- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

President Bush’s pick for assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roger Noriega, yesterday called for greater international pressure on Cuba’s communist government and help for the wounded dissident movement battling President Fidel Castro.”We must redouble our bilateral and multilateral efforts to hasten the inevitable democratic transition on the island,” Mr. Noriega told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing.Mr. Noriega said Mr. Castro’s recent crackdown on dissidents and journalists proved that his regime feels threatened by internal opposition groups and “their expanding network of international support.”“The inter-American community should do more than wish for Cuba’s freedom, we should work together like never before to make it a reality,” he said in his testimony, in which he called for “more countries around the world to interact with dissidents — those who are not in jail.”Mr. Noriega also emphasized the need for regionwide and multilateral solutions to the civil and political unrest in Venezuela, the instability in Haiti, guerrilla war in Colombia, trade in Central America and the fight against the illegal drug trade.”At a time when our nation is concerned with homeland defense, it is imperative that we pay attention to stability and security close to home,” he said.That objective, according to Mr. Noriega, would best be served by helping the region achieve sustained economic growth through trade, investment and sound fiscal reforms. “I see my role as less diplomat, but more as a managerial role,” he said.Emphasizing the importance of the region as a trade bloc embracing 800 million consumers, Mr. Noriega said he would defend the free-trade agreement recently concluded with Chile, despite Chile’s opposition to the war in Iraq, and would focus on similar bilateral pacts if the Free Trade Area of the Americas plan fell apart.”The issue to decide in upcoming months is whether it is better to continue a hemispheric approach or go at it in a subregional way,” he told the committee. Mr. Noriega, the grandson of Mexicans who immigrated 80 years ago to the United States, said he would also try to chip away at the difficult immigration issues between Mexico and the United States.”We have to find ways to make small steps, perhaps, in this agenda,” he told the panel.Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, praised Mr. Noriega for his “indestructible Americanism,” but Sen. Christopher J. Dodd questioned his ability to handle the job.”It’s going to take leadership here,” said Mr. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. “There’s not a whole lot in your background that indicates you’ve managed people or a budget like this.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide