WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to strengthen U.S. security cooperation “with democratic partner nations” in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Foreign Relations Committee moved the Western Hemisphere Partnership Act and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act forward in a unanimous voice vote, paving the way for consideration by the full Senate.
“As malign state actors like Russia, China, and Iran seek to expand their footprint in the hemisphere, we must strengthen regional cooperation with our democratic neighbors to achieve these goals,” the committee’s top Republican, James Risch of Idaho, said in a statement after the vote. “This legislation builds off my previous legislative efforts to enhance our security and commercial relations with democratic countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Risch’s Western Hemisphere Partnership Act would require the State Department to work with other federal agencies to “enhance the institutional capacity and technical capabilities of defense and security institutions” in friendly Latin American and Caribbean countries.
This assistance would include arms sales, foreign military aid and training as well as the provision of radars, vessels and communications equipment needed to “dismantle organizations involved in illicit narcotics trafficking, transnational criminal activities, illicit mining and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”
The bill’s security provisions exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The legislation also seeks to “strengthen cooperation to improve border security” throughout the Western Hemisphere while enhancing port management and maritime security partnerships. Additionally, it seeks to enhance cybersecurity cooperation as well as commercial and economic partnerships in the region.
“Against the backdrop of rising geopolitical competition and mounting regional humanitarian, security, economic and political crises, the United States’ efforts to deepen our relationship with democratic neighbors are more important than ever,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who co-sponsored the Risch bill, said in a statement.
The committee advanced the bill the day after the Biden administration announced it would deploy 1,500 active duty troops to the southern border help the Department of Homeland Security address a new wave of migrant crossings expected later this month. Former President Donald Trump had deployed U.S. troops to the border in 2018, citing migrant crossings.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced another bill advanced out of the committee: the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act. That legislation authorizes the State Department to begin an initiative promoting “safety, security and the rule of law” in the Caribbean while providing unspecified equipment to counter gangs and other transnational criminal organizations.
That initiative would also collaborate with Caribbean countries on border and port security to screen for narcotics, weapons, bulk cash and other contraband.
Source : Defense News