Avoiding visits to key U.S. allies Panama and Colombia on his trip to Latin America which wraps up today, President Obama has made clear that the Administration has no intention of moving ahead with Free Trade Agreements with Panama and Colombia, weakening our position in the Hemisphere and letting dictators like Hugo Chavez push the envelope on regional security.
Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Connie Mack (FL-14) stated:
“Given the seriously mismanaged foreign policy message coming from this Administration, it’s no wonder our adversaries like Hugo Chavez continue to think they can push the envelope of the regional security in our Hemisphere. The President’s domestic political calculations are dangerously hurting our presence in the region. While the stated focus of the President’s trip was ‘strengthening the nation’s economic relationship with its neighbors and improving regional security,’ it would appear the President failed on both fronts.”
Mack added: “Why is anyone surprised that Secretary of State Clinton has said twice in the past week she wants out. I indeed share Secretary Clinton’s frustrations with the Administration’s ambiguous foreign policy, especially in the Western Hemisphere.”
Colombia and Panama are vital allies in the U.S. fight against drug trafficking organizations throughout the Hemisphere. Disengagement by the Obama Administration last fall led to the Colombian announcement that drug kingpin Walid Makled-Garcia would be extradited to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez instead of the United States. This is not the first of such actions embarked on by a Colombian nation questioning their alliance with the U.S.
While President Obama was in Latin America, Chavez demanded a halt to the no fly zone and condemned Obama’s actions. Chavez has also offered asylum to Dictator Muammar Gaddafi and has undertaken steps to allow the Iranians to place missile sites in Venezuela.