WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-21), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), and Michael McCaul (TX-10) pressed officials at the U.S. Department of State to answer for using taxpayer dollars to fund drag show performances targeting Ecuadorian youth.  

Reps. Mast and Salazar, Chairs of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Accountability and Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, respectively, joined with Chairman McCaul of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to demand information related to a $20,600 grant to the Centro Cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln.   

While the grant was rescinded earlier this year after significant Congressional and public pushback, many questions remain as to how it was allowed to be issued in the first place.  Chairs Mast, Salazar, and McCaul are committed to ensuring taxpayer dollars are disbursed responsibly and future grants are not used on questionable and misguided programming. 

The full text of the letter can be read here: 


September 14, 2023


The Honorable Brian A. Nichols

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520


The Honorable Lee Satterfield

Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520


Dear Assistant Secretary Nichols and Assistant Secretary Satterfield:

We are writing to follow up on our August 29, 2023 staff-level phone call with your bureaus regarding the Department’s decision to “target” Ecuadorian youth, including some as young as 8 years old, with drag show performances.[1]

We are glad that congressional and media pushback may have played a role in the Department’s ultimate decision to cancel its grant.  To ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted in the future on similarly misguided and highly questionable programming, we are still interested in learning more about the internal processes that led to the grant being initially approved.  In particular, we were disappointed that House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) staff’s request that embassy personnel be included on the call was not honored by the Department. Due to this decision to not include key decisionmakers, staff were unable to gain an understanding of interactions between on-the-ground USG personnel and the relevant theater group, Dionisios Arte-Cultura-Identidad.

Furthermore, we remain disappointed that our January 17, 2023 letter requesting documents and information on the Department’s decision to provide grant money has still not received an adequate response. As you know, the Department did not respond to multiple inquiries outlined in that letter. To facilitate the prompt collection of additional responsive documents, we will streamline our requests as follows:

·  All Department communications referring or relating to the department’s $20,600 grant to the Centro Cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln,[2] including all embassy e-mail correspondence with CENA Cuenca, Dionisios Arte-Cultura-Identidad, Daniel Moreno, Carina Cardena, and Maria Lazo.  

In addition, please provide answers to the following questions no later than September 28, 2023:

1.  Which individuals in U.S. Embassy Bogotá and/or Main State specifically approved the funding for this grant?

2.  Were any vetting procedures or background checks in place for performers at the planned performances intended to target children?  If so, please explain.

3.  How, why, and on what date was the funding canceled, and what was the Department’s official reason for the cancellation of the funding? Please provide correspondence that was sent to CENA Cuenca and/or the relevant theater announcing the cancellation.






House Foreign Affairs Committee




House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability




House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere


[1] U.S. Dep’t of State, American Spaces Support Fund – Fiscal Year 2022 (2022) (File Link: STATE-2023-00005-0000048) (Department stating that the program “targets different audiences such as kids, teens and young adults”); U.S. Dep’t of State, Award Provision (2022) (File Link: STATE-2023-00005-0000008) (Department stating that the program’s focus will be, inter alia, “on children 8+”).

[2] See Letter from Michael T. McCaul, Chairman, H. Comm. on Foreign Affs. (HFAC), to the Hon. Antony Blinken, Sec’y of State, U.S. Dep’t of State (Jan. 17, 2023).