U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Latin America Bureau

U.S. Department of State
96/07/19 Statement at Confirmation Hearing for Jeffrey Davidow
Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

Statement of Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow
Assistant Secretary of State - Designate
for Inter-American Affairs
to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
July 19, 1996

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:

It is an honor to be nominated by President Clinton and Secretary Christopher to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. I welcome this opportunity to discuss the policies that guide our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean and answer any questions you may have regarding my qualifications and my views.

Much of my 27 year career as a Foreign Service officer has been spent working abroad in our embassies in Chile, Guatemala and twice in Venezuela, most recently as Ambassador.

The Western Hemisphere is an evolving, dynamic community of 800 million people bound together by shared democratic values, free market economies and strong trade ties. Thirty-four of its 35 nations hold regular elections and live by the consent of the governed. A revitalized Organization of American States serves as the principal political and diplomatic forum of the Americas. Market-based reforms, privatization of state industries and monopolies and trade liberalization have restored economic growth, dramatically lowered inflation, lightened debt burdens and improved the prospects for the future.

Since early 1993, we have witnessed major accomplishments: the successful negotiation, ratification and implementation of NAFTA, the development of a common hemispheric agenda at the Summit of the Americas and the restoration of a freely-elected government in Haiti. Active multilateral diplomacy forestalled coups in Guatemala in 1993 and Paraguay this spring and defused the border conflict bof the Americas (FTAA) by 2005. We now have a shared vision of the future of a community of democratic nations trading freely and cooperating to confront problems of mutual concern.

Implementation of the Summit's principles and 23-point action plan has already yielded many positive, concrete accomplishments, among them the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and enhanced cooperation on a wide range of environmental, financial, law enforcement and security issues. At the next trade ministerial in Brazil in 1997, we expect recommendations on how to construct the architecture of formal negotiations of the FTAA.

The future success of our hemispheric policy depends on progress toward three pivotal goals:

-- Building a hemispheric free trade area,

-- Strengthening democracy, including support for a peaceful, democratic transition in Cuba,

-- And, combating the menaces of the illegal drug trade and curbing transnational crime, migrant smuggling and terrorism.

If confirmed, I will make them my highest priorities.

The importance of the Western Hemisphere to our national economic well-being is sometimes underestimated. Western Hemisphere nations purchase 40 percent of our exports, more than we sell to East Asia or the European Union. Restructured economic institutions and growth- inducing reforms throughout this hemisphere have already contributed to an annual, regional average of four percent growth in GDP. The combination of further market-guided reform and actions to fulfill the Miami free trade commitment will raise demand for more U.S. exports and augment the historic market advantages our products and services have enjoyed throughout the region.

While the hemisphere's transition to democracy is virtually complete, we cannot become complacent. In many countries, the democratic process and the rule of the law remain fragile. Corruption and impunity weaken public confidence in the democratic process. Court systems, law enforcement agencies, customs and tax services need to be reformed and reorganized. And we can help this process with advice and assistance when appropriate.

The commitment to defend democracy demands the continued use of diplomatic and public pressure to halt human rights violations, end impunity and promote justice. It also requires cooperation through the OAS and other fora to prevent or reverse the threat of anti-democratic coups.

In the case of Haiti, we generously helped the Haitian people recover control over their government and curb systematic political repression. There has been fundamental progress since the U.S.-led Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY began in September 1994. A freely-elected president regained his office. The result of free and open elections was an active parliament and the first succession of democratic presidents in Haiti's history. A professional, non-partisan police force replaced the corrupt and repressive army. U.S. and international financial support has already helped stabilize and strengthen a fragile economy. After decades of turmoil, democracy finally has a chance to take root in Haiti .

Mr. Chairman, this committee has regularly noted the disgraceful case of persistent human rights violations in Cuba. Under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, the people of Cuba are systematically denied protection of their political and individual rights. Our overarching goal will continue to be to promote the transformation of Cuba from dictatorship to democracy, from a society of fear to one of freedom.

I am deeply committed to the fight against drug trafficking in the Americas. Confronting the transnational drug and crime threats demands active bilateral and multilateral diplomacy to promote enhanced international cooperation. Through law enforcement measures, anti-money laundering laws, targeting of cartel kingpins, extradition of fugitives, coca and opium eradication programs, interdiction and demand reduction, the United States will continue to lead the way in devising a successful counter-drug and counter-crime strategy for the Western Hemisphere.

The drop in our foreign affairs accounts is widely noted throughout the hemisphere. Official USG resources to the Inter-American region fell from $1.645 billion in FY 1991 to $556 million in FY 1996. This is a decline of 66 percent in only five years. Neither we, nor regional leaders, believe that endless U.S. aid is either necessary or beneficial. There is a strong consensus among our hemispheric partners that trade and free markets, not aid, are the key to economic prosperity.

This said, a further drop in our modest investments will make it increasingly difficult, even with the most efficient use of resources, to meet legitimate demands arising from a sound hemispheric policy. Genuine support for peace and democratic transitions, raising millions from poverty to self-help and sustained growth, stemming the flow of illegal narcotics and migrants at the source require far more than fancy rhetoric and good intentions.

Our duty as the hemisphere's first democracy and as a responsible partner within the Inter-American system is to be bold enough to build a single, open hemispheric market; constant enough to defend and strengthen emerging democracies; and dedicated enough to persevere and win the fight against the illegal drug trade and transnational crime. If I am confirmed, I can assure you I will direct my efforts and those of my colleagues in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs to meeting these critical challenges.

I will be pleased to answer your questions.


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