Washington Review, May 02, 2016
While in Washington last week I held several meetings, participated in hearings of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and attended an event about global press freedom.
Last week, I met with Senator Titus Corlatean of Romania to discuss the relationship between our two countries. Next, I met with LaVarne Burton, President and CEO of American Kidney Fund, the nation’s leading non-profit dedicated to helping those who suffer from kidney disease. She provided me with an update on current projects and how they manage resources to best serve over 70,000 patients each year.
On Wednesday, some of my colleagues and I met with the newly elected members of the Venezuelan National Assembly. They provided us with an updated on the challenges facing Venezuela, President Maduro’s ongoing crackdown of dissent within the country, and how they are trying to resolve the energy and economic problems that have created instability for their citizens. I hope that the United States will be able to work with these new members of the National Assembly to support the people of Venezuela.
Also this past week, I attended the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing examining the Administration’s funding priorities for the Western Hemisphere in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing complex regional challenges including the flow of unaccompanied children across national borders and political corruption. Without U.S. leadership and assistance, these challenges could increase instability in the region and further deteriorate human rights. I was pleased that the Administration’s FY 2017 budget request included an increase in funding for the Western Hemisphere so that the United States may continue to help our neighbors work towards improving economic, political, and social conditions in the region.
I also participated in a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing about America’s role as a power in the Pacific and Asia. My colleagues and I examined recent events throughout Asia including aggressive acts that are cause for concern. We discussed the increase in extremism across the region as well as North Korea’s record of human rights abuses and continuing weapons tests. During the hearing, I questioned the Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, about the security of intellectual property and what the Administration is doing to enforce standards in the region to prevent cyber theft of trade secrets.
Finally, on Wednesday, I participated in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press Report 2016 launch. The Freedom of the Press is an annual report on media independence around the world and serves as the most comprehensive set of data on global press freedom. Freedom of expression is a key part of any democracy as true democratic values cannot be achieved when opposing opinions are stifled. Unfortunately, in 2015, global press freedom declined to its lowest point in almost 12 years. Far too often the restriction of free speech is accompanied by violence and the restriction of other rights. We must continue to condemn those who restrict freedom of expression and remain dedicated to preserving the right to free speech around the globe.