Washington Review, December 11, 2015
Representing the 8th District in Washington this week, I had several meetings, worked on important legislation, and attended a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing.
I had several meetings this week on issues concerning my work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Emanuel Gonzalez-Revilla, the Ambassador of Panama, visited my office to discuss how we can further security and commercial relations between Panama and the United States. We spoke about continued cooperation between our countries on policies targeting drug-trafficking in the United States and Central America.
I also met with members of CAMTEX, a coalition of trade associations representing the Central American-Dominican Republic textile industry. We discussed textile industry concerns regarding the impact the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have on existing trade relationships with the United States.
Additionally, I joined with some of my fellow Members of Congress to meet with Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as El Sexto. He is a Cuban artist, activist, and recently released political prisoner. El Sexto was incarcerated for 10 months without trial for artwork that criticized the Castro Regime. We were able to speak about his experiences in Cuba and the United States and view some of his art.
Last month, I introduced H.Res. 536, condemning attacks on press freedoms in the Western Hemisphere. This week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed H.Res. 536. This resolution is a tool to spread awareness about the violations of freedom of expression that occur much too frequently in the region. It also urges the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State to work with journalists in closed societies to promote a free press. It is important to recognize that democratic values cannot be achieved while opposing opinions are being censored and free speech is being stifled. Freedom of expression is the keystone of any democracy and a quality that sets our nation apart from others who do not tolerate diverse views or criticism. I am proud to sponsor this bipartisan legislation and look forward to working with my colleagues on bringing it for a vote on the Floor of the House of Representatives.
This week, I attended the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere’s year in review hearing: U.S. Policy Toward a Changing Western Hemisphere. Multiple elections have been held in the region and the results are affecting real change as opposition parties were elected in a number of countries including Venezuela and Argentina. These elections could be part of a shift away from oppressive policies towards a more progressive and open society. While all governments in the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba, are formally elected democracies, there are still considerable challenges to true democratic rule. Several countries have been affected by corruption scandals, instability, social turmoil, and economic crisis. Drug trafficking and mass migration, as people flee violence and oppressive regimes, continue to strain the resources of countries that do not have the infrastructure to resolve these regional issues. We must remain committed to addressing these problems and improving relations with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.
Recently, Congress unanimously passed H.R. 208, the RISE After Disaster Act of 2015, to help victims of Superstorm Sandy rebuild their homes and businesses. As required by H.R. 208, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has reopened the application period for victims seeking financial assistance in the form of a low-interest disaster loan. Homeowners can receive loans of up to $40,000 to replace damaged or lost items, and as much as $200,000 to rebuild and repair their homes. Nonprofits and business owners can receive up to $2 million to repair or replace assets. Applications are due by December 1, 2016 and are available online using the Electronic Loan Application on SBA’s website at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. For more information contact the SBA Customer Service Center at (800)659-2955 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org .