US Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a combat veteran and senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on New Threats and Capabilities, recently led a congressional delegation to Panama and Colombia to meet senior executives in the Meet countries to discuss challenges and opportunities in the region, particularly those related to the United States’ southern border and other national security challenges. Ernst was supported by her compatriot from Iowan, Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) and Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.).
“As a former military commander and senior Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, I understand the importance of America having strong relationships with our allies and partners in Central and South America. Between the ongoing crisis on our southern border, which has exacerbated the drug trafficking challenges Iowa faces; the threat of growing Chinese influence in the region; and economic partnership and collaboration, particularly on supply chain disruptions, was a critical mission at the time, ”said Senator Ernst. “I was happy to have the support of my compatriot from Iowan, Rep. Randy Feenstra, and our colleague Rep. McClain on this mission as we work in Congress and with our partners in Panama and Colombia to meet the challenges that are facing us face our countries. ”
“Maintaining a strong trading partnership with our allies in Central and South America is critical to maintaining a resilient supply chain – especially at a time when disruption threatens a major global economic recovery. Enforcing national and cross-border safety laws that ensure the safety of our products and people is essential to ensure our supply chain continues to be strong. It is for this reason that I appreciate the opportunity to hear from key leaders in the region to learn more about the issues they are facing and how we can move forward together. I have been honored to work with my colleagues Sen. Ernst and Rep. McClain on this mission, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned with my colleagues in Washington, ”said Rep. Feenstra.
“The United States has important strategic partnerships with both Panama and Colombia. From strong trading partnerships to eradicating illicit drug production to curbing illegal immigration, our relations with Latin America are vital to the security of our nation. It was great to see firsthand the benefits of these partnerships and to meet Latin American executives during our trip this week, ”said Rep. McClain.
In Panama, Ernst, Feenstra and McClain received an overview of US-Panama relations and discussed Chinese influence in Panama, including maritime security and infrastructure investments. They also met members of the National Assembly as well as Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes and Migration Director Samira Gozaine.
Ernst, Feenstra and McClain take off to fly over the Panama Canal.
In addition, the delegation met with Panama’s Vice Minister for Public Security, Ivor Pitti, on a flight over the Panama Canal, where they discussed the economic impact of the Canal and Chinese attempts to acquire parts of the operation.
In Colombia, Ernst, Feenstra and McClain met with the Colombian President, members of the Colombian Congress, the US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg and other representatives from the Embassy and the Department of Defense.
The members held a round table with Juan Francisco Espinosa, director of the Colombian Migration Agency, on the challenges facing the more than 9,000 migrants stranded in the country amid a flood of people on their way to the US southern border.
Ernst, Feenstra and Mclain with Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez.
Following the round table, the members met with Colombian President Iván Duque and his ministers, including Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez.
The delegation also flew to a coca field and discussed the US-Colombian efforts to combat drug trafficking through extermination and efforts to support the economic development of rural Colombia to help transition from a cartel-controlled drug economy to a rules-based model of economic development.