- Publicado el Viernes, 04 Enero 2013 10:10
- Por Café Fuerte
10 QUESTION TO CONGRESSWOMAN ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
By Wilfredo Cancio Isla
What was considered your greatest accomplishment during your Chairmanship of House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC)?
We’ve done so many good things it’s hard to pinpoint one. Together with my colleagues on this Committee we have been able to pass substantive and meaningful legislation that has strengthened U.S. foreign policy. I am truly proud of the bipartisan support we had in passing the Iran Threat Reduction Act, the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2012, the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act, and the very important Peace Corps Volunteer Service Improvement Act of 2011 just to name a few. These were all tremendous successes that will ensure U.S. interests are protected for future generations.
What was your moment of greatest tension and concern during this work?
This job like most has its stresses, but I have been lucky enough to have an amazing and dedicated team that has been more than capable of handling any situations that may arise. In July 2011, we held a Foreign Relations Authorization Act markup which lasted over 30 hours. The long hours spent passing this legislation took a toll on everyone, but it was a wonderful testament to how democracy works in our nation.
What were you expecting to achieve that could not be achieved on HFAC?
I am proud of our many accomplishments over the past two years, most especially passing a tougher set of sanctions on Iran. However, I am disappointed that this administration was not willing to implement concrete reforms at the United Nations. The United States needs to push for reforms in that body that will make it act more responsibly, and the only way we can do that is to leverage our money until the UN starts to clean up its act.
What were the foreign policy decisions by the State Department that most bothered you over the years?
The State Department has had a tendency to give a free pass to dictatorships and those who oppress human rights. Instead of pushing for tough sanctions against regimes like Iran and North Korea, State has continually entered into fruitless negotiations that have failed to produce results time and again. They have taken the same approach with the Castro regime through “culture exchange” programs and their attempts to loosen travel and money restrictions to Cuba. These efforts produce nothing for the U.S and give these regimes more time and money to continue the oppression of their people.
How is your relationship with Secretary Clinton?
My relationship with Secretary Clinton is a good one. It is a relationship built on mutual respect and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors. I understand she is doing her job, and she understands I am doing mine.
It will be 3 years of the arrest of Alan Gross in Cuba. What do you think the U.S. government should do for his release as soon as possible?
It is a travesty that Alan Gross remains imprisoned in a Cuban gulag at the mercy of the Castro thugs. His unjustly imprisonment is a flagrant demonstration that the tyrants in Havana have no desire to turn over a new leaf, or any intention of ceasing to undermine the U.S. at every turn. This Administration must continue to put pressure on the Castro regime to immediately and unconditionally release Alan Gross without any concessions.
You have been very critical about the situation of the Republican Party after the recent elections. What are the changes to be made by Republicans to reverse their current situation?
I continue to believe that the Republican Party has to face the changing demographics and needs to do a better job of reaching out to minorities. As Republicans we don’t have to change our philosophy, we just need to have a message that appeals to those minorities and have a better way of delivering that message without the vitriol that has been the norm in the past.
In addition to the telephone communications lost by mistake with President Obama, did you have other direct communications with the president in the last couple of years with HFAC? If so, how did they go?
Except for that one memorable phone call, I have had little contact with the President. He has made it clear that he does not wish to communicate with Congress directly. It is very disappointing because I believe that an open dialogue should exist between the Legislative and Executive branches in order to accomplish what is best for our country.
Would you support a change in the Cuban Adjustment Act to close the gaps about people claiming to be persecuted and then travel with frequency to Cuba?
Yes, I favor a change in the CAA so that those who use this singular and unique benefit that is for Cuban born individuals only cannot then go back to Cuba for a visit because one cannot claim that one would be persecuted in Cuba while at the same time go back for a visit. This regime is a flagrant human rights abuser and we should help those who seek democracy, freedom, and justice.
How can Congress cooperate right now with Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Democrat Joe Garcia recently elected?
The South Florida delegation has always been able to work past our differences and come together to do what is best for our community, and we will continue to do so.