January 23, 2005: Headlines: Congress: Expansion: The Miami Herald: Senator Bill Nelson says expand the Peace Corps in South America

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Expansion: Expansion: January 23, 2005: Headlines: Congress: Expansion: The Miami Herald: Senator Bill Nelson says expand the Peace Corps in South America

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Senator Bill Nelson says expand the Peace Corps in South America

Senator Bill Nelson says expand the Peace Corps in South America

Senator Bill Nelson says expand the Peace Corps in South America

South America beset by `crisis after crisis'



The week before last was spent in the heat of South America, meeting with government officials and leaders there. And in contrast, this past week was spent in the cold and snow of Washington, D.C., with Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the president's second inauguration.

Though the settings changed drastically, one fact remained abundantly clear: U.S. policy toward South America has been absent. In fact, I and several other senators questioned Dr. Rice about our neighbors to the south, and urged more-active involvement on the part of the second Bush administration.

While on a bipartisan congressional trip to South America last week, with two of my Senate colleagues, I learned that terrorists continue to grab hold in that troubled region. In the so-called tri-border area -- where the frontiers of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet -- there are at least two major terrorist groups engaged in drug trafficking and smuggling counterfeit goods.

So far, most of the activity by Middle East terrorists has been limited to fund raising and related money laundering. But the continued climate of lawlessness and public corruption in the region also offers a nexus of funding for al Qaeda.

One of the reasons this is happening is that the administration has allowed democratic governments in South America to flounder. Crisis after crisis has come to countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.


In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez continues to stir concern over stricter new media laws, private property seizures and pro-Chávez judicial appointments, not to mention his intention to reduce Venezuela's dependence on U.S. oil purchases.

In Bolivia, earlier this month, widespread labor unrest brought commerce to a halt.

In Peru, the democratically elected President Alejandro Toledo remains in single digits in the polls.

I don't want to be an alarmist, but no one should think for a moment that terrorist groups won't try to take advantage of weak governments in South America to gain a foothold and proximity to a more-attractive target -- the United States.

Fact is, there has been a disturbing rise in anti-American views all across the region. To address this, we need to take on broader challenges in South America:

Expand the Peace Corps as a means of bolstering democracy, judicial reform, economic reform, education, the environment, agriculture, healthcare and transportation.

Revitalize the Organization of American States. The OAS is an essential forum for hemispheric cooperation, but recent experiences in Bolivia and Venezuela teach us that the OAS must define more-precise commitments from its members to defend democratic governments facing nonconstitutional threats.

U.S. leadership in the OAS, not unilateral decisions favoring some democratic regimes over others, is essential for it to be effective as a guardian of democracy.

Dramatically expand the security dialogue with far more, and more regular, meetings of the hemisphere's defense ministers, intelligence chiefs and anti-terrorism experts.

At the same time, we must encourage dialogue between neighboring countries that have historically tended to mistrust each other, such as Venezuela and Colombia.

During my meeting with President Chávez he said he was working with Colombia to return suspected terrorists. But a day after our meeting news reports indicated he had been harboring a major terrorist leader from Colombia in his own country.

While we cannot accept Chávez's duplicity, his anti-democratic consolidation of power or his ties to Cuba, dialogue between the United States and Venezuela is needed to help avoid the real possibility of a disruption in the relationship with our fourth-largest oil supplier -- a possibility that prompted Sen. Richard Lugar to request that the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress examine our preparedness to deal with just such an event.

Move aggressively to improve the economic conditions that affect people's daily lives and their attitudes toward democracy.

Seek expanded economic opportunities by pressing for free-trade agreements that respect labor and environmental concerns, as well as addressing import-sensitive commodities. While the FTAA is the ultimate goal, we should not lose sight of the value of bilateral and sub-regional trade agreements.

Reach out to the abundance of talent, knowledge and ties to South America that already exist around Florida. We have U.S. citizens and soon-to-be U.S. citizens from every country in the region, outstanding academics studying every aspect of every country and a vigorous private sector that has made Florida a gateway to South America.

Taking such steps will allow the United States to keep its historic commitment to making the Western Hemisphere a community of democracies and to raising the living standards of people across the region, half of whom live in poverty.

If successful, we will achieve the added benefit of closing off a dangerous avenue through which international terrorism may try to wreak havoc on us.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., for a series of meetings with South American heads of state.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

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230 RPCVs volunteer for Crisis Corps 14 Jan
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Matt Gould in one-man Peace Corps show in Hollywood 12 Jan
Taylor Hackford's "Ray" Nominated for Golden Globe 12 Jan
Ambassador Johnson shares memories of Thailand 11 Jan
Senator Dodd suggests PC return to Venezuela 11 Jan
Ambassador Hull wants PC to return to Sierra Leone 11 Jan
Poiriers unhappy with PC investigation of missing son 10 Jan
Emile Hons reflects on the Deborah Gardner murder case 10 Jan
Judge Paul A. Bastine criticized for stalling Divorce 6 Jan
Volunteer Patricia D. Scatoloni dies in Macedonia 4 Jan
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Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
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In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
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RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
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UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

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Story Source: The Miami Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Congress; Expansion



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