Certified Right-Wing Extremists Set to Take Control of House Foreign Affairs Panels
|Written by Alexander Main|
|Friday, 05 November 2010 15:42|
In the early years of the past decade, two hard-line Cold Warriors, closely associated with radical Cuban exile groups in Florida, occupied strategic positions in the U.S. foreign policy machine. Otto Reich, former head of the Reagan administration’s covert propaganda operations in Central America, and Roger Noriega, co-author of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, took turns running the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and held other influential administration posts such as ambassador to the Organization of American States and White House Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere.
Now, as a result of the Nov. 2 elections, another duo of a similar ilk is poised to re-set the legislative agenda on Latin America in the House of Representatives. Cuban-American representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is expected to replace Howard Berman as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and eternally tanned Congressman Cornelius McGillicuddy IV -- otherwise known as Connie Mack -- is slated to take the reins of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere.
The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl has enthusiastically celebrated the ascension of these two South Florida legislators, heralding Ros-Lehtinen as a “champion of Cuban human rights” and stating triumphantly that “one big un-American loser” of the US legislative elections will be Cuban president “Raul Castro.” To see whether there is in fact cause to celebrate, let’s have a closer look at the track records of our two protagonists.
Let’s start with human rights “champion” Ros-Lehtinen who, as her web page biography explains, was “forced to flee with [her] family from the oppressive communist regime of Fidel Castro…” On certain issues – such as gay rights and immigration reform – she comes across as fairly levelheaded. When it comes to Latin America, however, she rarely fails to take a precipitous dive into the deep end.
She is, as one might expect given her background and Miami-Dade constituency, a staunch opponent of any relaxation of sanctions against Cuba, as are a number of her Cuban-American and cold warrior colleagues. But her deep hostility towards the Latin American Left has led her to take much more disturbing positions, including the defense of terrorists and coup d’Etats. If you think I’m exaggerating, please examine some of the evidence, all of which is on the public record:
Connie Mack is relatively young and has only been in office since 2005. Consequently, he has had less time to cozy up to terrorists and coup regimes. However, he has made impressive efforts to prove his extreme right-wing credentials. He has focused in particular on the grave “threat Venezuela’s Communist President Hugo Chavez poses to the U.S. and our allies in the region.”
Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Mack and Ros-Lehtinen’s extremism isn’t limited to this hemisphere. Both representatives have warm relations with Israel
The real question, of course, is whether having these certified right-wing extremists heading up the Foreign Affairs Committee and Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will necessarily set U.S. policy towards Latin America on a more aggressive course. Without a doubt, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack will use their new powers as committee chairs to hold an increased number of Congressional hearings that target Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and other left-leaning countries. They will make certain that legislation that aims to ease travel restrictions to Cuba is stopped dead in its tracks. They are also likely to promote resolutions and legislation that seek to impose sanctions and interventionist measures against these countries to punish them for their alleged anti-democratic or anti-American actions. However, though moves such as these may make a lot of noise, more extreme legislative proposals will surely run into the brick wall of the Democratically-controlled Senate and, failing that, President Obama’s veto. Or will they?
Democratic leaders may have more nuanced rhetoric when it comes to relations with the rest of the region, but they have often stood idly by while the Obama administration has carried out aggressive, unilateralist policies reminiscent of the Bush era. Only two Congress members, Senators Patrick Leahy and Christopher Dodd (who is retiring from the Senate this year), voiced concern regarding an agreement with Colombia that would increase the U.S. military presence there and sparked outrage throughout the governments of South America. On the hemisphere’s most contentious issue of the past two years – the coup in Honduras – they have by and large not spoken out against the administration’s weak response to the coup, despite the alarm raised by their more progressive Democratic colleagues. The administration, meanwhile, was equipped with the convenient excuse that Republican hardliners were bearing down on them with relentless pressure and forcing their hand.The danger therefore, more than the direct threat posed by Ros-Lehtinen or Mack’s legislative powers, may be the fact that their noisy rhetoric and zany capers will provide additional cover for both the administration and moderate Democrats to plow ahead with a hemispheric agenda which merely recycles the failed policies of the past administration. The Post’s Jackson Diehl can sleep soundly knowing that the South Florida pair will play an important role in keeping US relations with Latin America as poisoned as ever.
During her joint press appearance with Coup president Roberto Micheletti, Ros Lehtinen told the media: