Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 8, 2005

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Democracy & Latin America
Burton Schedules Wednesday Hearing to Examine Issue

BACKGROUND:  In the last two decades, most Latin American nations, with the exception of Cuba, have established regularly held free and fair elections.  Yet despite this democratic progress, several nations in the region still face considerable challenges that pose a continuing threat to political stability, including persistent poverty, violent guerrilla conflicts, autocratic leaders, drug trafficking, and increasing crime rates.  El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua have successfully emerged from the turbulent 1980s and 1990s with democratic institutions far more firmly entrenched, yet corruption and violent crime remain as persistent problems.  Colombia continues to be threatened by drug trafficking organizations, two left-wing guerrilla groups and a rightist paramilitary group, all of which are responsible for thousands of deaths each year.  Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru have all faced varying levels of political instability in the past two years.  Venezuela has been plagued by several years of political polarization under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, who won a recall referendum in August 2004.  Argentina has also successfully emerged from its 2001-2002 political crisis, and now the government of President NÚstor Kirchner faces the challenge of bringing about reform to ensure economic growth.  Guatemala has made tremendous progress in improving its human rights policy but there are still significant problems including corruption, guerrilla organizations, and drug trafficking.  In response to these ongoing challenges, the United States has focused on promoting the rule of law and strengthening judiciaries that are considered to be weak, overburdened, and often corrupt.  A new U.S. program, the Millennium Challenge Account, is designed to assist countries that are adopting democratic practices, with Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua chosen among the first participants.  In addition, the United Nations has several programs designed to strengthen legislatures by promoting transparency and increasing the resources available to them.  Non-governmental organizations, such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, are also working with the various political parties.

WHAT: Subcommittee Oversight Hearing: The State of Democracy in Latin America
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman
WHEN: 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 9, 2005
WHERE: Room 2255 Rayburn House Office Building
WITNESSES: Roger F. Noriega, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Adolfo Franco, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, United States Agency for International Development; Lorne W. Craner, President, International Republican Institute; Stephen Johnson, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation; Arturo A. Valenzuela, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Latin American Studies, Georgetown University; and Kenneth Wollack, President, National Democratic Institute

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