- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two senior House Foreign Affairs Committee members last week called on the Bush administration to stop cutting financial assistance to Brazil.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, called Brazil a key U.S. ally in Latin America, especially at a time when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is “trying to stir things up.”

Western Hemisphere subcommittee Chairman Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, said he was concerned about the “drastic” cut in U.S. aid to Brazil in the fiscal 2008 budget.

Mr. Engel particularly objected to the possibility that the cut in aid to Brazil is aimed at closing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Brasilia. He noted that $14 million in assistance went to Brazil through USAID in fiscal 2007, while President Bush’s fiscal 2008 budget provides Brazil “with a mere $2 million.”

He noted that although Brazil has made significant progress and developed into one of the world’s largest economies, it is still home to 50 percent of Latin America’s poor.

“There are 35 million people living in dire poverty in Brazil’s north and northeast,” Mr. Engle said, adding that at a time when the U.S. is improving relations with Brazil, closing the AID mission “would be a grave mistake.”

Mr. Burton, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, said: “We should extend a hand of friendship to Brazil and not cut down on U.S. aid. … This is our friend, this is our back yard, and if we don’t extend a hand of friendship we are making a mistake.”

Both House members cited Brazil’s importance as a U.S. partner in development of biofuels and in such efforts as a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

Mr. Engel cited joint assistance to third-country biofuel industries in such countries as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, and St. Kitts and Nevis, and urged that more countries receive such technical assistance.

“Brazil is perhaps the only country in the world that is completely energy self-sufficient, and that is largely because of their work with biofuels,” Mr. Burton said.

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