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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cuba: Issues for the 112th 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 has implemented limited economic policy changes, including an expansion of self-employment begun in October 2010. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that could increase the private sector. 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 the release of over 125 since 2010 after talks with the 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 called for a reexamination of policy. Two broad approaches toward Cuba have been at the center of debate. The first is to maintain the dual-track policy of isolating the Cuban government while providing support to the Cuban people. The second is aimed at changing attitudes in the Cuban government and society through increased engagement. Since taking office, the Obama Administration has lifted restrictions on family travel and remittances, moved to reengage Cuba on migration and other bilateral issues, and, in January 2011, announced measures to ease restrictions on purposeful travel and nonfamily remittances. The Administration has criticized the government’s repression of dissidents, but it has welcomed the release of political prisoners as a positive sign. The Administration has continued to call for the release of a U.S. government subcontractor, Alan Gross, detained since late 2009, who was sentenced to 15 years in March 2011.

Strong interest on Cuba is continuing in the 112th Congress. The House Appropriations Committee-approved version of the FY2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, would roll back President Obama’s actions easing restrictions on remittances and family travel and continue to clarify the definition of “payment of cash in advance” for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2012. (P.L. 112-10, enacted in April 2011, continued the “payment of cash in advance” provision for FY2011.) The House Foreign Affairs Committee ordered reported H.R. 2583, the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, with a provision that would require the President to fully enforce all U.S. regulations on travel to Cuba as in effect on January 19, 2009 (under the Bush Administration). H.R. 2771 would increase to five years the period during which a Cuban national must be present in the United States in order to qualify for permanent resident status, and would make Cuban nationals who travel to Cuba ineligible for such status. Several initiatives would ease sanctions: H.R. 255 and H.R. 1887 (overall sanctions); H.R. 833 and H.R. 1888 (agricultural exports); and H.R. 380 and H.R. 1886 (travel). Two initiatives, S. 603 and H.R. 1166, would modify a trademark sanction, while several bills already noted would eliminate that sanction (H.R. 255, H.R. 1887, and H.R. 1888). Three bills would take different approaches toward Cuba’s offshore oil development: H.R. 372, S. 405, and H.R. 2047. Two initiatives would discontinue Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba: S. 476 and H.R. 1317. One resolution would call for the return of U.S. fugitives in Cuba.

For additional information, see CRS Report RL31139, Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances and CRS Report R41522, Cuba’s Offshore Oil Development: Background and U.S. Policy Considerations.



Date of Report: August 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 68
Order Number: R41617
Price: $29.95

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Kristin M. Finklea
Analyst in Domestic Security


Increasing violence perpetrated by drug trafficking organizations and other criminal groups is threatening citizen security and governance in Mexico. According to Mexican government data, organized crime-related violence claimed more than 34,500 lives in Mexico between January 2007 and December 2010. That toll may now exceed 40,000. Escalating violence has increased U.S. concerns about stability in Mexico, a key political and economic ally, and about the possibility of violence spilling over into the United States. Mexican drug trafficking organizations dominate the U.S. illicit drug market and are now considered the greatest organized crime threat facing the United States.

In recent years, U.S.-Mexican security cooperation has increased significantly, largely as a result of the development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative, a counterdrug and anticrime assistance package for Mexico and Central America that was first proposed in October 2007. Between FY2008 and FY2010, Congress provided $1.5 billion for Mérida Initiative programs in Mexico, with an early emphasis on training and equipping Mexican security forces engaged in counterdrug efforts. As part of the Mérida Initiative, the Mexican government pledged to intensify its efforts against transnational criminal organizations and the U.S. government pledged to address drug demand and the illicit trafficking of firearms and bulk currency to Mexico.

With funding for the original Mérida Initiative technically ending in FY2010 and new initiatives underway for Central America and the Caribbean, the Obama Administration worked with the Mexican government to develop a new four-pillar strategy for U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. That strategy, adopted in March 2010, focuses on (1) disrupting organized criminal groups; (2) institutionalizing the rule of law; (3) building a 21st century border; and (4) building strong and resilient communities. The first two pillars largely build upon existing efforts, whereas pillars three and four broaden the scope of Mérida programs to include efforts to facilitate “secure flows” through the U.S.-Mexico border and to improve conditions in violence-prone border cities. Congress appropriated $143.0 million in Mérida assistance for Mexico for FY2011 in P.L. 112- 10. The Administration requested $282 million in Mérida assistance for FY2012. As of August 1, 2011, a total of $473.8 million worth of assistance had been provided to Mexico.

The 112th Congress is likely to continue funding and overseeing the Mérida Initiative, as well as examining the degree to which the U.S. and Mexican governments are fulfilling their pledges to tackle domestic problems contributing to drug trafficking and crime in the region. Congress may also examine the degree to which the Administration’s new strategy for the Mérida Initiative complements other counterdrug and border security efforts as outlined in the 2011 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Given current budget constraints, Congress may also debate how best to measure the impact of current and future Mérida Initiative programs. Another congressional interest is likely to focus on whether human rights conditions placed on Mérida Initiative funding are appropriate or sufficient.

For related information, see CRS Report R41576, Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence, by June S. Beittel and CRS Report R41075, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence, coordinated by Kristin M. Finklea. This report will be updated periodically.



Date of Report: August 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: R41349
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond


Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Kristin M. Finklea
Analyst in Domestic Security


Increasing violence perpetrated by drug trafficking organizations and other criminal groups is threatening citizen security and governance in Mexico. According to Mexican government data, organized crime-related violence claimed more than 34,500 lives in Mexico between January 2007 and December 2010. That toll may now exceed 40,000. Escalating violence has increased U.S. concerns about stability in Mexico, a key political and economic ally, and about the possibility of violence spilling over into the United States. Mexican drug trafficking organizations dominate the U.S. illicit drug market and are now considered the greatest organized crime threat facing the United States.

In recent years, U.S.-Mexican security cooperation has increased significantly, largely as a result of the development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative, a counterdrug and anticrime assistance package for Mexico and Central America that was first proposed in October 2007. Between FY2008 and FY2010, Congress provided $1.5 billion for Mérida Initiative programs in Mexico, with an early emphasis on training and equipping Mexican security forces engaged in counterdrug efforts. As part of the Mérida Initiative, the Mexican government pledged to intensify its efforts against transnational criminal organizations and the U.S. government pledged to address drug demand and the illicit trafficking of firearms and bulk currency to Mexico.

With funding for the original Mérida Initiative technically ending in FY2010 and new initiatives underway for Central America and the Caribbean, the Obama Administration worked with the Mexican government to develop a new four-pillar strategy for U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. That strategy, adopted in March 2010, focuses on (1) disrupting organized criminal groups; (2) institutionalizing the rule of law; (3) building a 21
st century border; and (4) building strong and resilient communities. The first two pillars largely build upon existing efforts, whereas pillars three and four broaden the scope of Mérida programs to include efforts to facilitate “secure flows” through the U.S.-Mexico border and to improve conditions in violence-prone border cities. While the Obama Administration asked for $310 million in Mérida Initiative funding for FY2011, the allocation for Mexico that was included in P.L. 112-10 is not yet available. The Administration also requested $282 million in Mérida assistance for FY2012. As of July 1, 2011, a total of $465.0 million worth of assistance (training and equipment) had been provided to Mexico. For 2011, the total value of deliveries to Mexico is expected to exceed $500 million.

The 112
th Congress is likely to continue funding and overseeing the Mérida Initiative, as well as examining the degree to which the U.S. and Mexican governments are fulfilling their pledges to tackle domestic problems contributing to drug trafficking and crime in the region. Congress may also examine the degree to which the Administration’s new strategy for the Mérida Initiative complements other counterdrug and border security efforts as outlined in the 2011 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. In August 2010, Congress approved $600 million in supplemental funds for border security (P.L. 111-230). Given current budget constraints, Congress may also debate how best to measure the impact of current and future Mérida Initiative programs. Another congressional interest is likely to focus on whether human rights conditions placed on Mérida Initiative funding are appropriate or sufficient.

For related information, see CRS Report R41576, Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence, by June S. Beittel and CRS Report R41075, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence, coordinated by Kristin M. Finklea.



Date of Report: July 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: R41349
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

June S. Beittel Analyst in Latin American Affairs


June S. Beittel
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010 in Colombia after winning 69% of the vote in a runoff election held in June 2010. Santos defeated Colombian Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus. In his first year in office, President Santos has taken the country in a new direction, building on the accomplishments of his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, who served for two terms, by pursuing social, economic, and political reforms. He campaigned on a program called “democratic prosperity,” to accentuate security, but also to promote economic development (especially the creation of jobs), and poverty reduction. Santos has strengthened relations with neighboring countries, including Venezuela and Ecuador, which had been strained under Uribe. Early indications are that he wants to broaden the scope of U.S.-Colombian relations to include issues such as energy, human rights, and the environment. Former President Uribe pursued an aggressive plan to address Colombia’s decades-long conflict with the country’s leftist guerrillas and rightist paramilitary groups and to reduce the production of illicit drugs. Uribe is credited with restoring public security and creating a stable environment for investment.

In recent years, Colombia, in close cooperation with the United States through a strategy known as Plan Colombia, has made significant progress in reestablishing government control over much of its territory, combating drug trafficking and terrorist activities, and reducing poverty. The improving security conditions and the weakening of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas are evidence that the strategy is working, according to supporters. Critics, however, argue that while pursuing these security gains, U.S. policy has not rigorously promoted human rights, provided for sustainable economic alternatives for drug crop farmers, or reduced the amount of drugs available in the United States.

This report provides an overview of recent political developments in Colombia. It reviews the administration of President Uribe (2002-2010), the election of President Juan Manuel Santos, and his first year in office. The report then provides background on the long-standing conflict with internal armed groups that has marked Colombia’s modern development, examining the roots of the conflict and its major actors as well as their present status. The report considers ongoing challenges such as human rights, demobilization and displacement, drug trends, and Colombia’s regional relations. It outlines the National Consolidation Plan which updates Plan Colombia with a whole-of-government approach to eliminate the insurgency, and it describes the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The report raises some of the major policy issues that the U.S. Congress has had, and will continue to pursue, in relation to U.S.-Colombia policy, such as the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. For more information on the pending agreement, see CRS Report RL34470, Proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues.



Date of Report: July 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: RL32250
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brazil-U.S. Relations


Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

As its economy has grown to be the eighth largest in the world, Brazil has consolidated its power in South America, extended its influence to the broader region, and become increasingly prominent on the world stage. The Obama Administration’s national security strategy regards Brazil as an emerging center of influence, whose leadership it welcomes “to pursue progress on bilateral, hemispheric, and global issues.” In recent years, U.S.-Brazil relations have generally been positive despite Brazil’s prioritization of strengthening relations with neighboring countries and expanding ties with nontraditional partners in the “developing South.” Although some disagreements have emerged, Brazil and the United States continue to engage on a number of issues, including counternarcotics, counterterrorism, energy security, trade, human rights, and the environment.

Dilma Rousseff of the ruling center-left Workers’ Party was inaugurated to a four-year presidential term on January 1, 2011. She is Brazil’s first female president. Rousseff inherits a country that has benefited from what many analysts consider 16 years of stable and capable governance under Presidents Cardoso (1995-2002) and Lula (2003-2010). Since taking office, she has maintained generally orthodox economic policies while continuing to assert a role for the state in development. Her 10-party electoral coalition holds significant majorities in both houses of Brazil’s legislature; however, keeping the unwieldy coalition together has already proven challenging. Elements of the governing coalition have criticized Rousseff and even voted with the opposition on key pieces of legislation to express displeasure over her attempts to constrain spending and her quick dismissal of a number of officials accused of corruption. Nonetheless, Rousseff remains relatively popular among the general population, with 49% of Brazilians considering her performance good or excellent in June 2011.

With a gross national income (GNI) of $1.6 trillion, Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America. Over the past eight years, the country has enjoyed average annual growth of over 4%. This growth has been driven by a boom in international demand for its commodity exports and the increased purchasing power of Brazil’s fast-growing middle class. In 2010, the value of Brazil’s exports reached some $202 billion, contributing to a trade surplus of $20.3 billion. The country’s current economic strength is the result of a series of policy reforms implemented over the course of two decades that reduced inflation, established stability, and fostered growth. These policies have also enabled Brazil to better absorb international shocks like the recent global financial crisis, from which Brazil emerged relatively unscathed. Although current conditions and Brazil’s recent performance suggest the country will sustain solid economic growth rates in the near term, several constraints on mid- and long-term growth remain.

The 112
th Congress has maintained interest in U.S.-Brazil relations. Several pieces of legislation have been introduced, including bills that would suspend foreign assistance to Brazil (H.R. 2246) and the issuance of visas to Brazilian nationals (H.R. 2556) until the country amends its constitution to allow for the extradition of its citizens. Additionally, the House adopted legislation (H.R. 2112) that includes a provision (H.Amdt. 454) that would prevent any funds made available under the Act from being used to provide payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute.

This report analyzes Brazil’s political, economic, and social conditions, and how those conditions affect its role in the world and its relationship with the United States.



Date of Report: July 29, 2011
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: RL33456
Price: $29.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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