Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Latin America: Terrorism Issues


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism (issued in August 2011), 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. With regard to concerns about drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico, the State Department terrorism report asserted that “there was no evidence of ties between Mexican criminal organizations and terrorist groups, nor that the criminal organizations had aims of political or territorial control, aside from seeking to protect and expand the impunity with which they conduct their criminal activity.” 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 potential support for Colombian terrorist groups.

Over the past several years, policymakers have been concerned about Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America, particularly its relations with Venezuela, although there has been disagreement over the extent and significance of Iran’s relations with the region. Concerns center on Iran’s attempts to circumvent U.N. and U.S. sanctions, as well as on its ties to the radical Lebanonbased Islamic group Hezbollah. Both Iran and Hezbollah are reported to be linked to two bombings against Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s. The State Department terrorism report maintains that there are no known operational cells of either Al Qaeda or Hezbollah-related groups in the hemisphere, but noted that “ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean continued to provide financial and moral support to these and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.”

In the 112th Congress, several initiatives have been introduced related to terrorism issues in the Western Hemisphere regarding Mexico, Venezuela, and the activities of Iran and Hezbollah, and several oversight hearings have been held. H.R. 3401 (Mack), marked up by the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on December 15, 2011, would require the Secretary of State to submit a detailed counterinsurgency strategy “to combat the terrorist insurgency in Mexico waged by transnational criminal organizations.” H.R. 3783 (Duncan), amended and approved on March 1, 2012, by the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade would require the Administration to develop “a strategy to address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.” Among other introduced initiatives, H.R. 1270 (McCaul) would direct the Secretary of State to designate as foreign terrorist organizations six Mexican drug cartels, and H.Res. 247 (Mack) would call for the designation of Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. (For further discussion of these bills, see “112th Congress” below.)



Date of Report: March 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RS21049
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Brazil-U.S. Relations


Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

As its economy has grown to be the sixth 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 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 security, energy, 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 inherited 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). Her multiparty coalition holds significant majorities in both houses of Brazil’s legislature; however, keeping the unwieldy coalition together to advance her policy agenda has proven challenging. She has won approval for a truth commission to investigate abuses during the military regime but other important initiatives have yet to advance. Rousseff has lost six cabinet ministers to corruption scandals but remains popular. In January 2012, 59% of Brazilians approved of her Administration, the highest approval rating for an administration after one year in office since the return to democracy.

With a gross national income of $1.83 trillion, Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America. Over the past five 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. The country has also benefitted from a series of policy reforms implemented over the course of two decades that reduced inflation, established stability, and fostered growth. These policies have enabled Brazil to better absorb international shocks like the recent global financial crisis. After contracting by 0.3% in 2009, the Brazilian economy quickly bounced back with 7.5% growth in 2010. Although the economy has since slowed, with estimated growth of 2.9% in 2011, Brazil has the resources necessary to weather another potential downturn in the global economy.

The 112th Congress has maintained interest in U.S.-Brazil relations. It allowed a duty on Brazilian ethanol to expire at the end of 2011, removing a long-standing barrier to further energy and trade cooperation. Likewise, several pieces of legislation related to Brazil were introduced during the first session, including bills to 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, and bills (H.R. 3039 and S. 1653) to accelerate visa processing for citizens of Brazil and other countries. As Congress debates the farm bill during the second session, it may evaluate potential changes to U.S. cotton subsidies that would ensure U.S. compliance with World Trade Organization rulings, and allow the United States to reach a permanent agreement with Brazil to avoid WTO-sanctioned retaliatory measures.

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: March 7, 2012
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL33456
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress


Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs


Central America faces significant security challenges. Criminal threats, fragile political and judicial systems, and social hardships such as poverty and unemployment contribute to widespread insecurity in the region. Consequently, improving security conditions in these countries is a difficult, multifaceted endeavor. Because U.S. drug demand contributes to regional security challenges and the consequences of citizen insecurity in Central America are potentially far-reaching, the United States is collaborating with countries in the region to implement and refine security efforts.


Date of Report: February 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R41731
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

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, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic model. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system. The government 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, but short-term detentions and harassment have increased significantly over the past year.

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 several bilateral issues, and eased restrictions on other types of purposeful travel and remittances. The Administration has criticized Cuba’s repression of dissidents, but has welcomed the release of political prisoners. 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 Senate approved S.Res. 366 on February 1, 2012, condemning the Cuban government for the death of democracy activist Wilman Villar Mendoza. In the first session, an attempt to roll back the Administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and remittances was unsuccessful. Such a provision had been included in the House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 Financial Services appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, but was not included in the FY2012 “megabus” appropriations measure (H.R. 2055, P.L. 112-74). Both H.R. 2434 and the Senate version of the bill, S. 1573, would have continued to clarify the definition of “payment of cash in advance” for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2012, but the provision was not included in the “megabus” measure. Other initiatives that would increase sanctions include H.R. 2583, with a provision rolling back the easing of travel and remittance restriction, and H.R. 2831, intended to curb frequent travel to Cuba by Cubans who have recently emigrated to the United States. 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. Five bills, H.R. 372, S. 405, H.R. 2047, H.R. 3393, and S. 1836 would take different approaches toward Cuba’s offshore oil development. Two bills, S. 476 and H.R. 1317, would discontinue Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba. Also 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: February 24, 2012
Number of Pages: 79
Order Number: R41617
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.