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Rubio Delivers Opening Remarks At Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing On Rising Threat Of China In Latin America
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on the threat of the Chinese Communist Party in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Rubio is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
Rubio: “The Western Hemisphere is in a period of extraordinary upheaval. It’s got a host of economic problems. Obviously, they’ve been exacerbated by COVID-19, and it’s put a tremendous burden on many of these countries in the region. So without urgent action, this economic downturn could last for a decade. Voters in the region know this, by the way, and so that’s why you’ve seen them more willing than ever to turn to the promises — hollow promises — of change in places like Argentina and Peru and Chile and Honduras, and increasingly Mexico as well.
“Unfortunately, many of these newer leaders in the region have expressed admiration for the Communist Party in China’s model, even as they turn a blind eye and in many cases are supportive of the regimes that are creating tremendous suffering in Cuba and Venezuela and in Nicaragua.
“So Beijing sees this, and they’re seizing the opportunity to grow both their influence and their power in the Western Hemisphere. As an example, their Belt and Road Initiative uses massive infrastructure loans and projects to lure nations into economic and political dependency — debt traps. That’s now spread to Argentina, Brazil, Barbados, and Panama. And in their annual report last year, the bipartisan US-China Security and Economic Review Commission found that the Communist Party of China is taking advantage of its economic importance and political relationships to encourage governments across the region to make domestic and foreign policy decisions that favor the CCP and undermine democracy and free markets in the region.
“According to that same report, by the way, the Chinese Communist Party’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, is seeking to deepen its engagement in the region by funding the construction of ports and space programs and other dual-use infrastructure. That, frankly, is pretty clear. It appears to have a limited economic purpose but could serve as future operating bases, even if [on] a rotational basis, for a hostile navy close to our nation’s shores.
“And moreover, the Chinese Communist Party is actively exporting its governance model across the hemisphere. It has conducted party-to-party engagements with political parties in places such as Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico. These engagements’ express purpose is to teach foreign political parties the superiority of China’s authoritarian system.
“Their intentions in the region are not to be active because they want to make life better for people living in the Western Hemisphere. They care only about power and influence. They don’t care about stability or economic development. And so even as increasing exports to China boost the economies of some of the nations in these regions, the Communist Party of China is pushing countries to remain dependent on mining and the export of other natural resources instead of partnering with them to develop and industrialize their economies. It’s encouraging them to weaken or even break their own environmental, social and [governmental] regulations by promising them increased investment from China in return.
“And they do this because they know that chaos in Latin America and the Caribbean would severely hurt us, destabilize us, who they view as their primary and central rival. If cartels have greater operating freedom to send drugs and violence across our border, it worsens the opioid and fentanyl epidemic and [amplifies] gang violence in our communities. If more countries go the way of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, you’ll see massive new waves of illegal immigration and human trafficking that’s associated with it.
“So we simply can’t afford to let the Chinese Communist Party expand its influence and absorb Latin America and the Caribbean into its private political-economic bloc. That would leave our country worse off and ensnare the people of Latin America and the Caribbean into a generation of suffering and repression. So I’m hopeful that our nation will begin to address this threat head on and seriously revitalize our engagement in the region.
“With that in mind — in February, I introduced the Western Hemisphere Security Strategy Act with Chairman Menendez. It’s the beginning of doing just that. It would enable the US to more effectively resist drug traffickers and authoritarian governments, including those of China and Russia, through arrangements with other regional governments. I hope others on this committee co-sponsor this critical step in pushing back against the Communist Party of China and their influence efforts in the region.
“And I hope to learn from our witnesses today on what else Congress can do and pursue to further address the challenge posed to us by the Chinese Communist Party in Latin America and the Caribbean.”