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Posts from June 2011
Miami, Fla.- Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) released the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s comments regarding the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea today.

“During a press conference today, President Obama said that the three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are pending before Congress right now, and listed them among the job creating projects that have been ‘tied up in Congress for some time’. That’s disingenuous.

“The President has not sent a finalized version of the free trade agreements to Congress for a vote and it seems that each time he is close to doing so, he moves the goal post instead, implementing a new set of conditions for approval.

“The three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would eliminate trade barriers and increase demand for American goods abroad which would increase U.S. GDP and exports by billions of dollars, and create thousands of jobs in the United States as a result.

“The President and Senate Democrats have to stop bending to labor union pressures, either by requiring labor improvements from Colombia—which our Latin American ally has met time and again—or by making passage of the free trade agreements contingent upon the extension of the Trade Adjustment Act.

“Four weeks away from the August recess, we are no closer to approving these free trade agreements that have been pending for years. The free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would be good for the American economy and job creation. Will the White House recognize that and send the free trade agreements to Congress before the August recess, or continue to let them languish by piling on additional conditions?”
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, held the first congressional hearing on the global crisis of Alzheimer’s disease June 23, entitled “Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease.” He gave the following opening remarks:

“Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and is a degenerative, irreversible, and terminal disease. Alzheimer’s disease is most prevalent in people over 65 years of age, but "early-onset" Alzheimer's can occur at a much younger age – even decades earlier. Alzheimer’s progressively destroys remembering, thinking and reasoning skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

While the cause and progression of Alzheimer's disease are not well understood, research indicates that the disease is associated with "plaques" and "tangles" in the brain that begin to develop 10 to 20 years before any problems are evident. As plaques and tangles form, neurons lose their ability to function and eventually die. As more neurons expire, affected brain regions begin to contract. In the final stages of Alzheimer’s, there is widespread brain damage and tissue shrinkage.

“Current treatments provide modest symptomatic benefits, but there are no therapies available that can halt or even delay the progress of the disease. The effects and duration of the disease vary from patient to patient, but it is invariably fatal.

“According to Alzheimer’s Disease International there were 35.6 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2010, and the number of people living with dementia is expected to nearly double every 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. However, the increase is greater for low and middle income countries, as 57.7% of all people with dementia are currently living in low and middle income countries, rising to 63.4% in 2030 and 70.5% in 2050.

“Here in the US, up to 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, and the number is expected to increase to up to 16 million by 2050 unless something is done to reverse the trajectory. The elderly population as a whole is growing, but the oldest elderly are the fastest growing age bracket.

“According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the total worldwide estimated costs of dementia is $604 billion, with 89% of the costs occurring in high income countries and about 70% of those costs occurring in just two regions – Western Europe and North America. In low and lower middle income countries, the costs of informal care (unpaid care provided by families and others) accounts for 64% of all care, while in high income countries, informal care accounts for 40% of the costs of care.

“Even in counties that have high health care expenditures and that provide government-funded support for long-term care, a vast amount of care occurs informally within families. Not only will the increase in the population with Alzheimer’s and other dementias result in skyrocketing costs of healthcare, but changing family dynamics will further exacerbate the economic stress on families, societies and governments.

“As an example, on Monday of this week, I chaired a hearing of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on the implications of demographic trends in the OSCE region and elsewhere in the world. Richard Jackson, Director of the Global Aging Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), testified in that hearing that in certain European countries, by 2020, the extended family will essentially be non-existent. Half of young adults don’t have any brothers or sisters or uncles or aunts or cousins. Another projection during the same hearing was that Japan potentially could experience an explosion of Alzheimer’s prevalence of up to 1 in 25, as a result of the aging of the population, coupled with up to 40% of the Japanese being childless.

“When we look more closely at projected demographics for some countries, the pool of family caregivers is shrinking as the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s is exploding, which will significantly shift the costs of care model away from unpaid informal care to institutional and direct medical care.

“Poor recognition, under-diagnosis, and lack of public awareness are all causes of significant problems for afflicted individuals and their caregivers, especially in low and middle income countries.

“In those developed countries, it is often incorrectly assumed that dementia, such as Alzheimer's, is a normal part of aging and that nothing can be done to address it. Because of the lack of recognition of the nature of the problem, there is a lack of pressure on government bodies to respond to the crisis. As a result, there is a lack of effort to devote resources to finding a cure, to help those with Alzheimer’s by providing assistance, or to seek a diagnosis and care of those potentially afflicted.

“International cooperation and collaboration to find solutions for Alzheimer’s is not new, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Alzheimer’s Disease International began in 1984 – 27 years ago – with four members and has grown through the years to over 75 members. Similarly, I look forward to receiving testimony outlining past, present and future international research collaborations.

“However, we seem to be at a precipice now of making great strides on several different fronts. First, there is a greater recognition, including in low and middle income countries of the need to address Alzheimer’s as a major public health crisis. I agree with many of you that we need to pressure international institutions responsible for health issues to recognize dementia as a global health problem. That is why Congressman Markey and I coordinated a letter signed by 28 Members of Congress, to U.N. General Assembly President Deiss, to include Alzheimer’s disease in the September U.N. Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases. Involvement of international organizations, such as the U.N. and WHO, are necessary to make substantial inroads toward raising awareness of dementia and beginning to address it in national health care policies. I plan on sending today’s hearing record to all relevant U.N. officials and heads of country delegations.

“Second, there is a significant momentum toward broader sharing and an increasing number of proposals for major intergovernmental research projects that will take advantage of emerging research opportunities and new computing platforms and communications technologies. Also, in direct response to two of our witnesses, Eric Hall and George Vradenburg, who made recommendations for a government-sponsored international conference, I will introduce legislation to convene in the first quarter of calendar year 2012 or at a date thought to be more appropriate an international conference to include at a minimum countries that have or are in the process of developing National Alzheimer’s Plans.

“Third, it is significant that that NIH funded the first intensive caregiver support intervention proven to be effective, through rigorous testing, in an ethnically diverse population, and that they are beginning to export the program. I look forward to Dr. Hodes’ testimony on this and other initiatives.

“Finally, since 2005, several countries have developed national Alzheimer’s plans or strategies, which have already become to accelerate changes in health care systems.

“I was honored to have introduced with Congressman Markey legislation to create a national strategic Alzheimer’s plan for the US. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (S 3036), which was passed by the Senate and House in December and signed by the President on January 4, 2011, was a large legislative victory for the cause of Alzheimer’s in the US. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (or NAPA) is designed to help turn the tide by creating a national strategic plan to address the rapidly growing crisis of Alzheimer’s disease. NAPA provides for the coordination of all Alzheimer’s disease efforts across the federal government. It also establishes an Advisory Council or Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services that will allow participation by patient advocates, health care providers, researchers, and State health departments in the evaluation of federal Alzheimer’s plans and in the formulation of the strategic plan to reduce costs and improve health outcomes. Recognizing the importance of international collaboration, the law requires coordination with international bodies to make the US government a committed partner in the global fight against Alzheimer’s.

“Like many of you, I will be closely following the implementation of NAPA, and, if Dr. Hodes would like to share any information on HHS’ activities in implementing NAPA, that would certainly be appreciated.

“While the National Alzheimer’s Strategic Plan is being developed, Congressman Markey and I have introduced additional legislation designed to bolster programs for Alzheimer’s research and diagnosis.

“Introduced in May of this year, the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act (HR 1897) is designed to accelerate treatments that prevent, cure, or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce the financial burden of Alzheimer’s on federally funded programs and families. The Director of NIH will develop a strategic research plan, including budget estimates, for Alzheimer’s disease—focused on targeting scientific opportunities and priorities; developing public/private partnerships; and improving coordination of Alzheimer’s research across the 27 Institutes and Centers at NIH.

“Instead of prescribing a funding level for Alzheimer’s research at NIH, the bill requires the experts at NIH to tell Congress and the Administration what Alzheimer’s research is needed to develop treatment breakthroughs and what level of funding is needed to accomplish that goal.

“In addition, I joined Congressman Markey in introducing in April 2011, the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) for Alzheimer’s Act (HR 1386), which will provide Medicare coverage for comprehensive diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and help improve care and reduce costs by providing information and resources to newly diagnosed patients and their families.”
WASHINGTON - Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been detained for many years by Burma’s ruling military junta, testified before a Congressional committee via videotape Wednesday on the recent sham elections and current conditions in the Southeast Asia nation.

U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), who chaired the hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, arranged for Ms. Suu Kyi’s first-ever Congressional testimony and posted it on his YouTube site for all to see. Click here to view Ms. Suu Kyi’s 8-minute testimony.
(click here to view exchange)

Entitled “Piercing Burma’s Veil of Secrecy: The Truth Behind the Sham Election and the Difficult Road Ahead,” the hearing also featured testimony from Aung Din, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, as well as Chris Beyrer, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights.
Below are Rep. Manzullo’s opening remarks at the hearing:
Chairman Donald A. Manzullo

Opening Statement
June 22, 2011
On November 7, 2010, the military junta that ruled the country of Burma held an election that was universally labeled as a sham due to widespread irregularity and lack of participation by opposition parties. This exercise was nothing more than a well-choreographed maneuver by the ruling elites to transform themselves into a more internationally acceptable civilian dictatorship. Despite this attempt at political gymnastics, the repression in Burma continues and thousands of political prisoners remain locked in jail. The only ray of hope to emerge from this engineered process was the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s revolutionary hero Aung San, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. But even this concession can be revoked at a moments notice by the regime.
Today, we have an extraordinary opportunity to hear directly from the woman at the center of the decades’ long struggle to bring freedom to her beloved homeland. This is the first time she has addressed the U.S. Congress in an official capacity, and I am extremely honored to be able to present it at this hearing today. We cannot disclose how we received this video, but we are certainly delighted to have this unprecedented opportunity.
The purpose of today’s hearing is to peer behind Burma’s veil of secrecy to fully comprehend the changes, if any, that are going on in that country. Since the election, we have witnessed a distinct point of view emerging from some Burma experts arguing that no matter how fraudulent, the elections represent an important shift in domestic Burmese politics. As the argument goes, this shift might lead to real changes in the future even if nothing significant occurs immediately. Furthermore, the existing opposition party, the National League of Democracy, is incapable of grasping this opportunity, because the group and its leader, Ms. Suu Kyi, have an “all or nothing” approach. This is what is characterized as the pragmatic engagement theory.
Since the Obama Administration began its policy of pragmatic engagement in 2009, U.S. relations with Burma have not changed. Let us not forget that there are still 2,200 political prisoners languishing in Burmese gulags, including peaceful monks and citizens that took part in the Saffron Revolution four years ago. The Burmese government, as an effort of goodwill prior to a visit by U.S. officials in May, announced a despicably disappointing one-year blanket reduction of jail sentences for all criminals, but it is not clear whether this includes political prisoners. The recent news of clashes in Burma’s Kachin province between government troops and ethnic minorities, which has been the heaviest fighting in 17 years, adds further evidence to the argument that the situation in Burma has not changed.
If proponents of pragmatic engagement are correct, then Burmese leaders should recognize this unprecedented opportunity being offered by the Obama Administration and seek to improve relations with the U.S. by demonstrating tangible change. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The State Department’s visit to Burma in May is further proof that change in Burma is extremely difficult to achieve.
At a time when it seems Western influence is dwindling, Burma is actively engaging with its neighboring countries, constructing gas pipelines to Thailand and China, and accepting investments from China, its largest trading partner. Burma is a country that spends 1.8 percent of its GDP on healthcare, the second lowest in the world while it spends 40 percent of its GDP on the military.
As the lead Republican sponsor of legislation to award Ms. Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008, it is my sincere hope that we will have the opportunity to present her with the award in person. Ms. Suu Kyi and her countrymen have lived under the yoke of oppression for far too long. It is time that free nations stood together to help Burma finally realize the same freedoms that we all enjoy.
Gearing up for the needed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights, held a comprehensive hearing to review the law and identify what is working and what needs to be improved.

“No country and few industries are untouched by this pervasive human rights abuse,” said Smith, author of the TVPA of 2000, co-chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus and a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Traffickers use airlines to move their victims, hotels to exploit sex trafficking victims, and unsuspecting buyers to pay for goods that have been made with raw materials tainted by forced and bonded labor. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 12 to 27 million sex and labor trafficking victims in the world at any given time. We know that organized crime, street gangs, and pimps have expanded into sex trafficking at an alarming rate. It is an extremely lucrative undertaking— a trafficker can make $200,000 a year off of one victim. Unlike drugs or weapons, a human being can be held captive and sold into sexual slavery over and over again.” Click here to read Smith’s opening remarks.

Efforts by the U.S. State Department, private companies and non-governmental organizations to combat this modern form of slavery were the focus of a hearing entitled “Best Practices and Next Steps: A New Decade in the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The subcommittee also heard of successful private sector initiatives, as well as a new report on the exploitation of women in China as “child brides.”

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. State Department, was the main witness. He thanked Smith for his leadership on trafficking, and noted the gains since TVPA was enacted over 10 years ago.

“We needed to seek out the victims of modern-day slavery, offer them stronger protections, and bring traffickers to justice,” CdeBaca said. “Their voices and their courage helped lead the way to the path-breaking legislation that updated our century-and-a-half old anti-slavery laws and renewed the United States’ commitment to the fight against emerging, modern forms of slavery. A decade later, we find ourselves at a point to ask, ‘What lies ahead?’”

He noted that more than 130 countries have enacted modern anti-trafficking laws.

“More victims are being identified, more prosecutions are taking place, and we have begun to forge effective partnerships among governments, the private sector, and civil society that will improve our ability to prevent and respond to this crime.”

Testimony was also given by the following witnesses:
Deborah Cundy, Vice President of Carlson Companies;
Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed;
Nancy Rivard, President and founder of Airline Ambassadors International;
Philip Kowalcyzk, President of The Body Shop;
Kevin Bales, co-founder and President, Free the Slaves, and;
David Abramowitz of Humanity United.
Washington, Jun 16 –

The newly-created nation of the Republic of Southern Sudan and the sobering threats to both peace and the hopes for an end to suffering were the focus of a June 16 hearing held by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. Smith released the following statement:

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We are holding today’s hearing for the purpose of expressing our profound support and solidarity with the newest nation on the African subcontinent and assessing its challenges in transitioning successfully to independence. Recent brutal attacks by the Khartoum government on disputed areas in the North-South border area have raised alarms about renewed violence in this country that already has suffered too much. For decades, the Government of Sudan in Khartoum has waged war against the people of Southern Sudan and facilitated the enslavement of its people. Even as we meet today, the regime of President Omar Al-Bashir is seizing territory, causing the displacement of more than 100,000 people and killing countless other black Sudanese.

“Sudan, geographically the largest country in Africa, has been ravaged by civil war intermittently for four decades. The first civil war occurred during the period of 1955-1972, and the second ran from 1983-2005. More than two million people have died in Southern Sudan over the past two decades alone due to war-related causes and famine, and millions have been displaced from their homes.

“Since 1989, the United States has maintained multiple sanctions against the Government of Sudan because of human rights concerns in Southern Sudan, as well as the western region of Darfur, and Sudan’s support for international terrorism. I have had a face-to-face meeting with General Bashir in Khartoum pushing for lasting peace and an end to the abuses of his government. Unfortunately, he was far more interested in discussing the end of U.S. sanctions than he was in discussing how to end the suffering that his government and the rebel groups it sponsors have inflicted on countless, innocent lives.

”Beginning in 1995, human rights organizations have raised the issue of the kidnapping of African southerners by Arab elements from the North in conjunction with the second civil war between North and South. It is now estimated that between 11,000 and 35,000 Sudanese are being held against their will and subjected to vicious exploitation and violent abuse in the North.

“The Khartoum government claims that slavery is the product of inter-tribal warfare, which is not under its control. However, credible sources indicate that the Government of Sudan was involved in
arming and otherwise backing numerous militia groups involved in kidnapping and enslaving these southerners.

“Regardless of who initiated their enslavement, their freedom must be secured as part of the South’s declaration of independence. One Sudanese slave, Simon Deng, escaped and is now living in freedom in the United States. Deng said that every night while he was in captivity, he would go to sleep thinking, “Maybe tomorrow, someone will come to rescue me.” He now goes to sleep thinking of those fellow slaves he left behind, and knowing that they are thinking the same thought, living on the same hope – that tomorrow someone will come to rescue them.

“These people enslaved in the North must not be forgotten in the celebration of the new country. The United States and the rest of the international community must not let their suffering continue.
On January 9th, South Sudan held a peaceful and transparent referendum on southern secession, as called for in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). According to the South Sudan Referendum Commission, 98.8% voted for secession. In early February, Sudanese President Bashir officially accepted the result of the referendum. The United States, the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and others endorsed the result as well. On July 9, 2011, the Federal Republic of Southern Sudan will officially declare its independence.

“Unfortunately, mutual military buildup, occasional clashes and unresolved issues from the CPA led to a tense atmosphere in the contentious Abyei region. On May 19th, according to a United Nations report, a Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Joint Integrated Unit convoy, accompanied by a U.N. peacekeeping force, was attacked by the SPLA outside Abyei. The northern military unit was being moved to a newly agreed-upon position. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) denied deliberately attacking the northern military unit as retaliation for an earlier SAF attack on an SPLA Joint Integrated Unit, but that May 19th attack took place in an area controlled by the Southern Sudan police force.

“As usual, the Khartoum government has vastly overreacted. Northern military forces invaded Abyei, displacing as many as 100,000 people and began moving in Arabs from the Misseriya ethnic group. This ethnic cleansing of the Abyei area will have a far-reaching impact on the resolution to this dispute. The indiscriminate bombings in Southern Kordofan, attacks in the Nuba Mountains area and reported door-to-door murders of non-Arab Africans is creating a scene as horrific as at any time during the civil wars.

“We are nearly on the eve of independence for Southern Sudan, yet many issues remain unresolved. There is the undefined border, citizenship questions regarding southerners living in the North, governance issues for the post-independence nation, equitable sharing of oil revenues, the question of the liberation and repatriation Sudanese still held in bondage and, of course, the continuing northern military attacks.

“The United States, one of the guarantors of the CPA, has a great deal at stake in the Southern Sudan’s successful transition to independence. Since 2004, the United States has spent $9.8 billion in humanitarian and other assistance. But that monetary investment is outweighed by the moral commitment to see this transition through to a successful conclusion.

“Now we must do all we can to help this new nation come into being in peace and help its government to safeguard the life and liberty of its people.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, made the following statement during today's hearing entitled, "Global Maritime Piracy: Fueling Terrorism, Harming Trade":
Piracy is not a new problem. The Romans branded pirates outlaws of humanity and punished them severely. In our country's early history, we forcefully, and decisively, confronted pirate attacks off the Barbary Coast.

Today, maritime piracy is booming. As we speak, 23 vessels and 439 hostages are being held by Somali pirates.

As the slides on the monitor show, from 2007 to 2010, hijackings increased sevenfold.

Employing “mother ships,” pirates now operate in a space of 2.5 million square nautical miles, over double the territory from two years ago. In January, a U.N. official declared: “pirates are becoming the masters of the Indian Ocean.” The number and abuse of hostages has increased.

More attacks and more hostages equal greater ransom payments. The average ransom payment of $300,000 a few years ago has become $4-5 million today. For Somali pirates, crime does pay…

We should be concerned that these payments may fund al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s East Africa arm. We can’t be passive. As Leon Panetta testified last week, al-Sahbaab’s threat “to the U.S. homeland is significant and on the rise.”

The United States has begun targeting pirate ringleaders. In April, FBI agents entered Somalia and apprehended an individual who oversaw ransom negotiations for four American hostages who were killed. This was a first. One pirate leader is out of the game. Good.

Unfortunately, there are many more to go. Pirate “investors” who back attacks span the globe – Europe, the Middle East or Australia. Piracy has become a vast criminal enterprise. We must track down these criminals. The GAO has given the Administration poor marks on tracking pirate financing. That has to change.

Many navies are working to deter piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But as Secretary Clinton recently remarked, we are not getting enough out of it. Too many of our partners are there to log sea time, instead of stopping pirates.

The pendulum between the Romans and our 21st century treatment of pirates has swung too far in favor of the pirates. Extreme notions of human rights and the rights of the accused mean that 9 out of 10 pirates are caught – and then released. I prefer the justice our SEALs dispensed against three pirates two years ago.

The U.N. is pushing for specialized piracy courts. The Obama Administration, once opposed, is now actively considering this proposal. I have a hard time justifying an international justice system for pirates. But we’ll hear the Administration's case.

Lastly, it should be stressed that industry itself can do much to prevent piracy. Shippers are often blasé about ransom payments. And it is the vessels that do not employ best management practices that are hijacked. Not a single ship employing armed guards has been successfully pirated. As we’ll hear, we are throwing a lot at this problem – even putting American lives at risk. Industry has to play its part.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, made the following opening statement today at a hearing entitled “Holding Honduras Hostage: Revoked Visas and U.S. Policy:”

“The real coup that this Administration has failed to address is the coup attempted by former President Zelaya with the support of Hugo Chavez. Zelaya attempted to change the Honduran constitution by all means possible, including use of the military.

“On May 2009, President Zelaya, working with his friend Hugo Chavez, ordered a referendum to take place on November 29, 2009, that would have removed presidential term limits. The Honduran Constitution specifically prohibits this, and thus Zelaya violated Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution.

“The ALBA playbook, led by Hugo Chavez was followed closely, we have seen it in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador but the courageous Honduran people stood firmly behind their constitution.

“The intent of Zelaya, under Chavez’ guidance was to become President for life.

“Next, on May 29, 2009, the Attorney General recommended that the Honduran courts uphold that Zelaya’s referendum was illegal and unconstitutional. Then, in late June, the Supreme Court ordered the Honduran forces not to provide support for the referendum.

“Zelaya continued to utilize the resources of his friend Chavez who printed the ballots and flew them to a military base in Honduras. On June 27, in opposition to the Supreme Court order, Zelaya led a violent mob to seize and distribute the ballots for the referendum; and on June 28, the Supreme Court issued an arrest order for Zelaya and removed him as president.

“The brave Honduran military was also placed in a difficult position, forced to stand up to their President in order to support the constitution. On June 28, the Honduran Military, acting on a warrant from the Honduran Supreme Court, removed Zelaya from power. He was later put on a plane out of the country for his own protection, as well as other security reasons.

“This was followed by President Obama’s statement on June 28 calling the removal of Zelaya illegal and a coup.

“Later, the Honduran Congress, pursuant to the Honduran Constitution, voted Roberto Micheletti in as president. (Micheletti was constitutionally next in line for succession and assumed the presidency on an interim basis.) The Military was never in control of Honduras! President Micheletti never interfered with the ongoing presidential campaign nor interfered with the previously planned November 29th presidential election.

“On November 29, 2009 Hondurans voted in the presidential election. Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo won with 56 percent of the vote. On December 2, in accordance with the San Jose/Tegucigalpa Accord, the Honduran Congress voted 111-14 to not reinstate ousted President Zelaya. The Supreme Court and Attorney General also recommended this outcome.

“Finally, on January 27, President Micheletti stepped down from power, in accordance with the Constitution, and handed over power peacefully to democratically-elected President-elect Pepe Lobo.

“What was the U.S. response to these actions?

“After rashly labeling the situation a coup, the State Department cut funding to Honduran military and law enforcement programs. Since then, the homicide rate in Honduras has become one of the highest in the world.

“Now, where are we today?

“Zelaya is back in the country, we capitulated to Chavez’ demands when accepting Honduras back into the OAS- a flawed and ineffective institution that has failed to uphold its own democratic charter, and brave Hondurans heroes are still being punished by this Administration.

“In a hearing before this Subcommittee on February 15, 2011, Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said that the State Department was, and I quote: “looking into how the visas that were taken away will be restored.” It’s been four months since this statement, fifteen months since the U.S. Government recognized the new President of Honduras, and almost two years since the first visas were revoked.

“As Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, Ambassador Llorens, and the Obama Administration continue a policy of meddling in Honduran affairs, it is time we hear from the Hondurans themselves. It is important that everyone understands the degree to which U.S. policies have negatively impacted the country of Honduras and the region.

“It is time for the U.S. Administration to move on; in particular Ambassador Llorens who, through abuse of power, has manipulated and intimidated the Honduran people. This is not the role of the U.S. diplomatic community. Honduras deserves to move forward without the counterproductive interference from this State Department. It deserves to have every one of the revoked visas reinstated, to have a second MCC compact, and an Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department who believes in providing the same kind of assistance the United States provides other free countries.

“In a Hemisphere dangerously influenced by anti-democratic forces, Honduras deserves to have the kind of ally that will allow it to determine its own secure and prosperous future.

“I want to conclude by saying this: I was in Panama a couple weeks ago where I met with President Martinelli. During the meeting, completely unprovoked, the President of Panama requested our help in getting the good Honduran people their visas back.

“This is a serious issue, this is a regional issue, and this is an issue that must be solved without further delay.

“I look forward to hearing the witnesses’ testimony.”
(WASHINGTON) U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, issued the following statement today congratulating the people of the Philippines as they celebrate the 113th Anniversary of their Independence Day.

“On behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you celebrate the 113th anniversary of your declaration of independence this June 12, 2011.

“The United States and the Republic of the Philippines enjoy a long history of cooperation in the economic, strategic, and cultural arenas. We share common goals in ensuring economic growth, peace, and stability in the Asia/Pacific region. The United States remains the Philippines’ largest trading partner, and the Philippines remains an attractive export market for U.S. goods and services.

“Our trade relationship is only strengthened by the cultural and familial ties that bind us. An estimated four million Filipino-Americans call the United States home and approximately 250,000 Americans live in the Philippines. The people-to-people links contribute to the strength of our relationship and add dynamism to the economic and cultural fabric of both our societies.

“Let me take this opportunity to send my best wishes to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you celebrate this joyous day.”


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