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Rubio Delivers Opening Remarks at Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Hearing
Ranking Member Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave opening remarks at a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for programs in the Western Hemisphere.
Click here for video and read a transcript below.
RUBIO: [Regarding] Venezuela, the regime there has already set up this election commission, which they’ve staffed with their own people. They’ve banned the leading opposition candidate, Maria Corina Machado, from running. This is certainly not a free and fair election.
Yet somehow, they and others in the region are under the perception that some sanctions relief may be on the way if they’re able to conduct what is not a free and fair election, but at least can cosmetically cover for it. Some, including [some] in the regime, are under that impression, from what they’re telling others in the region. It’s important to know what’s been communicated to the Maduro regime about what these expectations are.
The second topic, related to this one,…is the Venezuelan migration. There was a record number of both Venezuelan and Ecuadorian migrants who were encountered in the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama. In five to six weeks or less, some of those folks will begin arriving at our southern border. I’m really interested to know how we work with, not just the other countries in transit, but ultimately with our own immigration enforcement officials, to prepare for that sort of surge.
In addition, there have always been Ecuadorians, but not in large numbers like we’re seeing now. Clearly that has a lot to do with the deteriorating security situation. We’ve seen these Colombian cartel groups now operating and using Ecuadorian territory as transit areas, and it’s really added to that.
Regarding Mexico, I think about all the benefits of the trade agreement with Mexico. A lot of reshoring [is] going on, in terms of small manufacturers and others moving operations from Asia to Mexico. This is great. [But] about 40 percent of that activity happens in a place called Nuevo Laredo, which also happens to be under the control of the Zeta cartel. The cartels are using the same mechanisms of trade to embed fentanyl and other things into our country.
I wonder how that works with our conversations. The government doesn’t control that city. It’s frankly a really strange situation. On the one hand, we want trade, we want commerce, we want that. But they are using the mechanisms in one particular place that encounters 40 percent of that trade. It’s a huge vulnerability.
Peru has had some instability. It looks like it’s trending in at least a more stable direction from what it used to be. But obviously, [it is] still not ideal. There appears to be potentially an opening now for more cooperation with the existing administration to be able to work on some things with them. They’re a willing partner on a number of topics, and I’m curious to see what work we’ve done in that regard.
Last, I just want to share with you that as I meet with leaders and others in the area, there’s this perception [that] it’s sometimes better to be America’s adversary or irritant than it is to be America’s ally.
If you’re an irritant, or if you’re not always falling in line or doing the things that the U.S. hopes you will do, you seem to get a lot more attention. You seem to get meetings. You seem to get efforts to lift sanctions or other measures to entice you to the light from the dark side. If, on the other hand, you are some of these countries – the Dominican Republic, as an example – that clearly and openly wants to align with the U.S., you get travel advisories, commercial sanctions, and things of that nature, with regard to some of the things that happened there earlier in the year.
[There is] a sense that we punish our friends, and we try to appease those who are viewed as irritants or even adversaries. I’ve had leaders frankly tell me they may be better off to be against the United States. This preexists this administration. These are complaints I’ve heard under previous administrations…. But how do we address that?
[We don’t] have to agree with everything our allies are doing, but we live in a time now when we need to be pretty clear [that] we’re going to be good to our friends, and we’re going to confront our adversaries and those who clearly are undertaking steps that undermine our national interest and national security.