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Garamendi goes to South America

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From page A3 | February 20, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Rep. John Garamendi began a five-day trip Tuesday to Cartagena, Colombia – travel paid for by the Aspen  Institute Congressional Program.

“There’s no taxpayer money involved,” said Donald Lathbury, spokesman for Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. “We think most of his constituents want their congressman to stay informed.”

Travel Garamendi undertakes is for a purpose, Lathbury said.

“These are serious trips funded by serious organizations,” he said.

“The congressman believes the most dangerous thing in Congress is ignorance,” he said. “It’s helpful for members of Congress to see the world.”

The National Journal, a Washington, D.C. based-publication whose website states the Journal is “scrupulously nonpartisan,” reported the travel to Colombia by Garamendi and a dozen other congressional representatives, including Californians George Miller, D-Martinez, Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Republican representatives from Nebraska and Virginia are also listed as traveling to Cartagena.

The Journal said the State Department warns about the hazards of U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia, but the Journal noted a Colombian national tourism promotion proclaims, “the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Travel by Garamendi in 2013 cost private sponsors about $70,000 the most spending on trips for any U.S. congressional representative. He traveled last year with his wife to Sudan in February, Turkey in April and Ethiopia in August – trips Garamendi’s office has said provided “valuable opportunities to advance America’s foreign policy and national security.”

State Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica, who’s running against Garamendi to represent the 3rd District in Congress, said of the Colombian travel that, “I guess he wants to maintain his No. 1 ranking.”

“I don’t think he realizes that it’s an issue,” Logue said of Garamendi’s trips.

“It sends the wrong message that Congress is detached,” he said. “We have enough problems at home.”

Logue cited California’s high unemployment and the drought as among issues that face the state.

David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University, said of Garamendi’s trip this week that, “You wouldn’t do that if you thought you were in electoral peril.”

“He doesn’t feel threatened by his current opponent – not yet,” McCuan said.

Other representatives from California traveling to the Caribbean are Democrats holding safe seats and enjoy “a lot of electoral security,” McCuan said.

Referring to Garamendi as first among congressional representatives in privately sponsored travel in 2013, McCuan said, “The smart politics is to pause and move down the list.”

“He’s not a rookie,” McCuan said of Garamendi. “He knows how the game is played.”

The professor said of the Colombian trip that, “educational opportunity is how, I’m sure, the congressman and his staff would portray it.” But everybody else calls it a junket, McCuan said.

“The congressional junket is one of the last remaining visible vestiges of a kind of old-style politics,” McCuan said.

Monica Brown, vice chairwoman of the Solano County Central Democratic Committee, spoke about Garamendi’s roles as lieutenant governor, state insurance commissioner and now congressman.

“I trust John,” she said. “He’s one of the most honorable men I’ve ever met.”

“If he says he needs to go,” Brown said of the travel, “then it’s fine in my book.”

The website for the Aspen Institute Congressional Program states former U.S. Sen. Dick Clark established the program in 1983 and describes the effort as a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the U.S. Congress.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • The MisterFebruary 20, 2014 - 5:56 am

    Makes you wonder what interests he's representing from Columbia. What tie could there be between Columbia and his district?

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  • Suisun1February 20, 2014 - 8:03 am

    Thank you Congressman Garamendi for your leadership on humanitarian issues that the rest of America's leaders seem to have forgotten about. You are demonstrating that your compassion doesn't end at your Congressional district borders (Mr. Logue - take note). South Sudan is the world's newest country, emerging out of 20+ years of civil war and roughly 2,000,000 casualties. Diplomacy and targeted foreign aid is better than exhausting out military resources. You'll be getting my vote again!

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  • George Guynn, JrFebruary 20, 2014 - 8:39 am

    The Mister, as I am sure you know, most illegals vote Democratic. Maybe Tax and Spend a Mendi wants more illegals to make sure he gets re-elected!

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  • Donald LathburyFebruary 20, 2014 - 9:21 am

    For those interested, below is the complete itinerary as provided by the Aspen Institute. Latin America’s Changing Economies, Societies and Politics: Opportunities and Challenges for the United States February 18-23, 2014 Cartagena, Colombia TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18 All participants arrive in Cartagena 7:00-9:30 pm Working Dinner Scholars and Members of Congress will explore topics covered in the conference. Seating is arranged to expose participants to a diverse range of views and provide opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Scholars and lawmakers are rotated daily. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19 8:00-9:00 am Breakfast 9:00 am Welcome and Framework of the Conference Dan Glickman, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Congressional Program 9:15 am Latin America’s Growing Economies: Effects for the U.S. from Main Street to Wall Street With some 500 million people, 8 percent of the world’s GDP, and a rapidly expanding consumer class, Latin America’s economies are increasingly important in their own right. U.S. trade with the region now tops over $800 billion (compared to $500 billion with China), over half of it with Mexico alone. This back and forth has grown at a faster clip than many other regions around the world—including Asia. Yet other countries are making substantial economic inroads— including China, Europe, and many nations’ regional neighbors. As the United States looks to boost exports—creating jobs and benefiting U.S. companies—Latin America will be a crucial part of the equation. * How have U.S.-Latin America trade relations changed over the past three decades? * Now twenty years on, how should we assess NAFTA? * How would the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership affect economic ties with Latin America? * How can the U.S. economy benefit from Latin America’s growing middle class? * What are China’s interests in Latin America, and how might they affect the United States? Jorge Suárez-Vélez, Partner, SP Capital International, New York Luis Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank 10:45 am Break 11:00 am Session resumes 1:00-2:30 pm Working Lunch Discussion continues between Members of Congress and scholars on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in Latin America. 2:30-6:30 pm Site visit to the Cartagena port. 7:00-9:30 pm Working Dinner Scholars and Members of Congress will explore topics covered in the conference. Seating is arranged to expose participants to a diverse range of views and provide opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Scholars and lawmakers are rotated daily. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20 8:00-9:00 Breakfast 9:00 am Latin America’s Evolving Democracies: Gains, Stagnation, and Backsliding Many Latin American countries have made successful strides in consolidating democratic institutions, broadening economy opportunities and better serving their citizens—admirably promoting both political and social inclusiveness in recent years. Yet in other places, there have been challenges to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and even questions about the free and fair nature of elections. The test for the United States will be finding a way to work with all of these nations— their governments, civil societies, and private sectors—to further national interests while also helping to expand and strengthen political opportunities and institutions. * How can the United States best support democratic reformers throughout the region? * How should the United States engage countries with which it currently has tense relations (e.g. Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Cuba)? * How should the United States work with regional bodies, such as the OAS, to support democratic institutions and human rights across the region? * What are the best ways for the United States government to engage with Latin American civil societies and private sectors? * How can the United States best support freedom of the press across the region? Cynthia Arnson, Director, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson Center Washington, DC George Gray Molina, Chief Economist and Regional Bureau Chief for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Development Program, New York 10:45 am Break 11:00 am Session resumes 1:00-2:30 pm Working Lunch Discussion continues between Members of Congress and scholars on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in Latin America. 3:00-4:00 pm Individual Discussions Meetings will be scheduled between Members of Congress and individual scholars to discuss U.S. foreign policy. Scholars to meet with Members of Congress include Cynthia Arnson and George Molina for in-depth discussion of ideas raised in the morning and luncheon sessions. 5:30-6:30 pm Meeting with Colombia-based Peace Corps volunteers 7:00-9:30 pm Working Dinner Scholars and Members of Congress will explore topics covered in the conference. Seating is arranged to expose participants to a diverse range of views and provide opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Scholars and lawmakers are rotated daily. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21 8:00-9:00 am Breakfast 9:00 am Latin America’s Security Challenges: Drugs, Crime and Violence and their Relevance for U.S. Policy Though the vast majority of Latin American countries are not involved in military conflicts, the region has one of the highest rates of violence in the world, and the current trends are worrisome. Eight of the ten countries with the world’s highest homicide rates are in Latin America or the Caribbean, and the region’s homicide rates have doubled since the 1980s. Non-lethal crimes, such as assault, extortion, and theft are also high. In part, this reflects drug trafficking, but it is also indicative of weak police forces, justice systems, and rule of law more generally. Given the economic, political, and personal ties between the United States and Latin America, and the U.S role as the world’s largest illegal drug consumer, the improvement of the security situation is of vital importance. * How has violence in Latin America evolved over the past three decades? * How does insecurity affect Latin America’s economic, democratic, and human rights sectors more broadly? * What type of responsibility should the United States assume for the violence? How has its approach to addressing violence in Latin America changed? * How can the United States better work with our partners across the region to improve the security situation? * What are the lessons to be drawn from Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative (with Mexico)? Rafael Fernandez de Castro, Chair, Department of International Studies, Instituto Technológico Autónomo de México, Mexico City Frank Mora, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Center, Miami 10:45 am Break 11:00 am Session resumes 1:00-2:30 pm Working Lunch Discussion continues between Members of Congress and scholars on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in Latin America. 3:00-4:00 pm Individual Discussions Meetings will be scheduled between Members of Congress and individual scholars to discuss U.S. foreign policy. Scholars to meet with Members of Congress include Rafael Fernandez de Castro and Frank Mora for in-depth discussion of ideas raised in the morning and luncheon sessions. 7:00-9:30 pm Working Dinner Scholars and Members of Congress will explore topics covered in the conference. Seating is arranged to expose participants to a diverse range of views and provide opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Scholars and lawmakers are rotated daily. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22 8:00-9:00 am Breakfast 9:00 am Immigration: How Changing Demographics May Reshape the U.S. Policy Debate There are some 18 million Latin American migrants that call the United States home, and 33 million more second-, third-, fourth-, or fifth- generation Hispanics. Migration from Latin America accelerated through the end of the twentieth and start of the twenty-first century, driven largely by economics, demographics, and established migrant networks, which helped to integrate new immigrants into the labor force and their new communities. The flows of the past though are slowing, and at least in the case of Mexico— the largest sender—inflows have dropped off so dramatically that they are now at a net zero flow (meaning that the inflows are cancelled out by those leaving). But with Latinos currently accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population and half of the United States recent population growth, Hispanics will play an increasingly significant role in U.S. politics. * What are the factors behind slowing Latin American immigration to the United States? * How might the growing Latino electorate affect U.S. politics in the future? Are they too diverse to form a cohesive voting bloc? * How can the United States leverage these community ties to deepen its relationship with the region? Edward Alden, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC Jason Marczak, Deputy Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center The Atlantic Council, Washington, DC 10:45 am Break 11:00 am Energy: Latin America’s Growing Heft in Global Markets Latin America already supplies more oil to the United States than the Middle East, and the discovery of new unconventional energy sources in several Latin American countries could shift the global geostrategic energy balance. The development of shale oil and gas as well as deep water oil reserves signals a vast change in the access, money, and influence of many Latin American nations (and the Western Hemisphere more broadly) on world energy markets. Latin America is also endowed with substantial renewable energy resources, from hydropower to wind, solar, geothermal energies, and biofuels, and, in many places, provides an example for cleaner energy mixes. This diverse and growing energy base can help support economic growth while also decreasing emissions and fostering greater energy security for the entire hemisphere. * What are the prospects that Latin America can responsibly develop its resources and avoid “Dutch Disease” ( the economic relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector) * How are Western Hemisphere energy markets evolving? * How can and will these new energy sources affect Latin America’s development and relationship with the United States? * How will the inflow of energy related money affect the economies of Latin America (can they avoid “Dutch Disease”)? How will it affect politics (will we see more or less energy related nationalism)? * How can the United States work with Latin America to confront climate change? Nancy Brune, Executive Director, Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, Las Vegas 1:00-2:30 pm Working Lunch Discussion continues between Members of Congress and scholars on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in Latin America. 3:00-4:00 pm Individual Discussions Meetings will be scheduled between Members of Congress and individual scholars to discuss U.S. foreign policy. Scholars to meet with Members of Congress include Edward Alden, Jason Marczak and Nancy Brune for in-depth discussion of ideas raised in the morning and luncheon sessions. 7:00-9:30 pm Working Dinner Scholars and Members of Congress will explore topics covered in the conference. Seating is arranged to expose participants to a diverse range of views and provide opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Scholars and lawmakers are rotated daily. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 American participants return to the United States Additional Resource Participants: Carolina Barco, former Colombian Ambassador to the United States, Inter-American Development Bank, Cartagena Shannon O’Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, New York Rodrigo Pardo Garcia-Peña, former Colombian Foreign Minister, RCN Television, Bogotá Ivan Rebolledo, Managing Partner TerraNova Strategic Partners, New York

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