Archive for the ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ Category

Feinstein, Grassley Release Report on Strategies to Prevent a Security Crisis in the Caribbean

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Feinstein, Grassley Release Report on Strategies to Prevent a Security Crisis in the Caribbean

Source: United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today released a bipartisan report entitled Preventing a Security Crisis in the Caribbean that provides recommendations for Congress and the Obama Administration to enhance current security efforts in the Caribbean.

The report recommends:

  • An assessment by the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of where Sensitive Investigative Units are most needed in the Caribbean. Jamaica, with the fourth highest murder rate in the world, should be considered a top candidate for one of these units.
  • Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should send a full criminal history of all deportees to authorities in the Caribbean so they are aware of the return of any criminals or drug traffickers. Caribbean countries’ authorities do not currently receive a full criminal rap sheet from ICE on deportees returning home.
  • United States technical assistance to the countries of the Caribbean to support the drafting of asset forfeiture laws and laws controlling precursor chemicals used to make illegal drugs.
  • The integration of Puerto Rico into working level meetings held between the State Department and countries in the Caribbean on security and narcotics issues.
  • Strong support of Haitian counternarcotic efforts.
  • Strengthening of U.S. anti-money laundering laws.
  • Continued extradition of drug kingpins from the Caribbean to the United States.
  • The return of DEA helicopters used in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos to the Exumas Islands in The Bahamas.

Latino Immigrant Entrepreneurs: How to Capitalize on Their Economic Potential

September 11, 2012 Comments off

Latino Immigrant Entrepreneurs: How to Capitalize on Their Economic Potential

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Latino immigrant entrepreneurs are making important yet largely overlooked contributions to the U.S. economy. With expanding Latino markets at home and abroad, their economic impact is set to grow. But roadblocks stand in the way. Policy changes–including visa reform, improving access to credit, and a more ambitious trade agenda with Latin American countries–would help the United States unlock the full potential of its Latino immigrant entrepreneurs.

Country Analysis Brief: Bolivia

August 27, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief:  Bolivia
Source: Energy Information Administration

Hydrocarbons are an important element of Bolivia’s economy, one of the poorest and least developed in Latin America. Though Bolivia exports natural gas to Brazil and Argentina, continued questions about the actual size of its proved natural gas reserves have contributed to skepticism about the country’s potential to be a significant fossil fuel producer and regional energy hub. Bolivia’s known fossil fuel endowment is largely concentrated in southern and eastern departments, which have been controlled by opposition parties that demand greater autonomy from the federal government — partly in order to increase investment in and revenues from the hydrocarbon sector.

New From the GAO

August 9, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Counternarcotics Assistance: U.S. Agencies Have Allotted Billions in Andean Countries, but DOD Should Improve Its Reporting of Results. GAO-12-824, July 10.
Highlights –

2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: More States Counting Third Party Maintenance of Effort Spending. GAO-12-929R, July 23.

Social Security in the BRIC Countries

August 9, 2012 Comments off

Social Security in the BRIC Countries
Source: IMB Center for the Business of Government

Social security is a well-established part of the societal landscape in traditional westernized countries. There are a variety of approaches, and there are substantial differences between the operation of social security under the predominantly insurance-based (or Bismarckian) systems and the social assistance (Beveridge) systems. But both were developed and matured in the context of the industrialization of societies and both reflect the need to provide social protection in mass-scale workforces. It is recognised that (at least historically) the development of social security was seen as a natural complement to the process of economic development. Indeed, they can effectively be characterized as two sides of the same coin.

But what can we draw from the lessons of history and how much do these lessons apply to countries undergoing the 21st century equivalent of the industrial revolution? The so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries are experiencing the same kind of growth and rapid change experienced in western economies almost two centuries ago. Certainly, there are similar demands and pressures to balance economic advancement with social protection for those workers who provide the labour to fuel the economic development.

This report examines the existing nature of social security in the BRIC countries in order to consider the likely trajectory of its future development. The report provides a useful reminder that, whilst the underlying pressures are at least to some extent similar,
the starting places and norms are quite different. Also, the globalised world of the 21st century brings new pressures compared with the conditions that applied in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Evidence of Rabies Virus Exposure among Humans in the Peruvian Amazon

August 8, 2012 Comments off

Evidence of Rabies Virus Exposure among Humans in the Peruvian Amazon

Source:  American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

In May of 2010, two communities (Truenococha and Santa Marta) reported to be at risk of vampire bat depredation were surveyed in the Province Datem del Marañón in the Loreto Department of Perú. Risk factors for bat exposure included age less than or equal to 25 years and owning animals that had been bitten by bats. Rabies virus neutralizing antibodies (rVNAs) were detected in 11% (7 of 63) of human sera tested. Rabies virus ribonucleoprotein (RNP) immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies were detected in the sera of three individuals, two of whom were also seropositive for rVNA. Rabies virus RNP IgM antibodies were detected in one respondent with no evidence of rVNA or RNP IgG antibodies. Because one respondent with positive rVNA results reported prior vaccination and 86% (six of seven) of rVNA-positive respondents reported being bitten by bats, these data suggest nonfatal exposure of persons to rabies virus, which is likely associated with vampire bat depredation.

World Cities Culture Report 2012

August 2, 2012 Comments off

World Cities Culture Report 2012 (PDF)
Source: Mayor of London (UK)

The Mayor of London’s World Cities Culture Report 2012 is the biggest international survey of its kind. It has collected an unprecedented amount of data on the scope and impact of the cultural assets and activities that are produced and consumed in 12 major cities:
New York
São Paulo
Using 60 indicators and reports from each of the participating cities, the World Cities Culture Report 2012 shows that culture is seen as important as finance and trade and sits at the heart of public policy.

Exchanging People for Money: Remittances and Repatriation in Central America

July 31, 2012 Comments off

Exchanging People for Money: Remittances and Repatriation in Central America (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

Immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras sent home more than $10 billion in remittances in 2011— almost all of it from the United States. Remittances comprised 17 percent of GDP in Honduras, 16 percent in El Salvador, and 10 percent in Guatemala and they dwarf both foreign direct investment and overseas development assistance. Remittances reduce poverty and help millions of families that receive them obtain food, clothing, education, housing, and health care, but they can also create dependence on the diaspora. Their greatest potential— fueling productive investment that generates jobs and income and reduces immigration pressure—is often untapped. In addition to the flow of money back to Central America, in recent years the number of immigrants returning from the United States to their home countries has increased. During fiscal year 2011, the United States deported a record 396,906 unauthorized immigrants, including more than 76,000 Central Americans. Central American governments are unprepared for these returned migrants. Many deportees end up re-migrating to the United States because of the lack of opportunities in their native countries.

Country Analysis Brief: Argentina

July 29, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Argentina
Source: Energy Information Administration

Argentina is South America’s largest natural gas producer and a significant producer of oil. However, the heavily regulated energy sector includes policies that limit the industry’s attractiveness to private investors while shielding consumers from rising prices. Consequently, demand for energy in Argentina’s rapidly growing economy continues to rise while production of both oil and gas are in decline – leading Argentina to depend increasingly upon energy imports.

Public Security Challenges in the Americas

July 21, 2012 Comments off

Public Security Challenges in the Americas
Source: Brookings Institution

Kevin Casas-Zamora and Lucía Dammert are right to call for a comprehensive approach to fighting crime in Latin America. The need to incorporate well-designed socio-economic approaches into anti-crime strategies applies not only to policies toward social phenomena such as Latin American youth gangs, but also to fighting organized crime. This is because large populations in Latin America in areas with inadequate or problematic state presence, great poverty, and social and political marginalization continue to be dependent on illicit economies, including the drug trade, for economic survival and the satisfaction of other socio-economic needs. For many, participation in informal economies, if not outright illegal ones, is the only way to assure their human security and provide any chance of their social advancement.

Chile: A Growing Destination Country in Search of a Coherent Approach to Migration

July 10, 2012 Comments off

Chile: A Growing Destination Country in Search of a Coherent Approach to Migration
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Cornered in the southeast extreme of the Americas, Chile developed as a socially and culturally insular country unaccustomed to the presence of large numbers of foreigners. Its geographic isolation between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean set up early European immigrants as arbiters of who could arrive next, engendering early discriminatory migration policies. The desire by established immigrants to encourage other white Europeans to populate the country and “improve the race” was evident in policies that resulted in the influx of European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although the overall number of immigrants during this early period was relatively small compared to other countries in the Southern Cone, their presence transformed the country technologically, economically, and culturally.

Chile is mostly known as an immigrant-sending country, as throughout much of its history, the foreign born have remained a tiny share (1 percent to 2 percent) of the total population. Between 750,000 and 1 million Chileans live abroad (about 6 percent of the country’s population), according to the latest governmental estimates in 2005.

Today, continuing economic growth and reconsolidated political stability have positioned Chile as an emerging country of destination. Over the past three decades, Chile has experienced a steady increase in its foreign-born population. But because of its isolation and history of emigration, Chile has few formally established migration policies, and the ones in force are outdated. With a large community abroad and the increase in intra- and extra-regional immigration during the past decade, the country has shown the need for a modernized and coherent migration policy. However, governmental efforts toward achieving comprehensive migration policy have been mostly piecemeal, making this goal elusive.

The Impact of Transnational “Big Food” Companies on the South: A View from Brazil

July 6, 2012 Comments off

The Impact of Transnational “Big Food” Companies on the South: A View from Brazil
Source: PLoS ONE

Summary Points

  • Traditional long-established food systems and dietary patterns are being displaced in Brazil and in other countries in the South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) by ultra-processed products made by transnational food corporations (“Big Food” and “Big Snack”).
  • This displacement increases the incidence of obesity and of major chronic diseases and affects public health and public goods by undermining culture, meals, the family, community life, local economies, and national identity.
  • The penetration of transnational companies into Brazil has been rapid, but the tradition of shared and family meals remains strong and is likely to provide protection to national and regional food systems.
  • The Brazilian government, under pressure from civil society organizations, has introduced legislation to protect and improve its traditional food system; by contrast, the governments of many industrialized countries have partly ceded their prime duty to protect public health to transnational companies.
  • The experience of countries in the South that still retain traditional food systems provides a rational basis for policies that protect public health.

See: Brazil Has Laws That Protect Against ‘Big Food’ and ‘Big Snack’ (Science Daily)

CRS — U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2013 Appropriations

July 3, 2012 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2013 Appropriations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Geographic proximity has forged strong linkages between the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, with critical U.S. interests in the region encompassing economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to advancing democracy and open markets since the 1990s. Current U.S. policy toward the region is designed to promote economic and social opportunity; ensure citizen security; strengthen effective democratic institutions; and secure a clean energy future. As part of broader efforts to advance these priorities, the United States provides Latin American and Caribbean nations with substantial amounts of foreign assistance. Congress – which authorizes and appropriates aid for the region, and engages in oversight of assistance programs – is currently considering the President’s foreign aid request for FY2013. In recent years, the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations measure has been the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress reviews U.S. assistance and influences executive branch policy toward the region.

Trends in Assistance Since 1946, the United States has provided over $148 billion (constant 2010 dollars) in assistance to the region. Funding levels have fluctuated over time, however, according to regional trends and U.S. policy initiatives. U.S. assistance to the region spiked during the 1960s under President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, then declined in the 1970s before spiking again during the Central American conflicts of the 1980s. After another decline during the 1990s, assistance to the region remained on a generally upward trajectory through the first decade of this century, reaching its most recent peak in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Aid levels for the region have fallen in each of the past two fiscal years, however, as Congress has sought to trim the foreign aid budget.

FY2013 Obama Administration Request The Obama Administration’s FY2013 foreign aid budget request would continue the recent downward trend in assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Administration has requested some $1.7 billion for the region to be provided through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If Congress appropriates funding at the requested levels, Latin America and the Caribbean would receive nearly 9% less assistance than the region received in FY2012, and about 11% less than in FY2011. The proposed cuts are widespread, affecting nearly every foreign aid account. Colombia, Haiti, and Mexico would see some of the largest absolute dollar declines, but would remain the top three regional recipients, collectively accounting for some 55% of the aid to the region. Beyond the assistance provided through the State Department and USAID, many Latin American and Caribbean nations will continue to receive additional aid from agencies such as the Department of Defense, the InterAmerican Foundation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Peace Corps.

Congressional Action In May 2012, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations marked up their annual appropriations bills for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (H.R. 5857 and S. 3241). Funding in the FY2013 House bill is 11.8% lower than the Administration’s request, and funding in the Senate bill is 4.7% lower than the Administration’s request. It is unclear how much foreign assistance each of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean would receive under the two bills, however, since appropriation levels for individual countries and programs are generally not specified in the legislation or accompanying reports. Nevertheless, both of the reports (H.Rept. 112-494 and S.Rept. 112-172) express concerns over conditions in the region and recommend assistance levels that are above the Administration’s request for certain Latin American and Caribbean countries. As the legislation moves forward, Congress may consider issues such as how best to reconcile assistance priorities with budget constraints, improve inter-agency and donor coordination, and ensure the sustainability of U.S. assistance efforts.

CRS — Haiti Under President Martelly: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns

July 3, 2012 Comments off

Haiti Under President Martelly: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. During that time, economic and social stability improved considerably, and many analysts believed Haiti was turning a corner toward sustainable development. Unfortunately, Haiti’s development was set back by a massive earthquake in January 2010 that devastated much of the capital of Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country. Poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide: Haiti remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Haiti is the Obama Administration’s top priority in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Haiti’s developmental needs and priorities are many. The Haitian government and the international donor community are implementing a 10-year recovery plan focusing on territorial, economic, social, and institutional rebuilding. An outbreak of cholera later in 2010 has swept across most of the country and further complicated assistance efforts after the earthquake. While some progress has been made in developing democratic institutions, they remain weak. Following yet another controversial, sometimes violent election process, Haiti saw its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power between presidents of opposing parties in May 2011.

Outgoing President Rene Préval handed the presidential sash to President Michel Martelly, a popular musician without any previous political experience. Martelly’s administration has been without a prime minister for most of his first year in office, hampering reconstruction efforts. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been in Haiti to help restore order since the collapse of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004.

MINUSTAH’s current strength is 10,773 troops. The Mission has helped facilitate elections, conducted campaigns to combat gangs and drug trafficking with the Haitian National Police, and played a key role in emergency responses to natural disasters, especially after the earthquake. Popular protests have called for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal because of allegations regarding its role in introducing cholera to the country and sexual abuse by some of its forces.

The main priorities for U.S. policy regarding Haiti are to strengthen fragile democratic processes, continue to improve security, and promote economic development. Other concerns include the cost and effectiveness of U.S. aid; protecting human rights; combating narcotics, arms, and human trafficking; and alleviating poverty. The Obama Administration granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the United States at the time of the earthquake.

Congressional concerns include the pace and effectiveness of reconstruction; respect for human rights, particularly for women; counternarcotics efforts; and security issues. Congress is also concerned that overdue Senate and local elections be scheduled and be free, fair, and peaceful. Current law related to Haiti includes P.L. 112-74, P.L. 111-171, P.L. 110-246, and P.L. 109-432. Pending legislation related to Haiti includes H.R. 1016/S. 1576, H.R. 3711, H.R. 3771, H.Res. 510, H.Res. 521/S.Res. 352, S. 1023, S.Res. 26, S.Res. 352, and S.Res. 368. For details see “Legislation in the 112 th Congress.”

Country Analysis Brief: Colombia

June 30, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Colombia
Source: Energy Information Administration

The enactment of a series of regulatory reforms to make the oil and natural gas sector more attractive to foreign investors served as an incentive for rising production. In addition, the government has implemented a partial privatization of state oil company Ecopetrol in an attempt to revive its upstream oil industry. The security situation in the country also has improved over the last decade, with fewer attacks against oil and natural gas infrastructure in recent years. Expanded oil production will require further investment in transport infrastructure and refining capacity.

In 2009, Colombia consumed 1.3 quadrillion Btus of total energy. Oil constituted the largest part of this amount, followed by hydroelectricity, natural gas, and coal. The country relies upon hydropower for the bulk of its electricity needs, so it is able to export most of the coal that it produces. Natural gas consumption in Colombia has also risen over the last decade.

CRS — Latin America: Terrorism Issues

June 5, 2012 Comments off

Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

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. 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. 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.

Adult Awareness of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship — 14 Countries

May 28, 2012 Comments off

Adult Awareness of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship — 14 Countries
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

According to the 2012 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) is associated with the initiation and continuation of smoking among young persons. The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires countries to prohibit all forms of TAPS (2); the United States signed the agreement in 2004, but the action has not yet been ratified. Many countries have adopted partial bans covering direct advertising in traditional media channels; however, few countries have adopted comprehensive bans on all types of direct and indirect marketing. To assess progress toward elimination of TAPS and the level of awareness of TAPS among persons aged ≥15 years, CDC used data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) collected in 14 countries during 2008–2010. Awareness of any TAPS ranged from 12.4% in Turkey to 70.4% in the Philippines. In the four countries where awareness of TAPs was ≤15%, three of the countries had comprehensive bans covering all nine channels assessed by GATS, and the fourth country banned seven of the nine channels. In 12 countries, more persons were aware of advertising in stores than advertising via any other channel. Reducing exposure to TAPS is important to prevent initiation of tobacco use by youths and young adults and to help smokers quit.

Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007

May 20, 2012 Comments off
Source:  PLoS ONE
The aim of this study was to assess the main factors related to maternal mortality reduction in large time series available in Chile in context of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Time series of maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from official data (National Institute of Statistics, 1957–2007) along with parallel time series of education years, income per capita, fertility rate (TFR), birth order, clean water, sanitary sewer, and delivery by skilled attendants were analysed using autoregressive models (ARIMA). Historical changes on the mortality trend including the effect of different educational and maternal health policies implemented in 1965, and legislation that prohibited abortion in 1989 were assessed utilizing segmented regression techniques.
During the 50-year study period, the MMR decreased from 293.7 to 18.2/100,000 live births, a decrease of 93.8%. Women’s education level modulated the effects of TFR, birth order, delivery by skilled attendants, clean water, and sanitary sewer access. In the fully adjusted model, for every additional year of maternal education there was a corresponding decrease in the MMR of 29.3/100,000 live births. A rapid phase of decline between 1965 and 1981 (−13.29/100,000 live births each year) and a slow phase between 1981 and 2007 (−1.59/100,000 live births each year) were identified. After abortion was prohibited, the MMR decreased from 41.3 to 12.7 per 100,000 live births (−69.2%). The slope of the MMR did not appear to be altered by the change in abortion law.
Increasing education level appears to favourably impact the downward trend in the MMR, modulating other key factors such as access and utilization of maternal health facilities, changes in women’s reproductive behaviour and improvements of the sanitary system. Consequently, different MDGs can act synergistically to improve maternal health. The reduction in the MMR is not related to the legal status of abortion.

Ecological Implications of Extreme Events: Footprints of the 2010 Earthquake along the Chilean Coast

May 14, 2012 Comments off
Source:  PLoS ONE

Deciphering ecological effects of major catastrophic events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, storms and fires, requires rapid interdisciplinary efforts often hampered by a lack of pre-event data. Using results of intertidal surveys conducted shortly before and immediately after Chile’s 2010 Mw 8.8 earthquake along the entire rupture zone (ca. 34–38°S), we provide the first quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems. Our study incorporated anthropogenic coastal development as a key design factor. Ecological responses of beach ecosystems were strongly affected by the magnitude of land-level change. Subsidence along the northern rupture segment combined with tsunami-associated disturbance and drowned beaches. In contrast, along the co-seismically uplifted southern rupture, beaches widened and flattened increasing habitat availability. Post-event changes in abundance and distribution of mobile intertidal invertebrates were not uniform, varying with land-level change, tsunami height and coastal development. On beaches where subsidence occurred, intertidal zones and their associated species disappeared. On some beaches, uplift of rocky sub-tidal substrate eliminated low intertidal sand beach habitat for ecologically important species. On others, unexpected interactions of uplift with man-made coastal armouring included restoration of upper and mid-intertidal habitat seaward of armouring followed by rapid colonization of mobile crustaceans typical of these zones formerly excluded by constraints imposed by the armouring structures. Responses of coastal ecosystems to major earthquakes appear to vary strongly with land-level change, the mobility of the biota and shore type. Our results show that interactions of extreme events with human-altered shorelines can produce surprising ecological outcomes, and suggest these complex responses to landscape alteration can leave lasting footprints in coastal ecosystems.

CRS — Chile: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

May 10, 2012 Comments off

Chile: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since its transition back to democracy in 1990, Chile has consistently maintained friendly relations with the United States. Serving as a reliable but independent ally, Chile has worked with the United States to advance democracy, human rights, and trade in the Western Hemisphere. Chile and the United States also maintain strong bilateral commercial ties. Total trade has grown 290% to $24.9 billion since the implementation of a free trade agreement in 2004, and the countries signed an income tax treaty designed to boost private sector investment in February 2010. Additional areas of cooperation between the United States and Chile include promoting clean energy development, supporting regional security and stability, and investigating dictatorship-era human rights abuses.

Sebastian Pinera of the center-right “Coalition for Change” was inaugurated to a four-year presidential term in March 2010. Pinera’s electoral victory was the first for the Chilean right since 1958, and brought an end to 20 years of governance by a center-left coalition of parties known as the Concertacion. Since taking office, Pinera has largely maintained the open economic policies and moderate social welfare policies of his Concertacion predecessors while proposing reforms designed to boost economic growth and reduce poverty. Although his political coalition lacks majorities in both houses of the Chilean Congress, Pinera has been able to implement portions of his policy agenda. He has struggled, however, in dealing with a series of large-scale protests over issues ranging from energy policy to the education system. The Chilean populace has resorted to such tactics to demonstrate its increasing dissatisfaction with the country’s political system, which it views as unresponsive to citizen demands. As the generalized sense of discontent has spread, Pinera’s approval rating has steadily declined. Halfway through his term, 29% of Chileans approve of Pinera and 64% disapprove. The political opposition has not benefitted from Pinera’s unpopularity; just 21% of the public approves of the Concertacion.

With a gross national income of $173.2 billion and a per capita income of $10,120, Chile is classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle-income developing country. Successive governments have pursued market-oriented economic policies that have contributed to the development of what many analysts consider the most competitive and fundamentally sound economy in Latin America. This solid economic framework has helped the country weather recent shocks, such as the global financial crisis and a massive February 2010 earthquake. After a 1.7% contraction in 2009, the Chilean economy grew by 5.2% in 2010 and 6.2% in 2011. Strong economic growth–paired with targeted social assistance programs–has also contributed to a significant decline in the poverty rate, which fell from 38.8% in 1989 to 15.1% in 2009.

Congress has expressed interest in a number of issues in U.S.-Chilean relations in recent years. During the 111 th Congress, both houses passed resolutions (S.Res. 431 and H.Res. 1144) expressing sympathy for the victims of the Chilean earthquake, and the House passed a resolution (H.Res. 1662) commending the country’s rescue of 33 trapped miners. The 112 th Congress could take up issues such as the U.S.-Chile bilateral income tax treaty that was signed in 2010 and is awaiting submission to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

This report provides a brief historical background of Chile, examines recent political and economic developments, and considers current issues in U.S.-Chilean relations.


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