a really important question. and i would say, you know, we need to look at a basket of ways that we can support and defend democracy in central america and frankly throughout the region. we need to continue to use all of our sanctions authorities and vigorously use our sanctions authorities. we need to continue to work with those governments to shore up their democratic institutions. independent attorneys general, judiciaries, the courts, prosecutors.s. we need to continue to work very closely with these organizations. we need to find more flexible
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and creative ways to support civil society and independent media in country so that they, you know, they don't -- it's not easy to make them flee when they stand up and do the right thing for democracy, for investigating corrupt acts. and i look forward to working with you all on finding these flexible and creative ways to do that. butou i would say the last thin we need to do is we need to be more vigorous on protecting and offering a safe haven for those who do have to flee. it's a cumbersome process now. it's veryy hard. there are four courageous people, at least four courageous people from guatemala that are being hosted here. there are probably others from the region. it was hard to get them here.
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and ffagain, i look forward to working with c you all to figur out better ways, more efficient ways that we can offer some semblance of safety. >> we certainly want to work with you onry that and other issues. let me just tsay, though, when the corruption fighter has to leave the country, there's one less person to try to create change. >> c absolutely. >> so at the d end of the day, have to find t ways to strength their hand, to create international spotlights on what they're doing, to make it more difficult for regimes to threaten them and ultimately cause them to leave. because for them, for the regime, that's ultimately a success story, right? this person leaves. now there's one less person to try to create change in the country. >> senator, i would also add that we saw the model that worked. i can't remember who mentioned it, but i think it was senator merkley mentioned matsi in honduras. were had international organizations in some of these countries that were working.
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and then reason they're not thee nowbe is because they touched people in those countries in power who had never been touched before. and i think if we can look at that again, we might have some more success. >> finally, secretary nichols, where did the idea for the delisting of the farc come from? >> it's been something under discussion since at least the previous administration.d it was always contemplated as part of the peace accord. you may recall that when the uribe administration reached an agreement withh the auc paramilitaries, thatre organization was also delisted. >> but more recently, who drove the question of delisting the farc? >> well, it's -- >> was it nsc, was it state department? who was it?
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>> i believe this was -- when i arrived in the position that was already well cadvanced. i can't say who the specific driver hewas. it was always a component of our support for the peace process and updating the threats that we face. >> my understanding is that what you're doing is sanctioning those who have not put their arms down and delisting those that have and are following a peaceful path to integration in their society.xa but this is an example of when i have pressed the question both in nominations and with the administration aboutti consultation versus notification. and in this particular case, my notification was through the "wall street journal." that is not what i consider o consultation. and the lack of h getting that type of consultation creates
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problems. so i hope we don't relive it again. this a hearing record will rema open to the close of business tomorrow. members who have questions will submit them by hethen. we would like your answers to be expeditious and as full as possible. with that, and the thanks of the committee, this hearing is adjourned.
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get c-span on the go. watch the day's biggest political events live or on demand anytime, anywhere on our new mobile video app. c-span now. access top highlights, listen to c-span radio, and discover new podcasts, all for free. download c-span now today. >> at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. hear many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964 presidential campaign, the tonkin incident, the march on selma, and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly, johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing
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many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped, as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy when -- the day he died, the number assigned to me now. if mine are not blessed, i want them blessed right quick. if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't know. i promise you i won't go anywhere. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts.
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civil rights advocates and financial experts testify on barriers facing lgbtq individuals in the financial services industry from a house financial services subcommittee, this is about an hour 15 minutes. >> this hearing entitled there is no pride in prejudice, eliminating barriers to full economic inclusion for the lgbtq plus community. i now recognize myself for four minutes to give an opening statement. good afternoon.n. and i n am pleased to convene t subcommittee on diversity and


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