MIAMI – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement calling on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Obama administration to hold the Maduro regime accountable for ending the referendum campaign in Venezuela, persecuting the opposition, and widespread human rights violations.
“The Maduro regime’s decision to halt the referendum campaign and further persecute the opposition is a direct assault on democracy and the fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people. Rule of law, judicial institutions, independent media and civil society have been assailed, while opposition leaders are repressed and imprisoned. The laws passed by the National Assembly are systematically ignored.
“Following numerous failures of diplomacy and dialogue, these and other egregious violations constitute an impairment of democratic and constitutional order which demands immediate consequences under the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The OAS Secretary General already invoked Article 20 of the Charter in May and issued a scathing report condemning the Maduro regime’s mounting failures. His report recommended that a referendum take place this year. However, little action was taken by the OAS members and the situation in Venezuela has further declined.
“At the OAS, the United States should demand measures to hold the Maduro regime accountable, and restore democracy and constitutional order in Venezuela. In the U.S., the Obama administration must vigorously enforce sanctions provided by Congress in the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, which Congress extended earlier this year. As the act provides, anyone who participates in human rights abuses must face tough consequences.
“The Maduro regime has propelled a once prosperous nation into a downward spiral that is having calamitous consequences for the Venezuelan people. Sadly, the resource-rich nation of Venezuela is suffering from a rapidly contracting economy with skyrocketing inflation that has compounded the Venezuelan people’s suffering. By blocking the referendum and cracking down on the opposition, the Maduro regime shows that it is exceedingly weak and would not survive a challenge. We must not allow this blatant power grab and shameful assault on democracy to stand.”
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) today sent a letter to President Obama, stating their profound concern regarding the recent Presidential Policy Directive with the communist Castro regime in Cuba. On October 14, the President issued the directive to ease the economic embargo between America and Cuba. The directive is an overreach of Executive authority regarding congressionally-enacted sanctions with Cuba, and it contradicts America’s commitment to human rights.
A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text is below:
October 21, 2016
President Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our profound concern regarding your recent Presidential Policy Directive which further seeks to weaken the congressionally-enacted sanctions against the communist Castro regime. These changes, which your Administration alleges are intended to “help create more economic opportunity,” circumvent current law yet again and sidestep Congress and the American people.
Since you laid out your vision for reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, human rights conditions in the country have worsened. As former Treasury official and executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, Mauricio Claver-Carone, noted in front of the House Committee on Agriculture in September, political arrests in Cuba have intensified, Internet connectivity has dropped, and religious freedom violations have increased tenfold since the policy change was announced. The on-island Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, documented 8,616 political arrests in 2015, and 8,505 political arrests through September of this year. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition last year. In just the first half of 2016, CSW documented 1,606 separate violations of religious freedom in Cuba. Additionally, several of the prisoners released by Cuba as part of the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations were rearrested with even longer prison sentences, according to your State Department’s own human rights report. It is also deeply disturbing that many pro-democracy women activists, such as the Ladies in White, are routinely imprisoned.
Furthermore, the Castro regime has shown no inclination to end its rogue, anti-American activities. It was caught be smuggling 240 tons of military weapons to North Korea in 2013, which a U.N. panel of experts determined was the largest violation of sanctions against that country to date. The Castro regime in August and September 2016 deepened ties with Iran, and has allowed Russian spy ships to dock from its territory. Russia also announced earlier this month that it is considering opening a military base in Cuba. The Director of National Intelligence, General James R. Clapper, testified in February 2016 before the Senate Armed Services committee that the Castro dictatorship remained an espionage threat on par with Iran, behind only China and Russia.
As the American people rightly have many questions regarding your continued circumvention of the congressionally-enacted embargo on Cuba, we respectfully request you provide an answer in writing to the following questions no later than October 31, 2016:
You have made it clear that you oppose current U.S. law in regard to sanctions against the Castro regime. However, absent further action by Congress, it is imperative that your administration act in a way that is consistent with the laws passed by the American people’s representatives in Congress and signed into law by a previous president. We encourage you and your administration, in the waning days of your presidency, to provide at least as much transparency and engagement with the U.S. Congress as you apparently have cultivated with the Castro dictatorship.
United States Senator
United States Congressman
 https://www.aei.org/publication/iranian-envoy-shoring-up-ties-on-us-doorstep/; http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2016-09-19/iran-leader-meets-with-fidel-castro-during-stop-in-havana
 http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/16-02-09-worldwide-threats, at approximately the 37-minute mark.
MIAMI—Congressman Diaz-Balart (FL-25)released the following statement after the Obama Administration announced further concessions to encourage business with the Castro Dictatorship.
"Once again, the Obama administration seeks to appease the Castro dictators with weakened sanctions, and justifies the policy by conflating the Cuban people with the brutal dictatorship that oppresses them. It is false to pretend that doing business with the Castro regime helps the Cuban people. Instead, and in contravention of U.S. law, the new regulations provide a boost to the Castro brothers’ state-owned monopolies.
Right now, the American people are preparing to exercise the fundamental right to vote. In contrast, the illegitimate Castro regime will continue to suppress expression, tighten its grip on power, and harass, beat, detain, and imprison pro-democracy activists. Just last month, there were 570 documented political arrests in Cuba, for a total of at least 8,505 so far this year. President Obama should pursue a policy that empowers the Cuban people and encourages pro-democracy activists, rather than enriching and embracing those who oppress them.”
MIAMI – Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) released the following statement after sending a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting that recently appropriated Zika funds be disbursed immediately to affected areas, including Florida. Miami-Dade County is the first confirmed location of local transmission in the continental United States. Read the letter, which was led by Diaz-Balart, here.
Rep. Diaz-Balart: “South Florida is ground zero for the local transmission of the Zika virus in the continental United States, and I’m working to ensure that adequate federal resources are part of the response. Now that Congress has appropriated funds to fight the Zika virus, we cannot allow the money to sit unspent. Both the state of Florida and Miami-Dade County have spent millions in Zika response, and federal dollars are urgently needed to continue these prevention and treatment programs. By collaborating with HHS, we can make sure these funds are disbursed immediately to the most affected areas. Together, local, state, and federal governments can work towards the eradication of this dangerous disease.”
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: “Our South Florida Congressional delegation worked together to secure more than $1 billion in critical federal funding to fight the Zika epidemic plaguing our community. However, our community remains ground zero for the local transmission of Zika in the United States. The federal government must do more to ensure an efficient and quick disbursement of funds to best aid South Florida in the fight against this threat. It is crucial that some of those funds go to reimburse our local governments that took the lead on Zika prevention and eradication efforts at a time when the federal government was paralyzed by political posturing.”
Rep. Curbelo: “It is imperative that resources be directed toward the state of Florida as soon as possible to eradicate the Zika virus. As ground zero for local transmission, Florida must have the necessary tools to prevent the spread of the virus, which has been linked to devastating health conditions. I am proud of the efforts by local leaders, and I am pleased to join my colleagues to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to quickly disburse these funds.”
Rep. Wilson: “Until the Zika virus ceases to exist or there is a vaccine available to prevent another outbreak, efforts to educate our constituents, treat those who’ve been infected, and combat the virus must move at full speed. That cannot happen without adequate resources, which should be disbursed as quickly as possible. In addition, the local governments and organizations that stretched their resources to the limit during the past several months working so hard on every aspect of fighting the virus, from outreach to education to treatment, need to be reimbursed as soon as possible. Wynwood is in my district, so I witnessed firsthand the adverse effect Zika had on my constituents’ physical and economic well-being. As the epicenter of the virus in South Florida, this community has suffered enough and will greatly benefit from the good these funds will do as it continues to rebound.”
MIAMI – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement after Miami-Dade County was awarded a $960,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Pilot Program for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Planning. In August, Diaz-Balart spoke with DOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez to express his strong support for Miami-Dade’s application. Diaz-Balart serves as the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and is the most recent South Floridian to hold that powerful post since former Congressman Bill Lehman, who served until 1993.
“I am pleased to announce that Miami-Dade County was awarded close to a million dollars towards transit oriented development planning along the East-West Transit Corridor. These federal resources can be used to further integrate land use policies and identify multi-modal infrastructure needs for transit oriented development along the corridor. The East-West Corridor is a critical component of the Miami-Dade County’s Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, and can provide South Floridians with additional transportation options along State Road 836. As a senior member of the influential Appropriations Committee, I'm committed to continuing working together with Miami-Dade leadership so that we can better position our community to compete for vital and much needed transportation dollars.”
"I commend Mayor Gimenez, Transportation Chairman Bovo, and Transit Director Bravo for working towards innovative transportation solutions, and I look forward to continuing working with them.”
Miami-Dade County’s project was selected competitively for a total cost of $1.2 million with an 80% federal & 20% local cost share.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement after the passage of H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA).
“I am pleased to have supported this legislation that invests in our nation’s water infrastructure projects. Across the country, our ports and waterways play a vital role in the economy, as well as in providing a safe and reliable source of drinking water for our communities. As Co-Chair of the Everglades Caucus, I worked with my colleagues to ensure inclusion of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), keeping critical Everglades restoration and preservation projects on track. The Picayune Strand restoration project was also included, assisting with water flow throughout Southwest Florida and benefiting wildlife habitats and the local ecosystem. Additionally, Port Everglades will be deepened, bringing more jobs and commerce to South Florida, while expanding one of our busiest ports to accommodate more cruise and cargo ships.
“I’d like to thank Speaker Ryan and Chairman Shuster for their leadership on this issue, and for prioritizing our waterways and ecosystems for a stronger economy.”
The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 includes the following items that directly impact South Florida:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement after the passage of H.R. 5325, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, which included Zika funding and a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open.
“As the number of Zika cases in Florida continues to rise, long-awaited federal funding will finally be provided. This is a tremendous victory for the South Florida delegation who has tirelessly worked together, from both sides of the aisle and both chambers, to raise the importance of this issue and help resolve it. I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to spread awareness about this critical issue and get the right amount of funding we need to fight Zika.
“I thank Speaker Ryan and Chairman Rogers for their leadership in these negotiations, and I look forward to the President signing this into law to quickly release federal funds.”
MIAMI – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement after Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez passed away in a boating accident early Sunday morning.
“I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez. The two-time All-Star had defected from the Castro regime with his mother nine years ago. I had the pleasure of meeting them both at a Three Kings Parade, and remember that moment fondly. My wife Tia and I send our condolences to his family who is suffering from this tragic loss.”
WASHINGTON – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement after the passage of H.R. 5931, the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act, which would prohibit all cash payments to Iran and demand transparency on any future settlements with Iran to ensure funds are not being used to pay ransom.
“This necessary legislation prohibits President Obama – or any future president – from paying ransom for hostages. President Obama's capitulations to the mullahs in Iran, including $1.7 billion in cash, have emboldened the terrorist state. The United States has a longstanding history of never paying for the release of hostages, and of not providing material support to terrorists. Yet President Obama has yielded on both and endangered Americans in doing so.
“President Obama has rewarded one of the world's most dangerous terrorist states with cash and legitimacy, and treated it as an equal rather than the pariah that it is. I commend Speaker Ryan and Chairman Royce for their leadership on this issue to ensure that the United States never pays cash to the regime in Iran in exchange for hostages.”
In addition, this week the House passed H.R. 5461, the Iranian Leadership Transparency Act. This bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to create and maintain a list of funds and assets held by senior Iranian political and military regime officials.
WASHINGTON – Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) released the following statement after meeting with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and City of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine regarding the continuing battle against the Zika virus in South Florida.
“This morning I met with Mayor Gimenez and my colleagues from Florida to discuss urgently-needed funding to address the growing crisis of Zika. Mayor Gimenez was able to speak to the conditions in South Florida, which has become ground zero for this disease. We all agree that funding needs to be passed as quickly as possible. I strongly believe that we need to provide every penny needed to fight this disease, and not one dollar less. This virus poses a threat to every Floridian, and I am confident we will be able to secure funding to protect the lives of unborn babies and their families,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart.
"South Florida is ground zero for Zika and we need Congress to step in to help us keep our millions of residents and visitors safe," said Mayor Gimenez. “I appreciate the full support of our state delegation as we continue to urge Congress to provide the funding our community urgently needs."
"With the rest of our Miami-Dade Congressional delegation, I will continue demanding that Congress set aside partisan politics and live up to its obligation to families and residents in South Florida by passing a comprehensive funding bill with no policy riders once and for all. Our community deserves better, the time for federal action is now. I have communicated to the leadership in the House my deep frustration with the paralysis of appropriating funds to fight this public health menace. Our South Florida Congressional delegation stands united in a bipartisan manner in our deep disappointment with the dysfunction of this broken system. We have been saying loud and clear: stop the political gamesmanship and pass a full funding Zika bill now. It is way overdue,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.
“Today’s meeting further proves that Florida legislators from both parties and elected leaders at all levels are taking this issue seriously. We have seen firsthand the impact of Zika on our neighborhoods. For Floridians it represents both an economic and public health threat. Today, we once again come together to urge Congress to pass a clean Zika bill to fund response efforts long-term, and I'm confident that the concerns of our South Florida community will soon be addressed,” said Rep. Curbelo.
"As I've advocated for months, along with my South Florida colleagues, we need a clean Zika funding bill to attack this crisis, and it is long past time for House Republican Leadership to stop playing politics with people's lives. We cannot allow extraneous political issues to interfere with our public health response - especially for a disease that overwhelmingly affects pregnant women and potential mothers-to-be," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
"It is important that legislators like Mayors Gimenez and Levine today, and Governor Scott last week, are coming to Washington to discuss our efforts to end the spread of Zika and join Florida’s congressional delegation in the fight for a clean bill to swat, drain and repel this terrible virus," said Congresswoman Wilson. "We are excited about the lifting of the travel advisory for Wynwood, which is in my district, but our work isn't done until we have ended the Zika threat. I remain committed to passing a clean Zika bill and securing the funding needed to achieve our goal,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson.
436 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Mario Diaz-Balart is currently fulfilling his 6th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the beginning of the 112th Congress, Diaz-Balart was asked to serve on one of the most prestigious committees: House Committee on Appropriations. As part of the House Committee on Appropriations, he sits on three of its subcommittees: State and Foreign Operations, Commerce, Justice, and Science, and as Vice-Chair of Financial Services.
Diaz-Balart was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 to represent Florida’s 25th Congressional district, which at the time, covered portions of Miami-Dade County, Collier County, and Monroe County. Diaz-Balart continued to represent the three counties until 2010, when he ran unopposed for Florida’s 21st Congressional district. After the 2012 redistricting cycle, he ran for the newly redrawn 25th Congressional district, to which he was elected. The 25th district now includes parts of Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, and Hendry Counties.
Prior to his time in Congress, Diaz-Balart served 14 years in the Florida State Legislature in both chambers, House and Senate. At age 31, Diaz-Balart became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida Senate, as well as the first Hispanic to serve as Chair of the Combined Appropriations / Ways and Means / Finance and Tax Committee. During his tenure in the state legislature, he consistently ranked among the most effective legislators in Florida, developing a reputation as a budget hawk, and supporting minority voting rights.
In Washington, Diaz-Balart has worked tireless to make American homes and communities safer and stronger in the face of hurricanes and other natural disasters. In 2013, he introduced the Safe Building Code Incentive Act (H.R. 1878), legislation that would provide financial incentives to states that adopt and enforce nationally recognized model building codes. These states would also qualify for an additional 4 percent of funding for hazard mitigation grants. That same year, he introduced the Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act (H.R. 2241), which would incentivize home and building owners to utilize resilient construction methods when building and renovating home and commercial structures in federally declared disaster areas. Over the long run, both of these bills would save hard-earned taxpayer dollars and minimize the risk of property damage, but more importantly, would reduce the loss of life.
Diaz-Balart has also been a strong proponent of improving public safety and transportation. Throughout his tenure in Congress, Diaz-Balart has helped deliver millions of federal dollars for the I-75 widening project and Miami-Dade Transit. As a true South Floridian, the Everglades restoration has been an ongoing project for Diaz-Balart. As founder and co-chairman of the Everglades Caucus, he has consistently fought to secure billions for the overall restoration and prevented massive funding cuts in recent years. Diaz-Balart has promoted hurricane preparedness and ensured federal relief for Florida in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Rita.
Diaz-Balart was born on September 25, 1961 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Rafael and Hilda Diaz-Balart, and the youngest of four brothers (Rafael, Lincoln, and Jose). He studied Political Science at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Diaz-Balart currently resides in Miami, Florida with his wife and son.
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It was an honor to present Victor Valdes from Naples w a flag flown over the Capitol for many years of involvement… https://t.co/emq7uccCMH
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It was an honor to present Victor Valdes from Naples with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol for his many years of involvement and contributions
The Maduro regime’s decision to halt the referendum campaign and further persecute the opposition is a direct assault on democracy and the
Visited Rick Johnson Auto and Tire in Naples to meet with owners Rick and Rosie and discuss the #smallbiz issues affecting them.
Senator James Lankford and I sent a letter to President Obama expressing our deep concern over his latest Cuba policy directive. The directive
Met with Gayle, Charlotte, Fran, + Luba from Hadassah Collier/Lee about the work their organization is doing for women across the world #SWFL