Egypt’s al-Sisi Must Pardon 43 NGO Workers Convicted in Sham Political Trial and Demonstrate a Commitment to Work for an Inclusive Society that Respects Human Rights, Says Ros-Lehtinen
“The fight for civil society, democracy and governance, rule of law and human rights in Egypt is nowhere near over ... the U.S. will not continue to provide assistance unconditionally and disregard human rights conditions”
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a subcommittee hearing titled: “The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt.” Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“Egypt has long been considered a key state for U.S. national security objectives in the Middle East and North Africa, and for over 30 years our two nations have shared strategic military and political cooperation.
For its part, Egypt reached a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and since then, the United States has provided Egypt with billions of dollars in military and economic assistance. In return, Egypt keeps the peace with its neighbor and our strategic ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel, and it also provides us with access to the Suez Canal that gives us a critical route for transit between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean.
But today’s Egypt isn’t the Egypt of 1979 or even 2009; when the Arab Spring began, few thought Mubarak would fall. Mubarak was forced to step down and Egypt was finally able to begin the transition toward freedom and democracy.
But Egypt was a society that never had any experience with democracy. There was no foundation for democracy and governance, civil society, rule of law in Egypt – there were just millions of Egyptians who knew they wanted something better, and they just didn’t know how to achieve it.
Perhaps sensing that the time to open Egyptian society was near, the United States government began to fund democracy and governance programs in Egypt a little over a decade ago. What started out as a relatively modest program with lofty goals and objectives, the Arab Spring of 2011 and the Egyptian street’s response proved there was indeed the need and the desire for such programs in Egypt. That year the U.S. government increased our funding for democracy and governance from $13 million in fiscal year 2010 to $72 million in fiscal year 2011.
Due to the ongoing unrest that later became the Egyptian Revolution, the Egyptian government began to strongly object to some of the U.S. government’s planned democracy and governance programs, and the Ministry of Justice began targeting our implementing partners in Egypt.
Then in December of 2011, Egyptian authorities raided the offices of 17 local and foreign NGOs, including 4 American NGOs who were implementing U.S. funded programs - Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).
43 of the employees of these NGOs were arrested and they were charged with operating offices in Egypt without being registered and receiving foreign funds without the approval of the Egyptian government. Despite the ever changing and fragile state of Egypt’s transition to democracy from the time of the arrest until the time they were convicted in June of last year, the one constant that remained was that these 43 individuals were pawns in a politically motivated dispute between the Egyptian and the U.S. government.
The NGOs were merely doing their job and operating how they believed to be in accordance with Egyptian law, yet they were arrested, they were tried; they were convicted in a politically motivated operation. And many people may think because we got the Americans out of the country and back to the United States that their struggles are over, but that is not remotely the case.
This conviction has loomed over their heads like the sword of Damocles, as they have to live their lives in constant worry of the repercussions. That is why in June of 2013, my colleague Gerry Connolly and I requested that GAO conduct a review of U.S. economic and security assistance to Egypt. GAO will present today their findings of the first phase of their report that deals with the NGO and civil society issues.
Today’s hearing is important to tell their stories and let us know how this has impacted the lives of these 43 and their families, and how it has impacted the U.S. democracy and governance programs in Egypt and elsewhere. Our witnesses deserve to be heard, we need to hear their story.
Because the fight for civil society, the fight for democracy and governance, rule of law and human rights in Egypt is nowhere near over; the transition to democracy is still fragile, and al-Sisi has a long hard row ahead. One of the easiest ways that he can prove to Egyptians and the U.S. that he is serious about this task is to immediately and unconditionally pardon the 43 NGO workers.
We have seen mass arrests and we’ve already seen journalists from al-Jazeera arrested and sentenced to 7-10 years in jail. These are not signs of an open and inclusive society that respects human rights; just because Egypt lives up to its obligations under the peace treaty with Israel doesn’t mean that the United States will continue to provide assistance unconditionally and disregard human rights conditions because we will not do that.
While we recognize Egypt’s commitment to the Sinai and security threats, there must be an improvement in Egypt’s human rights record and its must take steps to advance the aspirations of the people of Egypt toward democracy.”
High School Student App Developers Harness Their Imagination and Tech Skills in First-Ever Congressional STEM Competition, Ros-Lehtinen Reveals Her 2014 Winners
"The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields will continue to grow in importance to our local economy, and we need more young people to pursue high paying and high producing STEM careers. All of these incredible high school student finalists should be proud of their tremendous accomplishments – I am certain that these young South Floridians will likely be among the next generation’s leaders as the new high tech economy continues to emerge."
Miami, Florida – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is proud to announce the high school student winners for Florida’s 27th Congressional District in this year’s first-ever Congressional STEM Competition. This annual event is designed to promote innovation and engagement in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. This year’s competition - the House App Challenge – had students compete by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app,” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice. Humbert Torres was selected as the overall district winner; his “Anatomy Academy” app will be exhibited in the U.S. Capitol Building along with other district winners from across the nation. Second place was awarded to Javelis Ruiz for “Pond Add-venture”, and Brian Mugica earned third place with “Alien Operations on Digiterra”. Honorable mentions were also given to the following students: Jonathan Perdomo, Alexander Perez, Anthony Perez, and Thomas Shelow.
The competition was open to all high school students in the 27th District and all submissions were judged by a panel of local technology and education experts including Miami-Dade County Public School’s Cristy Charters, Miami-Dade College’s Jack Lusby, and Florida International University’s Michael Robinson. Twenty-one finalists, including the winners, will be recognized in the fall by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in South Florida following the start of the new school year. The majority of finalists were enrolled in Miami Springs Senior High School’s iTECH Academy under the leadership of Principal Ed Smith and iTECH Director Rene Barge.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“I was excited to have students from South Florida participate in the first-ever Congressional STEM Competition. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields will continue to grow in importance to our local economy, and we need more young people to pursue high paying and high producing STEM careers. All of these incredible high school student finalists should be proud of their tremendous accomplishments – I am certain that these young South Floridians will likely be among the next generation’s leaders as the new high tech economy continues to emerge. I encourage our whole community to join me in congratulating Humbert, Javelis, Brian, Jonathan, Alexander, Anthony, and Thomas, and the rest of our very deserving finalists on their outstanding creativity, programming skills, and hard work.”
Joint Statement by U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Continuing Human Rights Violations in Venezuela
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) made the following statement regarding continuing human rights violations in Venezuela. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen and Wasserman Schultz:
“We remain extremely concerned about human rights violations in Venezuela and stand in support of Leopoldo Lopez and the more than 100 political prisoners of conscience who are wrongly being detained by the Maduro regime. Yesterday’s sham trial is indicative of the corrupt judicial system in Venezuela that is being used to silence freedom loving individuals who seek justice. It is clear that Leopoldo and hundreds of others are being held in prison on trumped up and politically motivated charges and they must be released immediately. Their only 'crime’ is bravely standing up to an authoritarian regime and demanding freedom and democratic change.
“While the Maduro regime continues to take steps to silence the opposition we will continue to be a voice for those who are trying to be stand up for a just and free Venezuela. Lastly, the Maduro regime must be held accountable for its actions, and we continue our call for targeted sanctions against those individuals perpetrating crimes against Venezuelan citizens.”
2206 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
I am proud to represent Florida’s 27th Congressional District, a diverse area which includes Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Hialeah, Key Biscayne, Little Havana, Miami, Pinecrest, South Miami, and Westchester.
I was born in Havana, Cuba on July 1952. At the age of eight, my family and I were forced to flee from the oppressive communist regime of Fidel Castro. We settled in Miami and put down permanent roots in our community. I attended Southside Elementary School in Little Havana, West Miami Junior High, and Southwest High School. In the years following, I earned an Associate of Arts degree from Miami-Dade Community College in 1972, Bachelors and Masters Degree in Education from Florida International University in 1975 and 1985 respectively, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Miami in 2004. I consider education a lifelong journey.
I began my career as a Florida certified teacher. I also founded and served as the principal and teacher of a private bilingual elementary school in Hialeah. I was inspired to enter public service by many of the parents and students; to fight on their behalf for a stronger educational system, lower taxes, and a brighter economic future.
In 1982 I was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives and the Florida Senate in 1986, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve in either body. In the state legislature I authored the Florida Prepaid College Plan, which is now the largest pre paid college tuition program in the nation. More than one million Florida families have used this program to send their children to college.
I was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1989– the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress–following a special election to fill the seat held by the late Claude Pepper. I have been strongly returned to Congress since, winning 60% of the vote in 2012.
To this day, I remain committed to improving the lives of my constituents and our beautiful South Florida community. As the economy remains a pressing issue, I support reducing taxes and cutting back unnecessary government spending. I also support plans to balance the federal budget and increase tax incentives for small businesses and middle class families. South Florida has also felt the devastating effects of the housing crisis. I have fought to end predatory lending practices by mortgage companies and extend the first time homebuyers tax credit.
Given my background in education, I have worked to strengthen the Head Start program. I have also supported legislation to increase the availability to student financial aid and revise the cumbersome and complicated Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) process.
I am a strong advocate of programs that address the serious problem of domestic violence against women. I was a lead sponsor of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which increases resources towards the prosecution of domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault. I also support legislation to increase criminal penalties for perpetrators of Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud is a deplorable practice which robs hardworking seniors of the benefits they spent a lifetime earning, while also wasting billions in taxpayer dollars.
As the wife of a Vietnam veteran and step-mother to Marine aviators, I am passionate about improving our nation’s military, safeguarding veteran’s health care, and ensuring that returning veterans have access to a college education. I have been an outspoken critic of the Miami VA’s recent failures to notify veterans who were at risk of infection, due to contaminated colonoscopy equipment. I also authored legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). These women pioneers had been denied recognition for their service during World War II.
I am Chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and am now Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. In this role, I continue to voice my strong support for the state of Israel and human rights, including my opposition to Castro’s dictatorial regime in Cuba. I have also led on pressing foreign policy issues including the fight against Islamist extremism, and support of free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.
I also serve as a member of the House Committee on Rules. This Committee decides what legislation makes it to the House floor and its members are chosen by the Speaker of the House. My priorities as a member of this Committee is to get our nation’s economy back on track and ensure passage of legislation that betters the state of our nation.
I am the proud wife to Dexter Lehtinen, mother and step-mother to 4 adult children, and grandmother to two beautiful baby girls – Morgan Elizabeth and Caroline Grace.
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