FAFF - The Western Hemisphere

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Over the years, we have failed to pay sufficient attention to Latin America and the Caribbean. As a result, these regions, once so promising, have now become troubled to the point where democracy itself is being challenged, and their once developing economies are faltering. Those of us who care deeply about Latin America and the Caribbean are committed to ensuring that the United States takes a higher profile with regard to various issues in the hemisphere.

My interests in the Caribbean region are diverse and expand to include issues of economic and political security. I continue to tirelessly work to strengthen democracy, promote economic growth and development, alleviate poverty, and combat the AIDS epidemic in the region.

With approximately 34 million people and 20 independent nations sharing a varied ethnic heritage, the Western Hemisphere is a diverse region. Large, dynamic and remarkable communities with Caribbean and Latin American ancestry exhibit this diversity in Florida's 23rd Congressional district.

The second largest concentration of Cubans in the United States is in Broward County, with approximately 50,000 Cuban-American residents, and Palm Beach County is home to the sixth largest concentration with more than 25,000 Cuban-American residents.

While I firmly believe that the exercise of political and civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, movement, press, and the right to multiparty elections are fundamental rights, the Cuban Government has continuously carried out summary trials to expeditiously sentence pro-democracy leaders and intimidate and silence other pro-democracy activists on the island while world attention is primarily focused on Iraq and other areas outside the Western Hemisphere.

I will continue my high level of advocacy for a democratic Cuba in Congress, supporting a variety of legislative initiatives regarding sanctions, human rights, and drug interdiction cooperation. But most importantly, I will tirelessly labor to help bring democracy and respect for human rights to the island of Cuba.

Additionally, the Haitian community in the 23rd Congressional district is one of the largest in the United States. It is a proud, productive, and active group that strengthens the district. Their societal dedication is an example to emulate.

Throughout my life, I have been a steadfast supporter of U.S. assistance to Haiti and have fought consistently to ensure fair treatment for Haitian refugees. Though the administration has finally granted Haitians Temporary Protected Status in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, unfortunately, the struggle for equity in our immigration system continues.

Today is a critical time for the people of Haiti, and the U.S. government must not waiver in its support of Haitians. We must continue to do everything in our power to assure the Haitian people that we do intend to stand by our commitments to them.

If we as Americans truly support the growth of worldwide democracy, then we cannot sit by and watch the hopes of Haitian citizens dwindle and die. I strongly feel that it is most important for Haiti's immediate future to establish peace and security so as to foster the growth of democracy.

In addition to the Cuban and Haitian communities, Puerto Ricans comprise the largest Caribbean group in Broward County at more than 50,000. Further about 25,000 Palm Beach County residents are of Puerto Rican descent, and more than 7,500 are of Dominican descent. People of West Indian origin now count for over 154,000 Broward County residents and some 50,000 Palm Beach County residents. The growth of the West Indian population, which has been seen in Broward and Palm Beach counties, is equally pronounced on the Treasure Coast. The estimated West Indian population in Martin and St. Lucie counties exploded from 2,465 in 1990 to more than 20,000 in the year 2000 and is exponentially larger today.

More than just sheer numbers, these diverse communities also represent active components-geographic, economic, and social-of the district. Their cultures, folklores, cuisines, festivals, and ancestry are a great pride to every resident of the district, and a significant contributor to its uniqueness.
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