Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Obama fails to denounce Putin, Rouhani, and Castro at U.N.

(Washington, DC)—U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement Sept. 29 on the floor of the House of Representatives regarding the need for American leadership and reform at the United Nations. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we witnessed thugs, tyrants and dictators, from Russia, Iran, and Cuba, speak before the General Assembly at the United Nations. And with straight faces, each claimed to be defenders of peace, of international standards, of human rights—principles that Putin, Rouhani, and Castro have made a living out of ignoring and abusing to the detriment of the people who live under their oppressive rule.

President Obama had an opportunity to set the tone, to call for reforms at the badly mismanaged United Nations, to challenge the status quo, and reestablish America’s leadership and credibility. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to pay lip service to American ideals and values, and to abdicate America’s role as a world leader. A void that is now being filled by our adversaries like Russia, Iran, China, and Syria.

The Russians continue their aggressive actions in Ukraine and are now sending military hardware to the murderous Assad regime. Iran has had a record number of hangings since the so-called moderate leader Rouhani took office and thousands of ethnic and religious minorities are imprisoned and sentenced to death. The president has done everything in his power not to upset the Iranians because he doesn’t want to ruin the chance for a nuclear deal—a deal, which will cause a nuclear and conventional arms race in the region—and his words yesterday prove to be empty rhetoric when matched to his policies and actions in the past. And not to be outdone, Raul Castro doubled down on his intransigence, further demonstrating that the Obama administration offered concessions to the regime, which have resulted in even greater oppression by that hated Cuban dictatorship.

But per usual with the president: It was the blame-America-first narrative that he was trying to peddle with his misguided policies toward Cuba. President Obama used this opportunity to undermine the United States Congress and perhaps foreshadowing an eventual abstention on the UN vote on the Cuban embargo, he stated “I’m confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.” President Obama failed once again to put the onus on the Castro regime to release all political prisoners, to hold free and fair elections, to respect human rights in order for us to lift the embargo. The Cuban embargo language in the law is clear on all the conditions, Mr. Speaker. Conditions that have to be met in order for it to be lifted; conditions that the Castro regime has no interest in abiding by. 

President Obama should stop ignoring current law and stop loosening regulations on a regime that has done nothing to deserve this praise. The Castro regime is the one responsible for the human rights violations occurring in Cuba and the constant beatings against pro-democracy leaders. The U.S. embargo cannot be held responsible for that. Does Castro say: “Oh, I have to beat the heads of a very peaceful group, Ladies in White, walking to church because the embargo says I must beat their heads in”? Does Castro say: “Oh I cannot have any political party operating in Cuba other than the communist party, because the embargo obligates me to only have this political party operating.” Does he say: “I cannot respect human rights in Cuba, because of that nasty US embargo forces me to violate human rights.” Of course not. That is lunacy, that is a responsibility that only Castro can claim. The Castro regime instead has done nothing to unclench its iron fists—nada.

Mr. Speaker, President Obama’s remarks yesterday at the UN made him part of the problem with what’s wrong with that broken institution and once again highlighted that his misplaced priorities and misguided foreign policies have not kept our country any safer.

That is why it is up to us in Congress to be proactive and to push for reforms at the United Nations and that is why this week I am reintroducing my UN Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act. My bill will fundamentally change the way we fund that institution by shifting the funding mechanism from assessed to voluntary contributions in order to make the organization more effective and accountable to its objectives. For example, the Human Rights Council does not deserve our assistance when countries like Cuba, China, Venezuela—some of the world’s worst human rights violators –push a decidedly anti-American, anti-Israel agenda at the Council. We should not fund these bodies at the UN. We should only fund the ones that we believe are working, the ones that are transparent, the ones that are accountable to the Member states that donate their budgets.

Mr. Speaker, the Obama administration has had seven years to implement reforms and it has failed. It’s time for Congress to take the lead, and I urge my colleagues to sign up to my bill this week.”


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