Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Election and U.S. Policy Toward Latin America

There are a number of news stories about the reaction in Latin America to Barack Obama's re-election and how it will affect U.S. policy toward the region. The realistic answer is that policy will not be affected greatly, and the change that occurs will be related more to domestic constituencies than foreign ones.

I expect quick action on immigration, but note that Obama never mentions Enrique Peña Nieto when he mentions the topic. Not that Peña was trying very hard either, as he congratulated Obama via Twitter. Immigration is about forcing Republicans to take a stand, not about Mexico or Central America.

Also with regard to Mexico, it's hard to see much shift in counternarcotics policy. There is some discussion about the potential effects of state-level laws on marijuana legalization, but of course that is not federal policy. The basic contours of the Mérida Initiative will remain.

We may see more liberalization of relations with Cuba, especially since Cuban Americas in Florida are moving toward the Democratic Party. A hardline stance toward Cuba is no longer a requirement to get votes from that constituency. In fact, liberalized travel is popular. However, it is difficult to see the embargo laws going anywhere, especially since they cannot be lifted without congressional approval.

We won't see much movement on trade because there's hardly any movement to be made no matter who is president.

We won't see much on Iran, because fortunately the Obama administration is not crazy and has no electoral reason to appease the numerically small but vocal voices calling for "action." Ditto with Venezuela.

In short, at this point we don't have any reason to believe there will be any significant policy shifts.


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