Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

USA/Latin America politics: Rightward tilt

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on November 10, 2010

by The Economist Intelligence Unit, November 9th, 2010.

The US’s policy towards Latin America is likely to turn to the right following the November 2nd mid-term elections, which gave the Republicans control of the lower house and more seats in the Senate. Incipient efforts to loosen the sanctions on Cuba could go into reverse, while other initiatives important to Latin America, such as reform of US immigration laws, will almost surely remain stalled. The one area where progress is possible is ratification of pending free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, although the timetable for this is uncertain. Border security issues are likely to remain paramount.

The Obama White House has not given top priority to its relations with Latin America during the last two years. Though a disappointment for many Latin American countries, this is somewhat understandable, given the administration’s immediate need to tackle the economic and financial crisis of 2008-09 with bailouts, a stimulus package and new financial regulations. After that, President Barack Obama opted to use much of his political capital and the Democrats’ majority in Congress to push through a controversial healthcare reform bill.

Immigration reform neglected

Although Mr Obama had promised during the presidential campaign to pursue immigration reform—which was proposed but failed to secure congressional backing during the previous administration of George W Bush—he has not introduced any new legislation into Congress. With the Democrats’ clout now eroded, it is unlikely that the White House will have the political strength, or the stomach, to attempt a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. Instead, the more conservative Congress will favour stricter enforcement of existing laws to root out undocumented workers and punish their employers—without addressing the question of how to legalise the status of some of the estimated 12m undocumented immigrants (mostly from Latin America) now in the US.

One bit of immigration-related legislation could be squeezed through in the lame-duck session of Congress before the new lawmakers are seated in January. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the Senate, has pledged to call for a vote on the Dream Act before the legislative body adjourns for the year. The Dream Act would grant conditional legal status to undocumented immigrant students who arrived in the US before the age of 16 and who have received a college degree or completed US military service. (continue reading… )



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