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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cuba: Issues for the 111th Congress


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The government of Raúl Castro implemented limited economic policy changes in 2008 and 2009, and in September 2010 began a significant series of reforms to reduce the public sector and increase private enterprise. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system, although it has reduced the number of political prisoners over the past several years, including more than 50 released since July 2010 after talks with the Cuban Catholic Church.

Since the early 1960s, U.S. policy has consisted largely of isolating Cuba through economic sanctions. A second policy component has consisted of support measures for the Cuban people, including U.S.-sponsored broadcasting and support for human rights activists. In light of Fidel Castro’s departure as head of government, many observers have called for a re-examination of policy with two broad approaches advanced: an approach that would maintain the dual-track policy of isolating the Cuban government while providing support to the Cuban people; and an approach aimed at changing attitudes in the Cuban government and society through increased engagement. The Obama Administration has lifted restrictions on family travel and remittances; eased restrictions on telecommunications links with Cuba; and restarted migration talks. The Administration has criticized the government’s repression of dissidents, but it welcomed Cuba’s July 2010 announcement of a prisoner release as a positive sign. The Administration also has called for the release of a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned since December 2009.

The 111
th Congress approved three provisions in the FY2009 omnibus appropriations measure (P.L. 111-8) in March 2009 that eased sanctions on family travel, travel for the marketing of agricultural and medical goods, and payment terms for U.S. agricultural exports. In December 2009, Congress included a provision in the FY2010 omnibus appropriations legislation (P.L. 111- 117) that eased payment terms for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2010 by defining the term “payment of cash in advance.” In May 2009, the Senate approved S.Res. 149, related to freedom of the press, and in March 2010 it approved S.Con.Res. 54, recognizing the death of a Cuban hunger striker. Pending legislation with Cuba provisions include: the Senate version of the FY2011 Financial Services appropriations bill, S. 3677, which extends the definition of “payment of cash in advance” for another year; the Senate version of the FY2011 Foreign Operations appropriations bill, S. 3676, which would fund democracy projects and Radio and TV Martí; and the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, S. 3454, which requires a Cuba report.

Numerous other initiatives have been introduced that would ease sanctions: H.R. 188, H.R. 1530, and H.R. 2272 (overall sanctions); H.R. 874/S. 428 and H.R. 1528 (travel); H.R. 332 (educational travel); H.R. 1531/S. 1089 and H.R. 4645/S. 3112 (agricultural exports and travel); H.R. 1737 (agricultural exports); and S. 774, H.R. 1918, and S. 1517 (hydrocarbon resources). H.R. 1103/S. 1234 would modify a trademark sanctions, while several bills cited above would repeal the sanction. S. 1808 would eliminate Radio and TV Martí. Measures that would increase sanctions are H.R. 2005 (related to fugitives), H.R. 2687 (OAS participation), and H.R. 5620 (Cuba’s oil development). H.Con.Res. 132 calls for the fulfillment of certain democratic conditions before the United States increases trade and tourism to Cuba. Also see CRS Report RL31139, Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances
.


Date of Report: November 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 83
Order Number: R40193
Price: $29.95

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Dominican Republic: Background and U.S. Relations

Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

The Dominican Republic, a country of roughly 9.7 million people that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a key U.S. trade partner and political ally in the region. The United States is the Dominican Republic’s main trading partner, with two-way trade totaling more than $10.6 billion in 2008 before falling to $8.6 billion in 2009. In addition to trade, U.S. interest in the Dominican Republic has focused on anti-drug cooperation and governance/human rights issues, as well as the country’s role in helping resolve regional conflicts. After a July 12, 2010, official meeting, President Barack Obama praised Dominican President Leonel Fernández’s regional leadership, particularly the role he and his government have played in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and in helping to resolve the political crisis in Honduras.

President Fernández of the center-left Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) took office for his third term in August 2008. Fernández previously served as President from 1996-2000 and 2004-2008. In 2009, President Fernández achieved one of his primary political goals: securing congressional approval of a new constitution. The new constitution, which took effect in January 2010, allows presidents to complete two consecutive terms and then serve again after sitting out of office for four years, making President Fernández eligible to run again in 2016. Few have criticized Fernández for changing the constitution to allow himself to run for another term, but some have spoken out against calls from the PLD for further changes that would enable him to run in 2012. Despite some lingering economic and security challenges that have yet to be resolved and concerns about corruption in his Administration, President Fernández has remained popular. His party dominated legislative elections held on May 16, 2010.

In recent years, U.S. interest in the Dominican Republic has focused on trade, security, and human rights issues. Trade and investment flows have expanded since the Dominican Republic- Central America-United States free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force for the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007. U.S. trade capacity building assistance has also reportedly helped boost Dominican competitiveness in some sectors. The United States is the largest bilateral donor to the Dominican Republic, with U.S. assistance totaling an estimated $49 million in FY2010. U.S. aid — both bilateral and regional aid provided through the Mérida Initiative and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) — is helping the Fernández government combat drug trafficking and crime. Human rights issues, including the treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and trafficking in persons, have also been of interest to Congress and the Obama Administration.

This report provides background information on current political and economic conditions in the Dominican Republic, as well as an overview of some of the key issues in U.S.-Dominican relations.



Date of Report: November 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41482
Price: $29.95

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Latin America: Terrorism Issues


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America has intensified, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism (issued in August 2010), the State Department maintained that terrorism in the region was primarily perpetrated by terrorist organizations in Colombia and by the remnants of radical leftist Andean groups. Overall, however, the report maintained that the threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the hemisphere. Cuba has remained on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, which triggers a number of economic sanctions. Both Cuba and Venezuela are on the State Department’s annual list of countries determined to be not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the past several years about Venezuela’s lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, its relations with Iran, and President Hugo Chávez’s sympathetic statements for Colombian terrorist groups.

In recent years, U.S. concerns have increased over activities of the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah and the Sunni Muslim Palestinian group Hamas in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The State Department terrorism report maintains that the United States remains concerned that Hezbollah and Hamas sympathizers are raising funds among the sizable Middle Eastern communities in the region, but stated that there was no corroborated information that these or other Islamic extremist groups had an operational presence in the area. Allegations have linked Hezbollah to two bombings in Argentina: the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 30 people and the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Concerns about Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America center on the country’s ties to Hezbollah and the terrorist attacks in Argentina.

In the 111
th Congress, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Disinvestment Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-195) on July 1, 2010, which includes a provision making gasoline sales to Iran subject to U.S. sanctions. (In 2009, Venezuela promised to supply some gasoline to Iran in the case of U.S. sanctions.) In June 2010, the Senate Committee on Armed Services reported S. 3454, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011, with a provision requiring a report on Venezuela related to terrorism issues. In July 2009, the House approved H.Con.Res. 156 (Ros-Lehtinen), which condemned the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, and urged Western Hemisphere governments to take actions to curb the activities that support Hezbollah and other such extremist groups. In June 2009, the House approved H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY2010 and FY2011, with a provision calling for a report on Iran’s and Hezbollah’s actions in the Western Hemisphere, although the Senate has not taken action on the measure. Other introduced measures include H.R. 375 (Ros-Lehtinen) and H.R. 2475 (Ros-Lehtinen), which, among their provisions, would place restrictions on nuclear cooperation with countries assisting the nuclear programs of Venezuela or Cuba; H.R. 2272 (Rush), which includes a provision that would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list; H.Res. 872 (Mack), which calls for Venezuela to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism; and H.Con.Res. 295 (Ros-Lehtinen), which would again condemn the 1994 AMIA bombing.


Date of Report: October 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RS21049
Price: $29.95

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