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Latin America and the Caribbean: Congressional Priorities for 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean: Congressional Priorities for 2014

Posted by PanamericanWorld on January 18, 2014

In 2013, the Obama Administration seemed to take for granted U.S. relationships with our many friendly neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean—nations that share our democratic and economic values—while ignoring growing threats to our national security from some countries in the region that are openly hostile to America’s core principles.

In 2014, Congress should insist that the Administration reshape its Western Hemisphere policy to advance U.S. national interests, improve already robust trade and investment ties, and actively combat criminal and terrorist organizations. Here are some specific areas where current policies should be changed.

Support a Genuine Democratic Transition in Cuba

Many international observers were bamboozled by the Castro regime’s timid steps toward liberalization last year, hoping they signaled a transition to democracy, but a closer look reveals that the Castro brothers and their cronies continue to adhere strictly to the same communist principles that put the country on the road to ruin more than 50 years ago.

What mainstream pundits fail to note is that Raul paired some small free-market reforms with a harsh new crackdown via the dictatorship’s organs of repression. For example, Cuba continues to hold hostage former U.S. Agency for International Development contractor and American citizen Alan Gross.

The Obama Administration has dropped hints that it is reassessing its Cuba policy and has called for a more creative approach to Cuban–American relations. Rather than conceding any ground to the regime, however, the Obama Administration should remain focused on using sanctions as leverage for a democratic transition and the protection of human rights. Any relaxation of sanctions should be a reward granted only when Cuba takes steps toward economic and political freedom.

Support the Pacific Alliance

The “Pacific Alliance” (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) provides the U.S. with the best and most viable alternative to the state-centric and anti-American bloc of countries led by Cuba and Venezuela. The Pacific Alliance can help synchronize its members’ trade commitments and is aimed at enhancing trade with the bloc’s most dynamic partners in East Asia.

The numbers speak for themselves. The four economies of the Pacific Alliance are the most dynamic in the region, representing more than 40 percent of Latin America’s economy with a market of more than 210 million people—more than one-third of the region’s population. Since 2010, they have grown at a higher rate than their neighbors and have also invested at a greater rate—25 percent of their combined gross domestic product (GDP), compared to just 20 percent elsewhere. The Obama Administration should encourage the Pacific Alliance as the best way forward for all of Latin America.

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