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Days after former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted on bribery charges for allegedly providing favor to Egypt in exchange for gifts, his replacement on the committee has made a sharp reversal over the country’s human rights record.
As the new chair of the committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) suggested he would block aid and arms sales to Egypt unless the country makes substantial progress on advancing human rights.
“I intend to exercise fully the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and my authorities to hold foreign military funds and the sale of arms to the government of Egypt, if it does not take concrete, meaningful, and sustainable steps to improve the human rights conditions in the country,” Cardin said in a statement on Saturday.
Egypt faces pressure over human rights record
The U.S. allocates $1.3 billion annually to Egypt, Reuters reported. Human rights groups have long criticized the reign of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’, who came to power during a coup in 2013 and has retaliated against thousands of political dissidents.
A 2022 report from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt found harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, failure to provide restitution for Nubians who were dispaced by a dam construction, surveillance and stifling freedom of expression.
The Human Rights Watch 2022 World Report also found that authorities in Egypt intimidated and harassed families of dissidents living abroad.
Notably, Egypt also condemned comedian Kevin Hart earlier this when he suggested the ancient Egyptian pharaohs were Black and not Arab.
“We must teach our children the true history of Black Africans when they were kings in Egypt and not just the era of slavery that is cemented by education in America. Do you remember the time when we were kings?” Hart allegedly stated.
His tour date in Cairo were ultimately cancelled.
Pres. Biden already announced in Sept. he would waive human rights restrictions on $235 million in aid for Egypt, but Cardin’s demand throws that funding into question.
A Senator with gold bars
The threat to withhold aid to Egypt over its human rights record comes after Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife were indicted on three counts related to bribery in September. Following a police raid of the Senator’s home, investigators found nearly $500,000 in cash stuffed in clothing pockets and a safe, along with 13 gold bars.
Menendez has ignored calls from members of his own party to resign, and he’s vowed to fight the charges.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said in a statement to reporters after the indictments.
“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”
Both he and his wife face a trial on May 6, 2024.
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