As she starts her final year in Congress, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the first woman to lead the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee has found an ally on the other side of the aisle when it comes to international issues.
Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, has been teaming up with U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, on a host of issues in recent days.
At the end of last week, Ros-Lehtinen and Engel teamed up to take aim at the Maduro regime in Venezuela, pointing to reports that it was trying to win over support for its National Constituent Assembly in exchange for allowing food and humanitarian supplies into the country. On Friday, the two representatives released a joint statement.
“If reports are true, it is appalling that Mr. Maduro is attempting to use international humanitarian assistance as a means to coerce the opposition to bestow legitimacy upon his fraudulent National Constituent Assembly,” they said. “Maduro’s policies have created the dire humanitarian situation in Venezuela and have caused a severe shortage of food and medicine.
“The situation on the ground is untenable, and we call for the United Nations and the Red Cross to be allowed to bring in missions to observe the humanitarian situation,” they added. “We also believe that USAID should be permitted to send a team to form its own assessment.”
Back in December, the House passed Engel’s and Ros-Lehtinen’s “Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act” which ensures USAID “mandates a strategy...to provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.”
Also on Friday, Ros-Lehtinen and Engel teamed up to cheer the Inter-American court of Human Rights releasing an opinion that Costa Rica and 19 other nations in Latin America and the Caribbean should recognize same-sex marriage.
“We applaud this week’s opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights requiring 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to recognize same-sex marriages," Ros-Lehtinen and Engel said in another joint statement released on Friday. “Countries in the Americas, including the United States, have made important strides in recent years in ensuring that LGBT citizens have the same rights as everyone else. But we still have a long way to go. In the coming months, we look forward to working with our friends in the region as they seek to implement the court’s opinion. We join human rights advocates throughout the world in celebrating this crucial step in the march towards equality.”
Also last week, Ros-Lehtinen and Engel and other members of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, including U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, condemned attacks against Jewish owned shops across France, including one last week on a kosher supermarket in Créteil.
“We are appalled by the arson attack against the Promo Stock kosher supermarket near Paris,” the members of the task force said. “As we mark three years since the heinous terrorist attack against a Hyper Cacher that left four civilians dead, we see fresh evidence that despite the French government’s commitment to counter radicalization and anti-Semitism, more must be done to ensure the safety and security of France’s Jewish community. We call upon French authorities to take swift action to hold perpetrators of this attack accountable.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Engel have worked together before, including on the “United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016” which was sent to President Barack Obama’s desk at the end of 2016. That bill requires the State Department and USAID “to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean and enhancing outreach to diaspora communities in the United States” and “puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, and other priority areas.”
First elected to Congress in 1989, Ros-Lehtinen is not seeking another term, announcing last year that she will retire.