San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Republicans seek to cut funds to OAS, Nicaragua

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Republicans moved Wednesday to cut aid to leftist countries in Latin America, vowing to get tough on U.S. rivals amid a drive to curb spending.

The Republicans also pushed through the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee the elimination of $44 million in funding for the Organization of American States, a regional bloc of 35 countries.

“Every time we turn around, the OAS instead of supporting democracies is supporting and coddling, if you will, the likes of Hugo Chávez,” said Republican Connie Mack, referring to Venezuela’s firebrand president.

In a series of largely party-line votes, the committee took aim at assistance to Latin American nations. The Republicans approved a measure to bar any aid to left-leaning Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Argentina.

Obama had requested some $96 million geared toward the five countries in the fiscal year starting in October but that includes aid to non-governmental organizations, which would not be affected.

Democrats sharply criticized Mack and other Republicans. Representative Gary Ackerman said that the United States would effectively be withdrawing in its own continent from a global competition with China for “hearts and minds.”

“At the proper time, I might just offer an amendment to pull out of the world and put all this money into digging a moat around the United States and putting a big dome over the thing,” Ackerman said sarcastically.

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