Diaz-Balart Introduces Resolution Commending the Ladies in White

MIAMI ­­– Today, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) and colleagues Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Paul Cook (CA-08), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) introduced a resolution honoring the Ladies in White and commending them for receiving the Cato Institute’s 2018 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.  The Ladies in White are female relatives of political prisoners who protest the unjust imprisonment of their loved ones in Cuba.

Read the full text of the resolution.

Whereas Las Damas de Blanco (also known as the Ladies in White) is a group composed of female relatives of imprisoned political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and peaceful dissidents in Cuba;

Whereas, in April 2003, during the wave of repression known as the ‘‘Black Spring’’, a group of strong and courageous women formed Las Damas de Blanco in response to the wrongful imprisonment of their family members by the regime in Cuba;

Whereas since the inception of the group, the members of Las Damas de Blanco have attended Sunday mass in the Church of Santa Rita in Havana, Cuba, and then marched peacefully through the streets of Havana holding photos of their jailed relatives and white gladioluses;

Whereas members of Las Damas de Blanco regularly march to advocate for the release of all political prisoners and the freedom of the Cuban people;

Whereas members of Las Damas de Blanco are regularly attacked by Cuban regime security forces and prevented from exercising their fundamental rights of the freedoms of expression and assembly;

Whereas according to Amnesty International—

(1) Las Damas de Blanco ‘‘remain[s] one of the primary targets of repression by Cuban [G]overnment authorities’’; and

(2) members of Las Damas de Blanco are frequently detained and ‘‘often beaten by law enforcement officials and state security agents dressed as civilians’’ while in


Whereas according to the Human Rights Watch 2018 World Report, ‘‘detention is often used preemptively to prevent npeople from participating in peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics, and detainees are often beaten, threatened, and held incommunicado for hours or days’’;

Whereas the Human Rights Watch 2018 World Report noted that ‘‘Cuban Police or state security agents continue to routinely harass, rough up, and detain members of Las Damas de Blanco before or after they attend Sunday mass’’;

Whereas, in 2005, Las Damas de Blanco was selected to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, but the Cuban regime did not allow the members of the group to leave the island to accept the award;

Whereas Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, the founder of Las Damas de Blanco, left an enduring legacy of resilient protest against human and civil rights abuses in Cuba;

Whereas Laura Toledo died on October 14, 2011, and while her death garnered widespread international attention, the Cuban regime remained silent;

Whereas according to Freedom House, in December 2013, Las Damas de Blanco ‘‘took to the streets to demonstrate against human rights abuses on International Human Rights Day, but were detained before the protest could begin’’;

Whereas, in February 2015, 30 members of Las Damas de Blanco were arrested in an attempt by Cuban officials to bar the women from participating in the #TodosMarchamos march, which sought to advocate for the freedom of political prisoners in Cuba;

Whereas on March 20, 2016, a few hours before President Barack Obama visited the communist country, Cuban authorities arrested more than 50 activists protesting the deteriorating state of human rights in Cuba and directly targeted Las Damas de Blanco;

Whereas grave human rights abuses continue under the newly selected dictator, Miguel Díaz Canel;

Whereas Las Damas de Blanco has appealed to the United States and other foreign governments in order to bring international attention to the repression of dissent by the Cuban regime and the plight of political prisoners, who are routinely jailed unjustly and without due process;

Whereas on May 17, 2018, Las Damas de Blanco received the prestigious 2018 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty for their bravery and continued efforts to fight for freedom in Cuba; Whereas the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty acknowledges those who have advocated and contributed to advancing human liberty; and

Whereas Berta de los Ángeles Soler Fernández and Leticia Ramos Herrería, members of Las Damas de Blanco, have been prohibited by the regime in Cuba from leaving the island to accept the 2018 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) congratulates Las Damas de Blanco on receiving the prestigious 2018 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty;

(2) honors the members of Las Damas de Blanco for their courageous efforts to stand up to the Cuban regime and defend human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as those expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

(3) recognizes all of the valiant members of Las Damas de Blanco, including those who died before being able to see a free Cuba;

(4) expresses solidarity and commitment to the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people; and

(5) demands that members of Las Damas de Blanco be permitted to leave and return to the island without harassment, intimidation, or hindrance.

Appropriations Committee Passes Diaz-Balart’s Bill to Invest in Southern Florida Infrastructure, Affordable Housing

WASHINGTON – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, issued the following statement after the Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill. The bill is now ready to be considered for a vote on the House floor.

“As we continue our commitment to revitalize America’s infrastructure, I am proud that I was able to once again deliver significant levels of funding. My bill prioritizes programs that are critical to keeping Americans moving and serves as another down payment on rebuilding our nation’s roads, bridges, airports, seaports, and transit systems. Many of these dollars will go directly to States, removing bureaucratic roadblocks and ensuring decisions are made at the community level.  Substantial funding is also included for BUILD grants, Airport and Highway grants, and Capital Investment Grants, which will allow localities in Southern Florida, and across the country, to compete for funds to upgrade and modernize their infrastructure needs. I am particularly proud of a provision I included, alongside Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, which addresses actions by the Chinese government to dominate transit manufacturing globally through unfair subsidies to their state-owned companies. This provision is critically important to our national security, as well as American businesses and manufacturers.

“In the housing section of my bill, I was able to include vital funds that will expand access to affordable housing through programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. I know how far these dollars will go, and how much these programs are able to leverage into private sector investment for the community. I was also able to include $50 million for a Mobility Demonstration that, through counseling and moving services, will help families move out of impoverished areas and closer to jobs and economic independence. I worked tirelessly with Chairman Jeb Hensarling on this issue, which will help address inter-generational poverty for families served by HUD. I am proud to be in a position to help Florida’s most vulnerable populations, and will continue working to protect our nation’s most needy.

“I thank Chairman Frelinghuysen for his continued support and guidance, and am humbled by his unwavering commitment to the American people. It has been an honor working with him and he will be missed on this Committee and in Congress. I look forward to getting this bill to the House floor in regular order and am thankful for this unique opportunity to deliver results for Southern Florida and our great country.”

As Chairman of this Appropriations Subcommittee, Diaz-Balart was able to secure the following funding so that localities across the country like Collier, Hendry, and Miami-Dade Counties could apply for and compete for grants to improve their infrastructure and transit systems and address their affordable housing needs.

  • $4.25 billion for highway grants which goes directly to the states
  • $750 million for the Department of Transportation’s BUILD grant program (formerly known as TIGER), helping localities fund infrastructure they might not be able to otherwise without federal dollars
    • $250 million set aside for port projects
    • $250 million set aside for urban areas
      $250 million set aside for rural areas
  • $1.3 billion for NextGen investments to modernize air traffic control
  • $500 million for airport infrastructure grants
  • $150 million is included for the Tribal Transportation Program to fund projects on federal and tribal lands
  • $300 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants which will improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of passenger and freight rail systems
    • $150 million for grants to install positive train control (PTC) technologies
  • $800 million for transit infrastructure grants
    • $150 million for urbanized area formula grants
    • $350 million for bus and bus facilities competitive grants
    • $50 million for rural areas
    • $200 million for state of good repair grants
    • $50 million for high density state apportionments
  • $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants, which provides grant funding for major transit capital investments that are planned and operated by local communities
    • $835.7 million for signed new starts projects
    • $500 million for unsigned new starts projects
    • $200 million for signed core capacity projects
    • $550 million for unsigned core capacity projects
    • $502 million for small starts projects
    • Language is included pushing the Administration to move projects through the pipeline and execute the program consistent with the  will of Congress
  • $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • $1.2 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides incentives for private sector and non-profit development of affordable housing
  • $22 billion in public housing vouchers, helping needy populations including the elderly, disabled, and veterans.
  • $393 million for housing for persons living with HIV/AIDS
  • $632 million for Housing for the Elderly
  • $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Diaz-Balart Secures Additional Funding for School Safety in Appropriations Committee

WASHINGTON ­­– Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the Committee approved the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. The legislation included an increase in funding for the STOP School Violence Act, which Diaz-Balart worked with Chairman Frelinghuysen and Subcommittee Chairman Culberson to secure.


“I am proud to have secured increased funding for school hardening measures through the STOP School Violence Act. The bill, which initially passed in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus, provides our schools with additional resources to strengthen their safety protocols. We must give school personnel and law enforcement the ability to make our classrooms safer through upgraded technology and the appropriate training. We cannot let another tragedy like Parkland happen again, and I am grateful to be in a position to be able to fight for this critical funding. I am especially appreciative of Congressman Ted Deutch and his willingness to work with me to attain these federal dollars in a bipartisan manner.

 “I look forward to working with Chairman Frelinghuysen and Subcommittee Chairman Culberson to seeing this important bill through House passage.”

As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, Diaz-Balart worked with his colleagues to secure the following funding in the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill:  

  • $100 million for school hardening measures through the STOP School Violence Act
  • $441.5 million to provide states, localities, and tribes with funding to support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention, corrections, drug treatment, and other important initiatives through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants
  • $410 million for Legal Services Partnership, providing access to legal aid to individuals who might not be able to afford it otherwise
  • $10 million to begin addressing aging Fishery Science Centers, including NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami
  • $22.5 million to continue a Body Worn Camera Partnership with states and localities who purchase the technology for their departments
  • $4.79 billion to assist states and localities with the 2020 Census