WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a former Chair of the Committee, today introduced H.R. 4939 to prioritize the U.S.–Caribbean relationship. Their bill would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diaspora communities in the U.S., improving energy security, countering violence, ramping up diplomacy, and other priority areas.
“While they are sometimes overlooked, the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States. With so many crises around the globe that demand U.S. attention, we can’t lose sight of our long-term interests closer to home but should instead strengthen and expand ties with our Caribbean neighbors,” said Rep. Engel. “This legislation makes it clear that Congress will prioritize U.S.–Caribbean relations for many years to come.”
“I’m pleased to join my friend and colleague, Eliot Engel, in introducing this important bill. As someone who represents South Florida and a large number of individuals from the Caribbean diaspora community, I’m well aware of the unique importance of the Caribbean and a strong U.S.-Caribbean relationship. Now that the Caribbean should be less dependent on a deteriorating Venezuelan economy, this bill will go a long way in improving those strategic relationships and show the region that the U.S. is redoubling its efforts to remain engaged in the Caribbean to enhance our diplomatic and economic ties. It’s also more important now than ever that we increase coordination and cooperation on security related issues, especially in conjunction with our leaders at SOUTHCOM,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said.
The legislation requires the State Department and USAID to:
- Identify agency efforts to prioritize U.S. policy towards the Caribbean;
- Outline an approach to broaden outreach to the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States;
- Outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking;
- Establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power;
- Outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region; and
- Develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.
In addition, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports:
- An evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country; and
- An evaluation of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.