Posted on Thu, Sep. 27, 2007
By LESLEY CLARK
$2.5 billion may be sent to Americas
Latin American countries and the Caribbean -- but not Cuba -- would get
an infusion of $2.5 billion over the next 10 years to help reduce
poverty and expand the middle class under a bipartisan Congressional
proposal that has the support of the Senate's two Cuban-American lawmakers.
Republican Mel Martinez of Florida teamed up with Democrat Bob Menendez
of New Jersey on Thursday to introduce a bill they said would fund
programs to improve education, housing, healthcare and economic
development in a region where 40 percent of the population lives below
the poverty line.
''In an age of globalization, we are inextricably linked to the rest of
the world, and to no people are we more closely connected than our
neighbors in Latin America,'' said Menendez, chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations subcommittee on international development and foreign
''This region has enjoyed the growth of democracy, but not the fruits of
economic opportunity,'' Martinez said.
Menendez, who pushed similar legislation in past years as a member of
the U.S. House, said the aid is in the United States' best interest,
suggesting that it could help create a greater market for U.S. goods as
well as curb illegal immigration by improving economic and political
The Washington Office on Latin America, a liberal research and advocacy
organization, welcomed the legislation, noting that poverty, inequality
and social exclusion are the three biggest problems facing Latin America
and the Caribbean.
Under the proposal, the money would be split between the U.S. Agency for
International Development and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Countries interested in participating would be required to contribute 10
percent of the cost of a project and a matching fund would be
established for private-sector contributions.