Since 1823 when President James Monroe famously warned Europe about interfering in the new world, the United States has taken a particular interest in the Western Hemisphere. Sometimes this intervention is aimed directly at benefiting the Latin American nations involved, but frequently the United States has interfered solely to further its own interests. Whether combating communism, protecting agriculture interests or escalating the ‘War on Drugs’ the United States has seen Latin America as a venue in which to promote its own agenda.
Congressman Serrano believes that we should strive to change this historical pattern and work with the countries of Latin America, not merely work in their countries for our own interests. He thinks that it is important to allow the people in Latin America the latitude to direct their own affairs and that when they need our help we should work together so they can take the steps they need to become more successful. Too often in Latin America we have supported governments when they agree with us rather than supporting legitimate governments, whether or not they agree with us on particular points of policy.
As with his position in relation to the rest of Latin America, Congressman Serrano has long called for allowing Cuba the freedom to run its own affairs without interference from the United States. He has consistently called for the end of the embargo and for a closer relationship between the American and Cuban peoples. Instead of confronting Cuba and criticizing its government, he believes that we should reach out to Cuba and work together on issues of mutual interest.
When he was chairman of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee Congressman Serrano worked to loosen restrictions and travel to and trade with Cuba. In the Committee’s yearly bill he took steps to allow Cuban-Americans to travel more frequently to visit their families in Cuba and made it easier for American farmers to sell their goods in Cuba. These steps allow Cubans and Americans to interact with each other more regularly, gain a better understanding of each other’s countries, and, in the long run, are a step towards resuming normal relations between the two countries.
In recent years Congressman Serrano has also introduced two bills aimed at improving the relationship between the United States and Cuba. The first, the Cuba Reconciliation Act, would completely lift the embargo and allow for full relations between the United States and Cuba, including travel by US Citizens. The second is focused more narrowly on one area that the people of the United States and the people of Cuba can certainly agree—the importance of baseball. The bill, the Baseball Diplomacy Act, would allow Cuban players to come to the United States and play professional baseball. This point of common passion would serve as an opening from which to improve the relationship between the two countries.
Discussions about Venezuela are frequently shaded by how someone feels about Hugo Chávez. Because of his efforts to nationalize various industries in Venezuela and his friendship with Fidel Castro many people paint Chávez as a populist dictator. Congressman Serrano disagrees with this assessment and believes that the United States should encourage popularly elected officials throughout Latin America, even when we disagree with their policies. He thinks that it is important to let the Venezuelan people run their own affairs and that the United States should respect the results of widely accepted democratic elections. He emphasizes that Chávez is a democratically elected leader and he and his party have won a series of competitive elections since 1999.
In December 2007, following this string of electoral victories, Chavez lost a referendum on a slate of Constitutional amendments that he had strongly supported. Without exercising his right to challenge a close vote, Chávez accepted the results and began trying to work with his opponents to resolve their differences over certain amendments. Congressman Serrano pointed out that it would be an unusual kind of dictator who would not only lose an election, but who would then accept the results.
Even after this electoral loss, Congressman Serrano remains concerned that people continue to portray Chávez as a dictator and are trying to lump Venezuela together with other countries deemed to be enemies of the United States. He believes that such an attitude is counterproductive to our interests in Latin America and to the welfare of the people in Venezuela. He believes that this policy will not force Venezuela to changes its policies, but will only encourage the government of Venezuela to work more closely with these countries. Instead of alienating Venezuelans by lecturing them on their behavior he believes that the United States should work on reaching out to the Venezuelan people and should encourage the steps they take towards having a more democratic society, even when their elections result in leaders we dislike.
In addition to his concerns about the US policy towards Venezuela, Congressman Serrano has applauded the efforts of the Venezuelan government to improve the lives of people living on low incomes, both in Venezuela and elsewhere. In particular he helped initiate the program by CITGO, the American subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróles de Venezuela, S.A., to provide discounted heating oil to low income residents of the Bronx since 2005. Congressman Serrano is pleased that CITGO continues this and other programs to give back to the community and help the people in the Bronx.
More on Latin America
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Introduces Hardest Hit Act with Rep. Clarke and Rep. Meeks to Address Public Housing Crisis
Congressman Serrano, Representatives Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) and Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), introduced legislation to provide public housing, foreclosure mitigation, and rental assistance grants through the United States Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) with supplemental funding for state public housing authorities to ensure Americans have access to affordable housing.
Washington, DC –Today, Representatives José E.
Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano today released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from El Salvador. Last year, President Trump also terminated the TPS program for Nicaragua and Haiti.
Washington, DC – Congressman Serrano, Ranking Member of the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Grace Meng, a member of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau and the Department of Justice, today released the following statement in response to reports that the Department of Justice has proposed including a new question in the next Census asking household members’ citizenship status.
Washington, DC – Bronx Representatives Serrano, Espaillat, Crowley and Engel today sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to prioritize LGBTQ community needs as he plans for his second term as Mayor. Among the recommendations, the members emphasized the need to open an LGBT community center in the Bronx – the only borough that doesn’t currently have one.
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Questions Small Business Administration and General Services Administration Executives on Puerto Rico
Washington, DC – Congressman Serrano today released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Temporary Protected Status program that temporarily gives asylum to and protect immigrants from Nicaragua, and to leave TPS holders from Honduras in limbo. Both countries that have been affected by natural disasters in recent years and economic difficulties.
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Fight for Puerto Rico In the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria
Washington, DC –Congressman José E. Serrano today led eight Members of Congress in sending a letter to Secretary Price and Assistant Secretary Kadlec of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ask for an immediate increase in resources to address the emerging public health emergency in Puerto Rico. Serrano was joined on the letter by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, Congressman Darren Soto, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Congresswoman Grace Meng, and Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy.
September 20, 2017, BRONX, NY—Congressman José E. Serrano and Legal Services NYC are pleased to announce that Project Not Alone, a collaborative effort between Bronx Legal Services and Sauti Yetu Center for African Women & Families, has been awarded a competitive grant for continued funding to provide holistic legal and social services for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in the Bronx.