U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a fierce critic of the left-wing governments of ALBA and one of the only U.S. lawmakers who pays any mind to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, released a statement this week criticizing President Barack Obama for not condemning the Sandinista leader during his recent trip to Central America.
“It is disappointing that the President once again concludes a visit to Latin America without any coherent strategy on how to advance U.S. interests in the region, promote democracy, and hold accountable those regimes that oppress their own people,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a release.
The Cuban-born congresswoman noted that President Obama talked about the political crisis in Venezuela, but said he didn’t go far enough to “offer what actions the U.S. government would take in order to respond to the calls for democracy by the Venezuelan people.”
On that same note, Ros-Lehtinen feels Obama missed an opportunity to publically censure the Ortega government for its democratic deficiencies in Nicaragua.
“The President failed to condemn the illegitimate elections in Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega’s successful attempts to violate the Nicaraguan constitution multiple times,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a release. “How can we expect the President to stand firm to Maduro now in Venezuela, when he has no problem sitting at the dinner table with Daniel Ortega who engaged in the same tactics as Maduro and prevented a free, fair, and transparent election from occurring?”
The Florida congresswoman is trying to lead a charge in Washington against the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alliance for Our America’s (ALBA).
“The leaders of the ALBA nations in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua are constantly working against U.S. and regional democracy and security objectives and from Cuba to Venezuela, millions of innocent people continue to be deprived of their democratic rights and fundamental freedoms,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
The Republican congresswoman recently teamed up with New Jersey Democratic Congressman Albio Sires to introduce bipartisan legislation (HR 1687- Countering ALBA Act of 2013) that urges the U.S. President to sanction persons who are officials of or acting on behalf of ALBA Governments, who the President determines are responsible for or complicit in the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of ALBA countries.
Such sanctions may include: ineligibility for a visa to enter the United States, blocking of property, and prohibition on financial transactions, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The bill also directs the Secretary of State to transmit a comprehensive strategy to ensure that ALBA governments are democratic governments committed to making constitutional changes that would ensure regular free and fair elections and the full enjoyment of basic civil liberties and human rights by the citizens of ALBA countries; and have made demonstrable progress in establishing independent judiciaries and electoral councils.