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Video: Kaine Emphasizes Need to Strengthen Democratic Institutions and Rule of Law to Address Corruption and Migration During Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Hearing


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine—Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues—held a hearing on countering transnational criminal networks and corruption in the Western Hemisphere. He emphasized the importance of working with regional partners to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law to combat corruption as well as address the root causes of migration in the Western Hemisphere.

“Crime and corruption pose a growing and present threat to our friends across the hemisphere and to the safety and security of Americans right here at home. Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) use corruption, intimidation, and violence as tools to influence government officials and create a more favorable environment for illicit activities,” said Kaine.

Kaine continued, “We’ve seen time and again that this type of insidious erosion of public trust in government and democratic institutions has led directly to political instability and a surge in migration flows toward America’s southern border. It also creates avenues for encroachment by foreign adversaries like the PRC and Russia.”

“U.S. assistance and engagement are critical to countering these threats to our national security. We have an essential role to play in bolstering the stability of the region in the face of these challenges. Every crisis faced by the region and its people deeply and directly impacts the U.S.,” Kaine said. “It’s essential that we work in partnership with our neighbors to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

During the hearing, Kaine asked State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Chris Landberg about efforts by the U.S. and Mexico to counter fentanyl trafficking across the southern border. Kaine’s bipartisan bill to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing Pentagon tools like counter-drug intelligence and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the crisis and disrupt cartel activity was recently signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“The relationship with Mexico is key, and we are working with them on every level. We’re working with them internationally through the Global Coalition. We’re working with them trilaterally through the fentanyl commission with Canada and bilaterally,” said Landberg. “This is a shared burden… and we’re working very closely with them.”

Kaine also asked State Department Global Anti-Corruption Coordinator Richard Nephew about the progress of Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo’s anti-corruption efforts. In December 2023, Kaine led a congressional delegation to Guatemala. While the delegation was in Guatemala, the country’s Attorney General attempted to nullify the results of the country’s recent free and fair elections—prompting strong condemnation from the delegation before national and international press. Facing mounting pressure, including from the delegation, Guatemala’s private sector and the international community, former Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei was forced to distance himself from this brazen attempt to void the will of the Guatemalan people.

“It seems like we would have a lot at stake if we could help President Arevelo’s expressed desire to be an anti-corruption fighter see success because not only would it be great for Guatemala, but it would be an important example in the region that you can move out of patterns of corruption into a better day,” said Kaine.

“Our Guatemalan partners see the same things that we see—that corruption undermines investment in undermines opportunity undermines the ability of the population to really move forward. We heard a lot about their plans and their activities,” said Nephew. “We absolutely see the commitment, and we are making a commitment in turn to support them. And second, it is early days, but we are already seeing them focus on areas that would both be a high priority for anti-corruption and … for demonstrating that fighting corruption is beneficial for the economy.”

Kaine asked State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Mark Wells and Nephew about the effectiveness of sanctions in Nicaragua to pressure the Ortega regime to stop committing human rights violations against the Nicaraguan people. Kaine also asked about Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) involvement in human trafficking and migration and ways the U.S. can build capacity and strengthen rule of law to counter these TCOs. Finally, he asked about the ongoing dispute between Ecuador and Mexico. Ecuadorian police and armed forces raided Mexico’s embassy in Quito and arrested former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas last week.