Following his graduation from Providence College in 1966, Chris Dodd volunteered for the Peace Corps and shipped off to the tiny village of Monción in the Dominican Republic. At the time, Chris Dodd knew little about his new adoptive country and barely spoke a word of Spanish. But over the course of the two years that he served in that remote community near the Haitian border, Chris Dodd gained fluency in Spanish and developed a strong and abiding passion for Latin America.
From his support for the peace process in Northern Ireland to his efforts to bring American troops home from Iraq, Senator Dodd has fought hard over the years to ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects our nation’s core ideals of peace, human rights, and freedom. But in the foreign policy arena, Senator Dodd has perhaps left his greatest mark through his work on Latin America. As Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Latin America policy, Senator Dodd has brought his passion for the region, first forged during his Peace Corps days, to the halls of the United States Senate.
Throughout his tenure, Senator Dodd has fought to bring Latin American issues to the forefront of our nation’s foreign policy agenda. And he has worked tirelessly to ensure that engagement, diplomacy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law serve as guiding principles of U.S. policy in the region. Senator Dodd established his reputation as the lead Congressional voice on Latin America during his first term, when the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua were both embroiled in bloody, seemingly intractable civil conflicts. In 1982, just over a year after he first arrived in the Senate, Senator Dodd sought to link the deteriorating condition of human rights in El Salvador with U.S. aid to that war-torn country, offering an amendment requiring the government of El Salvador to meet certain human rights standards as a condition of receiving U.S. military aid. In 1983, Senator Dodd applied that same formula to the civil war in Nicaragua, calling on the Reagan Administration to focus on economic rather than military aid to that country’s government. Several years later, Senator Dodd was chosen to lead the Senate Central America Negotiations Observer Group, formed to monitor progress on the Guatemala City Accord, a peace agreement that sought to end the two country’s civil wars and ensure reconciliation between their opposing factions.
Since then, Senator Dodd has continued working to support U.S. diplomacy and engagement in the region, emerging as a key voice in the fight against our nation’s anachronistic and counterproductive policies towards Cuba. Senator Dodd has long believed that the free exchange of goods and ideas between the United States and Cuba is key to encouraging democratic governance and respect for the rule of law in that country. To help end our nation’s longstanding isolationist policies towards Cuba, Senator Dodd most recently joined a number of his colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, legislation that would lift travel restrictions on Americans wishing to visit the island.
Senator Dodd has also been a long-time advocate for improved ties between the United States and its southern neighbor, Mexico. For the better part of his career in the Senate, Senator Dodd has served as chairman of the U.S.-Mexico Interparliamentary Group. This bilateral working group, composed of federal lawmakers from both sides of the Rio Grande, meets annually to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between our respective countries. In recognition of his efforts in this area, Senator Dodd was awarded the Águila Azteca, the highest decoration awarded to foreigners by the Mexican government, in 2003.