Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Innovative, Bipartisan Latin America Development Legislation

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Innovative, Bipartisan Latin America Development Legislation

Menendez Social Investment and Economic Development for the Americas Act has bipartisan, high-level support; Legislation aims to strengthen, secure U.S. through a more stable, more prosperous region

Washington - Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered and unanimously approved innovative, bipartisan Latin America development legislation championed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL). The 10-year, $2.5 billion legislation goes beyond traditional development assistance to foreign countries by requiring contributions from recipient nations and encouraging partnerships with the private sector.

Senator Menendez said: "This initiative aims to make the United States safer, stronger and more prosperous by making our hemisphere more stable and more affluent. Our lack of engagement in Latin America has created a vacuum that has allowed some to sell an anti-American agenda which simply has no place in the region. This type of commitment to the development of Latin American nations and their institutions helps fill that vacuum and make our nation more secure. A strong social and economic backbone is a foundation upon which democracies can prosper - this will enable stable communities and a stable region."

"This bill will help build institutions, stabilize economies, reduce poverty, expand the middle class, and invest in key development areas, such as rule-of-law, competitiveness, governance, and judicial and regulatory reform in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will help expand markets for U.S. businesses and the goods and services they offer. Promoting the success of Latin America is a strategic investment for the United States, not only because it represents a good-neighbor policy, but also because it is good business. We are proud of the broad, bipartisan support we received in the committee and look forward to bringing this bill to the Senate floor."

Senator Martinez said: "This demonstrates a long-term U.S. commitment to the people of our hemisphere. It will further develop and promote cooperative relationships with friendly countries to ensure we continue economic development and the growth and promotion of democratic institutions. We must work in a bipartisan manner to avoid any negative influence of nations that seek to increase false democracies and prop up existing dictatorships. This is an important effort that will fund programs to improve education, reduce poverty, promote better healthcare, and provide improved housing. I commend members of the committee for approving this bill and urge Senate leadership to bring the bill to the full Senate for consideration."

Overview of legislation

• Authorizes $2.5 billion over ten years for Latin American and Caribbean counties.
• Maximizes U.S. dollars by building a close partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help strengthen the investment climate, educate the workforce, and build-up small and medium enterprises.
• Builds in rigorous evaluation and oversight to ensure taxpayer money is well-spent.
• Limits administrative costs to ensure efficient use of taxpayer's dollars.
• Reduces the exclusion of marginalized groups, including indigenous, women, rural and urban poor, people of African descent, and people with disabilities.

Innovative Approach

• Multiplies the impact of U.S. investment by leveraging additional donor support to supplement U.S. funds through the creation of a matching fund for the private sector and member countries of Inter-American Development Bank.
• Requires the recipient country to take responsibility for their projects through a 10 percent contribution.
• Compliments the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by working with countries to improve their indicators in the area of investing in people.
• Supports the national interests and security interests of the United States by reducing instability in the region, improving economies, and creating a greater market for U.S. goods.

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