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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean


Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purpose of exploitation is a lucrative criminal activity that is of major concern to the United States and the international community. According to the most recent U.S. State Department estimates, roughly 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year. If trafficking within countries is included in the total world figures, official U.S. estimates are that some 2 million to 4 million people are trafficked annually. While most trafficking victims still appear to originate from South and Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union, human trafficking is also a growing problem in Latin America. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that sex trafficking in Latin America generates some $16 billion worth of business annually.

Countries in Latin America serve as source, transit, and destination countries for trafficking victims. Latin America is a primary source region for people trafficked to the United States. As many as 17,500 are trafficked into the United States each year, according to State Department estimates. In FY2009, primary countries of origin for the 333 foreign trafficking victims certified as eligible to receive U.S. assistance included Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic (along with India, the Philippines, and Thailand).

Since enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106- 386), successive Administrations and Congress have taken steps to address human trafficking. In December 2008, the 110
th Congress passed The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457). The act, among other provisions, authorized TIP appropriations for FY2008 through FY2011. Obligations for U.S.-funded anti-TIP programs in Latin America totaled roughly $17.3 million in FY2009, up from $13.7 million in FY2008.

On June 14, 2010, the State Department issued its 10
th annual, congressionally mandated report on human trafficking. In addition to outlining major trends and ongoing challenges in combating TIP, the report categorizes countries into four “tiers” according to the government’s efforts to combat trafficking. Those countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking (Tier 3) have been made subject to U.S. foreign assistance sanctions. While Cuba and the Dominican Republic are the only Latin American countries ranked on Tier 3 in this year’s TIP report, nine other countries in the region — Barbados, Belize, Guatemala, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela — are on the Tier 2 Watch List. Unless those countries make significant progress in the next six months, they could receive a Tier 3 ranking in the 2011 report.

The 112
th Congress may continue to exercise its oversight of TIP programs and operations, including U.S.-funded programs in Latin America. Congress may consider increasing funding for anti-TIP programs in the region, possibly through the Mérida Initiative for Mexico, the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) or through other assistance programs. Congress may also monitor new trends in human trafficking in the region, such as the increasing involvement of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in TIP and the problem of child trafficking in Haiti, which has worsened since that country experienced a devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. Another issue of interest may be whether sufficient efforts are being applied to address all forms of TIP in Latin America, including not only sexual exploitation, but also forced labor. For more general information on human trafficking, see CRS Report RL34317, Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress, by Liana Sun Wyler and Alison Siskin.


Date of Report: December 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL33200
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Honduran-U.S. Relations

Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

On January 27, 2010, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa was inaugurated President of Honduras. Lobo assumed power after seven months of domestic political crisis and international isolation that had resulted from the June 28, 2009, ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. While the strength of Lobo’s National Party in the legislature should help the government secure approval of its policy agenda, the political crisis left the new President with daunting challenges. The Lobo government faces significant challenges in fostering economic development in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries; securing international recognition; and addressing the high level of domestic political polarization, ongoing human rights abuses, and the deteriorating citizen security situation.

The global financial crisis and domestic political crisis took a toll on the Honduran economy as significant declines in export earnings, remittances, and tourism led to a contraction of 2.1% in 2009. Although the economy has picked up in 2010, with expected growth of 2.7%, significant challenges remain. 60% of Honduras’ nearly 8 million citizens live under the poverty line and the country performs poorly on a number of social indicators. The government has little room to address these issues as the country’s fiscal balance has deteriorated in recent years despite benefiting from several debt relief initiatives over the past decade. The international financial institutions, which cut ties to Honduras in 2009, have normalized relations with the Lobo Administration and are providing the country with access to much needed multilateral development financing that should ensure short-term macroeconomic stability. Implementing the economic reforms necessary to improve the country’s long-term fiscal balance will be politically difficult, however, as business groups have opposed revenue enhancing tax reforms and labor unions are pushing for wage increases and against potential cuts to public sector spending.

Although relations were strained during the political crisis, the United States has traditionally had a close relationship with Honduras. Broad U.S. policy goals include a strengthened democracy with an effective justice system that protects human rights and promotes the rule of law, and the promotion of sustainable economic growth with a more open economy and improved living conditions. In addition to providing Honduras with substantial amounts of foreign assistance and maintaining significant military and economic ties, the United States cooperates with Honduras to deal with transnational issues such as illegal migration, crime, narcotics trafficking, trafficking in persons, and port security.

With respect to the political crisis, several resolutions were introduced during the first session of the 111
th Congress. These ranged from condemning Zelaya for his “unconstitutional and illegal” actions (H.Res. 619, Mack) to condemning the “coup d’état” in Honduras (H.Res. 630, Delahunt) and calling upon the Micheletti government to end its “illegal seizure of power” (H.Res. 620, Serrano). Another resolution (H.Res. 749, Ros-Lehtinen) called on the Obama Administration to recognize the November 2009 elections “as an important step in the consolidation of democracy and rule of law in Honduras.” In the second session, H.Res. 1197 (Rohrabacher) would express support for democracy in Honduras and call on nations to restore normal relations with the government of Honduras.

This report examines current political and economic conditions in Honduras as well as issues in Honduran-U.S. relations. For a more detailed examination of the Honduran political crisis, see CRS Report R41064, Honduran Political Crisis, June 2009-January 2010.



Date of Report: November 30, 2010
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL34027
Price: $29.95

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Dispute Settlement Under the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement: An Overview


Jeanne J. Grimmett
Legislative Attorney

The U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA) follows current U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) practice in containing two types of formal dispute settlement: (1) State-State, applicable to disputes between the Parties to the PTPA, and (2) investor-State, applicable to claims by an investor of one State Party against the other State Party for breach of a PTPA investment obligation. A defending Party in a State-State dispute found to be in violation of a PTPA obligation is generally expected to remove the complained-of measure; remedies for noncompliance include compensation and the suspension of PTPA concessions or obligations (e.g., the imposition of a tariff surcharge on the defending Party’s products), with the defending Party having the alternative of paying a fine to the prevailing Party or, in some cases, into a fund that may be used to assist the defending Party in complying with its obligations in the case. An investor-State tribunal may only make monetary awards to the claimant and thus may not direct a PTPA Party to withdraw or modify a violative measure. If the defending State Party does not comply with an award, the investor may seek to enforce it under one of the international conventions for the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards to which the United States and Peru are party. State-State dispute settlement may also be initiated against the non-complying Party.

The PTPA State-State dispute settlement mechanism differs from earlier U.S. FTAs in that it applies to all obligations contained in the labor and environmental chapters of the PTPA instead of only domestic labor or environmental law enforcement obligations. In addition, in the event a Party is found to be in breach of one of these obligations and has not complied in the dispute, the prevailing Party may impose trade sanctions instead of, as under earlier agreements, being limited to requesting that a fine be imposed on the non-complying Party with the funds to be expended for labor or environmental initiatives in that Party’s territory. The changes stem from a bipartisan agreement on trade policy between Congress and the Administration finalized on May 10, 2007 (May 10 agreement), setting out various provisions to be added to completed or substantially completed FTAs pending at the time. Among the aims of the agreement was to expand and further integrate labor and environmental obligations into the U.S. free trade agreement structure. The same approach to labor and environmental disputes is found in FTAs entered into with Colombia, Korea, and Panama, each of which continue to await congressional approval.

Implementing legislation approving the PTPA and providing legislative authorities needed to carry it out was signed into law on December 14, 2007 (P.L. 110-138). The agreement entered into force on February 1, 2009. A protocol of amendment revising the PTPA to incorporate provisions involving labor, the environment, intellectual property, port services, and investment, as set out in the May 10 agreement, entered into force on the same day.

To date, there have not been any disputes brought under either PTPA dispute settlement mechanism. In general, resort to panels under FTA State-State dispute settlement has been uncommon, and thus there has been relatively little experience with the operation of this mechanism over a range of agreements and issues. FTA investor-State claims have been filed under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) against each of the three agreement Parties. Four claims have been filed by U.S. investors under the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement (DR–CAFTA), one against the Dominican Republic, two against El Salvador, and one against Guatemala. To date, no investor-State claims have been filed under other U.S. FTAs.



Date of Report: November 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS22752
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Venezuela: Issues in the 111th Congress


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

The United States traditionally has had close relations with Venezuela, a major supplier of foreign oil, but there has been friction in relations for almost a decade under the government of populist President Hugo Chávez. U.S. officials have expressed concerns about human rights, Venezuela’s military arms purchases, its relations with Cuba and Iran, and its efforts to export its brand of populism to other Latin American countries. Declining cooperation on anti-drug and antiterrorism efforts has also been a concern. In September 2008, bilateral relations worsened when President Chávez expelled the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, and the United States responded in kind. Under the Obama Administration, Venezuela and the United States reached an agreement for the return of respective ambassadors in July 2009. While some observers were hopeful that the return of ambassadors would mark an improvement in relations, this has not been the case.

Under the rule of President Chávez, first elected in 1998 and reelected to a six-year term in December 2006, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under President Chávez. The government benefitted from the rise in world oil prices, which sparked an economic boom and allowed Chávez to increase expenditures on social programs associated with his populist agenda. These programs have helped reduce poverty levels significantly, but the Venezuelan economy has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and economic downturn.

Venezuelans approved a constitutional referendum in February 2009 that abolished term limits and allows Chávez to run for reelection in 2012. Since 2009, the government has increased efforts to suppress the political opposition, including elected municipal and state officials. In January 2010, the government shut down the cable station RCTV-Internacional, prompting domestic protests and international concern about freedom of expression. In legislative elections held on September 26, 2010, opposition parties won 67 out of 165 seats in the National Assembly, denying President Chávez’s ruling party from a supermajority (both two-thirds and three-fifths) and providing the opposition with a voice in government when the new legislators take office in January 2011.

As in past years, there have been concerns in the 111
th Congress regarding the state of Venezuela’s democracy and human rights situation and its deepening relations with Iran. On July 1, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Disinvestment Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-195), which includes a provision making gasoline sales to Iran subject to U.S. sanctions. (In 2009, Venezuela had 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. Among other initiatives, H.R. 375 and H.R. 2475 would place restrictions on nuclear cooperation with countries assisting the nuclear programs of Venezuela; H.Res. 174 and H.Con.Res. 124 would express concern about anti-Semitism in Venezuela; H.Res. 872 would call for the designation of Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism; S.Res. 428 would express concerns about violations of civil liberties; and S.Res. 645 would express support for free and fair elections and freedom of expression in Venezuela.


Date of Report: November 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 52
Order Number: R40938
Price: $29.95

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