November 30, 2021

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on U.S. Policy on Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing discussing U.S. policy on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. The committee heard witness testimony from the Honorable Brian A. Nichols, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs and the Honorable Todd Robinson, assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“The United States has an enduring interest in a stable and prosperous Western Hemisphere, and 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 is disheartening to see how quickly that progress can be lost.

“Nicaragua joins Cuba on the seemingly bottomless descent into authoritarianism. Within less than a generation, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have turned Venezuela into a failed state.

“Last year, candidate 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 its cronies. And the European Union is not any closer to matching the economic and diplomatic pressure brought forth by the United States and Canada.

“Equally concerning is the negative effect of malign state actors, such as China and Russia.

“China’s predatory economic practices are a formidable threat to the sovereignty of countries in the Western Hemisphere. 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, including Colombia, Chile, and Ecuador. Putin openly endorses increasingly authoritarian rulers with the goal of destabilizing the region and threatening its security. And Russia’s export of repressive laws and practices to its allies in Latin America allows authoritarian leaders to suppress independent media, civil society, and political opposition.

“Lastly, criminal and foreign terrorist organizations are malign threats to the safety of both our communities here at home and democracies in the region. The administration’s plan to remove the FARC from the foreign terrorists list undermines U.S. national security and democratic stability in Colombia.

“As this administration plans for its upcoming Summit for Democracy next month, I am glad to see numerous countries from the region invited. 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 these important issues.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.

###