Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy
September 3, 2020
and Issues in the 116th Congress
Mark P. Sullivan,
The United States maintains strong linkages with neighboring Latin America and the Caribbean
Coordinator
based on geographic proximity and diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and
Specialist in Latin
security concerns. The United States is a major trading partner and source of foreign investment
American Affairs
for many countries in the region, with free-trade agreements enhancing economic linkages with

11 countries. The region is a large source of U.S. immigration, b oth legal and illegal; proximity
June S. Beittel
and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration. Curbing the flow of
Analyst in Latin American
illicit drugs has been a key component of U.S. relations with the region for more than four
Affairs
decades and currently involves close security cooperation with Mexico, Central America, and the

Caribbean. U.S. support for democracy and human rights in the region has been long-standing,
with current focus on Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Overall, although the region has made
Peter J. Meyer
significant advances over the past four decades in terms of both political and economic
Specialist in Latin
development, notable challenges remain and some countries have experienced major setbacks,
American Affairs
most prominently Venezuela. Most significantly in 2020, the Coronavirus Disease 2019

(COVID-19) pandemic is having widespread economic, social, and political effects in the region
Clare Ribando Seelke
and is currently surging in infections and deaths in some countries. As of September 2, 2020, the
Specialist in Latin
region had almost 280,000 deaths (almost 31% of deaths worldwide).
American Affairs

Under the Trump Administration, U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean have
Maureen Taft-Morales
generally moved toward a more confrontational approach from one of engagement and
Specialist in Latin
partnership during past Administrations. Since FY2018, the Administration’s proposed foreign
American Affairs
aid budgets for the region would have cut assistance levels significantly. To deter increased

unauthorized migration from Central America, the Administration has used a variety of
immigration policy tools as well as aid cuts and threats of increased U.S. tariffs and taxes on
M. Angeles Villarreal
remittances. Among trade issues, President Trump strongly criticized and repeatedly threatened
Specialist in International
to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); this led to negotiation of
Trade and Finance

the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The Trump Administration also
has imposed strong economic sanctions on Venezuela and has shifted U.S. policy toward Cuba

away from engagement toward increased sanctions.
Congressional Action in the 116th Congress. Congress traditionally has played an active role in policy toward Latin
America and the Caribbean in terms of both legislation and oversight. The 116th Congress has not approved the Trump
Administration’s downsized foreign aid budget requests for the region for FY2019 (P.L. 116-6) and FY2020 (P.L. 116-94),
instead providing aid amounts roughly similar to those provided in recent years. For FY2021, the House-passed foreign aid
appropriations bill, Division A of H.R. 7608, approved in July 2020, would fund key countries and programs at amounts
higher than requested. Congress approved the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act of
2019 in December 2019 (included in Division J of P.L. 116-94), which, among its provisions, codifies several types of
sanctions imposed and authorizes humanitarian assistance. In January 2020, Congress completed action on implementing
legislation (P.L. 116-113) for the USMCA, but before final agreement, the trade agreement was amended to address several
congressional concerns. The FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (FY20202 NDAA; P.L. 116-92), approved in
December 2019, includes provisions on Venezuela and Guatemala and reporting requirements on Brazil, Honduras, Central
America, and Mexico. The House-passed FY2021 NDAA, H.R. 6395, approved in July 2020, has provisions on the
Caribbean, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, and Central America.
Either or both houses approved several bills and resolutions on a range of issues: H.R. 133, which would promote economic
cooperation and exchanges with Mexico; H.R. 2615, which would authorize aid to Central America to address the root causes
of migration; S.Res. 35 and S.Res. 447 on the political situation in Bolivia; H.Res. 441 and S.Res. 277, commemorating the
1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires; H.Res. 754 and S.Res. 525 expressing support
for democracy and human rights in Nicaragua; and S.Res. 454, calling for the release of Cuban democracy activist Jose
Daniel Ferrer. Congressional committees have held over 20 oversight hearings on the region in the 116th Congress (see
Appendix).
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Contents
Political and Economic Situation amid COVID-19 ............................................................... 1
Political Conditions ................................................................................................... 6
Economic Conditions ................................................................................................. 9
U.S. Policy Toward Latin America and the Caribbean ......................................................... 12
Trump Administration Policy..................................................................................... 13
Congress and Policy Toward the Region...................................................................... 16
Regional U.S. Policy Issues ............................................................................................ 19
U.S. Foreign Aid ..................................................................................................... 19
Drug Trafficking and Criminal Gangs ......................................................................... 21
Trade Policy ........................................................................................................... 23
Migration Issues ...................................................................................................... 27
Selected Country and Subregional Issues .......................................................................... 29
The Caribbean......................................................................................................... 29
Caribbean Regional Issues ................................................................................... 29
Cuba ................................................................................................................ 33
Haiti ................................................................................................................. 34
Mexico and Central America ..................................................................................... 37
Mexico ............................................................................................................. 37
Central America’s Northern Triangle ..................................................................... 39
Nicaragua.......................................................................................................... 42
South America ........................................................................................................ 44
Argentina .......................................................................................................... 44
Bolivia.............................................................................................................. 45
Brazil ............................................................................................................... 46
Colombia .......................................................................................................... 48
Venezuela.......................................................................................................... 50
Outlook ....................................................................................................................... 51

Figures
Figure 1. Map of Latin America and the Caribbean............................................................... 3
Figure 2. Map of the Caribbean Region: Independent Countries ........................................... 31
Figure 3. Map of Central America.................................................................................... 40

Tables
Table 1. COVID-19 Deaths and Mortality Rates in Latin America and the Caribbean ................ 2
Table 2. Latin American and Caribbean Countries: Basic Facts .............................................. 4
Table 3. Latin America and Caribbean: Real GDP Growth, 2018-2021 .................................. 10
Table 4. U.S. Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2016-FY2021 ..................... 19
Table 5. U.S. Trade with Key Trading Partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2012-
2019......................................................................................................................... 25

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Table A-1. Congressional Hearings in the 116th Congress on Latin America
and the Caribbean....................................................................................................... 53

Appendixes
Appendix. Hearings in the 116th Congress ......................................................................... 53

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 54


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Political and Economic Situation amid COVID-19
With 33 countries—ranging from the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, one of the world’s
smal est states, to the South American giant of Brazil, the world’s fifth-largest country—the Latin
American and Caribbean region has made significant advances over the past four decades in
terms of both political and economic development. (See Figure 1 and Table 2 for a map and
basic facts on the region’s countries.) Notable political and economic chal enges remain,
however, and some countries have experienced major setbacks, most prominently Venezuela,
which has descended into dictatorship and economic collapse.
In 2020, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has surged in many Latin
American and Caribbean countries, is having widespread public health, economic, social, and
political effects throughout the region. As discussed below, before the pandemic, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast a modest recovery of 1.6% economic growth for the region in
2020; by late June 2020, the IMF was projecting an economic decline of 9.4%, the worst on
record, with almost every country in the region in deep recession.1 Mil ions of people wil fal
into poverty, and many countries in the region may struggle with protracted economic recoveries,
given that they rely on global investment, trade, and tourism that has been significantly affected
by COVID-19 (see ““Economic Conditions,” below.) Political y, observers have expressed
concerns about leaders taking advantage of the emergency health situation to limit civil liberties
for political gain. The pandemic could exacerbate public dissatisfaction with how democracy is
working and stoke social unrest similar to that experienced by many countries in the region in
2019 (see “Political Conditions,” below).
As of September 2, 2020, the region had almost 6.1 mil ion confirmed cases (almost 29% of cases
worldwide) and almost 280,000 deaths (almost 33% of deaths worldwide), with the virus
continuing to spread at high levels in several countries. Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and
Chile have the highest numbers of deaths in the region, and Brazil has the highest death toll
worldwide after the United States. The rankings change in terms of per capita deaths—Peru has
the highest recorded deaths per capita in the region, followed by Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and
Panama (see Table 1.) A June 2020 University of Washington model for COVID-19 in Latin
America and the Caribbean forecast that deaths could reach 438,000 by October 1, 2020.2
Experts and observers are concerned that several countries, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Haiti, and
Nicaragua, are significantly undercounting their death tolls. Many observers have expressed
special concern for Venezuela, where the health care system was collapsing prior to the pandemic.
Experts have criticized the leaders of Brazil, Mexico, and Nicaragua for playing down the virus
threat and not taking adequate actions to stem its spread.
On May 19, 2020, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa
Etienne, maintained that “the virus is surging across our region” and expressed concern about the
poor and other vulnerable groups at greatest risk from the virus. Dr. Etienne expressed particular
concern for cities, towns, and remote communities in the Amazon Basin, including indigenous
communities, as wel as people of African descent in Latin America, migrants in temporary
settlements, and prisoners in crowded jails with poor sanitation.3 On June 16, 2020, the PAHO

1 International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook Update, January 2020 and June 2020.
2 University of Washington, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “Correction: New IHME COVID -19 Model
Forecasts Latin American, Caribbean Nations Will See Nearly 440,000 Deaths by October 1, 2020.”
3 Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), “PAHO Director Calls to Protect Vulnerable Groups from Effects of
COVID-19 Pandemic,” press release, May 19, 2020. Also see PAHO, “ PAHO Director Asks Countries to Address
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

Director cal ed on countries to work together to contain the spread of COVID-19 cases among
migrant and vulnerable populations in border areas.4 PAHO issued guidance in June 2020 on
measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission among indigenous populations, Afro-descendants,
and other ethnic groups. In July 2020, it issued an alert urging countries to intensify efforts to
prevent further spread of the virus among indigenous communities in the Americas.5 PAHO is
playing a major role in supporting the response to COVID-19 in the Americas, including support
for surveil ance, laboratory capacity, health care services, infection prevention control, clinical
management, and risk communication; it also has developed, published, and disseminated
technical documents to help guide countries’ efforts to manage the pandemic.6
Table 1. COVID-19 Deaths and Mortality Rates in Latin America and the Caribbean
(countries with more than 1,000 deaths as of September 2, 2020)
Country
Confirmed
Deaths
Deaths per
Regional
Cases
100,000
Rank (deaths
People
per 100,000)
Brazil
3,950,931
122,596
58.53
3
Mexico
606,036
65,241
51.70
4
Peru
652,037
28,944
90.48
1
Colombia
624,026
20,050
40.38
7
Chile
413,145
11,321
60.45
2
Argentina
428,239
8,919
20.05
9
Ecuador
114,309
6,571
38.46
8
Bolivia
117,267
5,101
44.93
6
Guatemala
74,893
2,778
16.11
12
Panama
93,552
2,018
48.31
5
Honduras
61,769
1,888
19.69
10
Dominican Republic
94,979
1,738
16.35
11
Latin America &
Caribbean Total

7,397,169
279,788


United States
6,073,840
184,664
56.44

Source: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, September
2, 2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.

Health, Social, and Economic Emergencies T ogether, as COVID-19 Expands in the Americas,” press release, May 12,
2020.
4 PAHO, “ PAHO Director Calls to Contain Spread of COVID-19 in Vulnerable Populations in Border Areas,” June 16,
2020.
5 PAHO, “PAHO Issues Guidance to Reduce COVID-19 T ransmission Among Indigenous, Afro-descendant Groups,”
press release, June 8, 2020. “PAHO Calls on Countries to Intensify Efforts to Prevent Further Spread of COVID -19
Among Indigenous Peoples in the Americas,” press release, July 20, 2020.
6 PAHO, COVID-19 Situation in the Region of the Americas, Situation Reports, available at https://www.paho.org/en/
topics/coronavirus-infections/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-pandemic.
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

Figure 1. Map of Latin America and the Caribbean

Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS) Graphics.
Notes: Caribbean countries are in purple, Central American countries are in gold, and South American
countries are in green. Although Belize is located in Central America and Guyana and Suriname are located in
South America, al three are members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
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Table 2. Latin American and Caribbean Countries: Basic Facts
GDP
GDP Per
(2019
Capita
Population
est.,
(2019
Area
(2019
U.S. $
est.,
(square
estimated,
billions,
U.S. $,
Country
miles)
thousands)
current)
current)
Leader (elected/next election)
Caribbean
Antigua &
171
93
1.7
18,109
Gaston Browne
Barbuda
(March 2018/by March 2023)
Bahamas
5,359
381
12.7
33,261
Hubert Minnis (May 2017/by May
2022)
Barbados
166
287
5.2
18,069
Mia Mottley (May 2018/ by May
2023)
Belizea
8,867
406
2.0
4,925
Dean Barrow (Nov. 2015/by Feb.
2021)b
Cuba
42,803
11,332
100.0

Miguel Díaz-Canel (April 2018/

(2018)
2023)c
Dominica
290
71
0.6
8,381
Roosevelt Skerrit (Dec. 2019/by
Dec. 2024)
Dominican
18,792
10,369
89.5
8,629
Luis Abinader (July 2020/ 2024)
Republic
Grenada
133
109
1.2
11,381
Keith Mitchel (March 2018/by
March 2023)
Guyanaa
83,000
785
4.1
5,252
Irfaan Ali (March 2, 2020/2025)d
Haiti
10,714
11,248
8.8
784
Jovenel Moïse (Nov. 2016/Oct.
2021)
Jamaica
4,244
2,875
15.7
5,461
Andrew Holness (Feb. 2016/Sept. 3,
2020)
St. Kitts &
101
57
1.0
18,246
Timothy Harris (June 2020/by 2025)
Nevis
St. Lucia
238
180
2.0
11,076
Al en Chastanet (June 2016/by June
2021)
St. Vincent &
150
110
0.9
7,751
Ralph Gonsalves (Dec. 2015/by
the
March 2021)e
Grenadines
Surinamea
63,251
598
3.8
6,311
Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi
(May 2020/May 2025)
Trinidad &
1,980
1,381
22.6
16,366
Keith Rowley (August 2020/by
Tobago
2025)
Mexico and Central America
Mexico
758,449
125,929
1,274.2
10,118
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (July
2018/July 2024)
Costa Rica
19,730
5,079
61.0
12,015
Carlos Alvarado (Feb. & April
2018/Feb. 2022)
El Salvador
8,124
6,704
26.9
4,008
Nayib Bukele (Feb. 2019/Feb. 2024)
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GDP
GDP Per
(2019
Capita
Population
est.,
(2019
Area
(2019
U.S. $
est.,
(square
estimated,
billions,
U.S. $,
Country
miles)
thousands)
current)
current)
Leader (elected/next election)
Guatemala
42,042
17,613
81.3
4,617
Alejandro Giammattei (June &
August 2019/2023)
Honduras
43,278
9,594
24.4
2,548
Juan Orlando Hernández (Nov.
2017/Nov. 2021)
Nicaragua
50,336
6,528
12.5
1,919
Daniel Ortega (Nov. 2015/Nov.
2021)
Panama
29,120
4,219
68.5
16,245
Laurentino Cortizo (May 2019/May
2024)
South America
Argentina
1,073,518
45,052
445.5
9,888
Alberto Fernández (Oct. 2019/Oct.
2023)
Bolivia
424,164
11,550
42.4
3,671
Jeanine Áñez (Oct. 2019/Oct. 18,
2020)f
Brazil
3,287,957
209,962
1,847.0
8,797
Jair Bolsonaro (Oct. 2018/Oct.
2022)
Chile
291,932
19,107
294.2
15,399
Sebastián Piñera (Nov. 2017/Nov.
2021)
Colombia
439,736
50,382
327.9
6,508
Iván Duque (May & June 2018/May
2022)
Ecuador
109,484
17,268
107.9
6,249
Lenín Moreno (Feb. & April
2017/Feb. 2021)
Paraguay
157,048
7,153
40.7
5,692
Mario Abdo Benítez (April
2018/April 2023)
Peru
496,225
32,496
229.0
7,047
Martín Vizcarra (April & June
2016/April 2021)g
Uruguay
68,037
3,519
59.9
17,029
Luis Lacal e Pou (Oct. & Nov.
2019/Oct. 2024)
Venezuela
352,144
27,530
70.1
2,548
Nicolás Maduro (May 2018/May
2024)h
Sources: Area statistics are from the Central Intel igence Agency’s World Factbook, with square kilometers
converted into square miles. Population and economic statistics are from the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019. Since the IMF database does not include economic statistics on
Cuba, population and gross domestic product (GDP) statistics for Cuba are from the World Bank’s World
Development Indicators databank.
a. Geographical y, Belize is located in Central America and Guyana and Suriname are located on the northern
coast of South America, but al three are members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and are
therefore listed under the Caribbean region.
b. In Belize, elections are expected in November 2020 but are not constitutional y due until February 2021.
c. Cuba does not have direct elections for its head of government. Instead, Cuba’s legislature selects the
president of the republic for a five-year term.
d. The government of President David Granger in Guyana lost a no-confidence vote in the country’s
legislature in December 2018. New elections were held on March 2, 2020, but al egations of fraud, a
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recount, and numerous legal chal enges delayed the declaration of official results until August 2, 2020. See
CRS In Focus IF11381, Guyana: An Overview, by Mark P. Sul ivan.
e. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, elections are not constitutional y due until March 2021, but the
government has said elections wil be held by the end of 2020.
f.
Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned on November 10, 2019, after weeks of protests and violence
al eging fraud in the October 20, 2019, presidential election. Opposition Senator Jeanine Áñez became
interim president on November 12, 2019. New presidential elections were scheduled for May 3, 2020, but
were postponed twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now are scheduled for October 18, 2020.
See CRS Insight IN11198, Bolivia: Elections Postponed to October, by Clare Ribando Seelke
g. Martin Vizcarra took office in March 2018 upon the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who faced
impeachment.
h. Venezuela’s May 2018 elections were characterized by widespread fraud. The United States and over 50
other countries recognize Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as interim president of
Venezuela.
Political Conditions
In the early 1980s, authoritarian regimes governed 16 Latin American and Caribbean countries,
both on the left and the right. Today, three countries in the region—Cuba, Nicaragua, and
Venezuela—are ruled by authoritarian governments.7 Most governments in the region today are
elected democracies. Although free and fair elections have become the norm, recent elections in
several countries have been controversial and contested. In 2019, Argentina, Dominica, El
Salvador, Panama, and Uruguay held successful free and fair elections. Guatemala held two
presidential election rounds in June and August 2019 that international observers judged to be
successful, but the elections suffered because several popular candidates were disqualified from
the race on dubious grounds.
In Bolivia, severe irregularities in the conduct of the country’s October 2019 presidential
elections ignited protests and violence that led to the resignation of incumbent President Evo
Morales, who was seeking a fourth term. New elections under Interim President Jeanine Áñez
were scheduled for May 3, 2020, but were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initial y the elections were postponed until September 6, but they were postponed again to
October 18, 2020. International criticism of Bolivia’s interim government has been growing
because of al eged human rights violations and the curtailment of civil liberties. (See “Bolivia”
section below and CRS Insight IN11198, Bolivia: Elections Postponed to October.)
To date, five Caribbean countries have held elections in 2020, Jamaica has elections scheduled for
early September, and two countries potential y could hold elections by the end of the year.
Guyana held elections on March 2, 2020, that were marred by al egations of
fraud. After a recount and multiple legal chal enges by supporters of the
government of President David Granger, final results were not issued until
August 2, 2020, with opposition candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali of the People’s
Progressive Party/Civic sworn in as president. (See CRS In Focus IF11381,
Guyana: An Overview, by Mark P. Sullivan.)
 In Suriname, legislative elections took place on May 25, 2020, with the
opposition Progressive Reform Party (VHP) winning the most seats in the

7 See T he Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Democracy Index 2019, January 2020 (hereinafter cited as EIU,
Dem ocracy Index, 2019), which classifies all three governments as authoritarian based on some 60 indicators; and
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2020, March 2020, which classifies all three governments as not free based on
their poor records on political rights and civil liberties. For additional background, see CRS Report R46016,
Dem ocracy in Latin Am erica and the Caribbean: A Com pilation of Selected Indices, by Carla Y. Davis-Castro.
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country’s 51-member National Assembly. Under Suriname’s system of
government, the president is elected indirectly by a two-thirds majority vote of
the legislature. On July 13, the National Assembly elected VHP leader
Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi as president, succeeding longtime ruler Desi
Bouterse and beginning a new political era for Suriname. Since 2010, Bouterse
had been elected president three times; prior to that, he overthrew elected
governments in 1980 and 1990. He was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands
in 1999 for drug trafficking, and in November 2019 he was convicted in
Suriname for the 1982 kil ing of 15 political opponents.
 In the Dominican Republic, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in elections being
moved from May 17 to July 5, 2020. Opposition candidate Luis Abinader of the
Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) defeated the candidate of the ruling
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), which has held the presidency and legislature
since 2004. The PRM also won a Senate majority and a plurality in the Chamber
of Deputies. (See CRS In Focus IF10407, Dominican Republic, by Clare Ribando
Seelke and Rachel L. Martin.)
 In parliamentary elections held in St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and
Tobago, ruling parties were returned to office. St. Kitts and Nevis held elections
on June 5, 2020, in which Prime Minister Timothy Harris led a three-party
coalition known as Team Unity to its second electoral victory since 2015.
Trinidad and Tobago held elections on August 10, and Prime Minister Keith
Rowley of the ruling People’s National Movement was returned to power for his
second term since 2015.
 In Jamaica, parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 3, 2020, with
the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, led by current Prime Minister Andrew Holness,
vying for a second term against the opposition People’s National Party led by
former Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phil ips.
 Elsewhere in the region, although parliamentary elections in Belize are expected
during the first week of November 2020, they have not yet been cal ed and are
not official y due until February 2021. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
elections are not due until March 2021, but the government previously said
elections would be held before the end of 2020.8
Despite significant improvements in political rights and civil liberties since the 1980s, many
countries in the region stil face considerable chal enges. In a number of countries, weaknesses
remain in the state’s ability to deliver public services, ensure accountability and transparency,
advance the rule of law, and ensure citizen safety and security. There are numerous examples of
elected presidents who have left office early amid severe social turmoil and economic crises, the
presidents’ own autocratic actions contributing to their ouster, or high-profile corruption. In
addition to Morales’s resignation in 2019, corruption scandals either caused or contributed to
several presidents’ resignations or removals—Guatemala in 2015, Brazil in 2016, and Peru in
2018.
Although the threat of direct military rule has dissipated, civilian governments in several
countries have turned to their militaries or retired officers for support or during crises, raising

8 “Elections Set for the First Week in November, Breakingbelizenews.com, July 29, 2020, and EIU, Organisation of
Eastern Caribbean States, Country Report
, 2nd Quarter 2020.
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concerns among some observers.9 For example, in February 2020 in El Salvador, President Nayib
Bukele used the military in an effort to intimidate the country’s legislature into approving an anti-
crime bil ; the action elicited strong criticism in El Salvador and abroad, with concerns centered
on the politicization of the military and the separation of powers.10
The quality of democracy has eroded in several countries over the past several years. The
Economist Intel igence Unit’s (EIU’s) 2019 democracy index shows a steady regional decline in
democratic practices in Latin America since 2017. Several years ago only Cuba was viewed as an
authoritarian regime, but Venezuela joined its ranks in 2017 as President Nicolás Maduro’s
government violently repressed the political opposition. Nicaragua turned to authoritarian
practices in 2018 under long-time President Daniel Ortega, as the government violently repressed
protests. The continued regional downward trend in 2019 stemmed from Bolivia’s post-election
crisis and to a lesser extent by setbacks in the following other countries: Guatemala, where the
government ousted the anti-corruption body known as the International Commission against
Impunity in Guatemala; Haiti, which experienced widespread anti-government protests against
corruption and deteriorating economic conditions; and Guyana, with the delay of elections
following a no-confidence vote by the legislature in December 2018.11
Public satisfaction with how democracy is operating has declined along with the quality of
democracy in the region. According to the 2018/2019 AmericasBarometer public opinion survey,
the percentage of individuals satisfied with how democracy was working in their countries
averaged 39.6% among 18 countries in the region, the lowest level of satisfaction since the poll
began in 2004.12 Given these trends, the eruption of social protests in many countries around the
region in 2019 is unsurprising, but in each country a unique set of circumstances has sparked the
protests. In addition to the protests in Bolivia and Haiti cited above, protests broke out in Ecuador
over fuel price increases, in Chile over pent-up frustration over social inequities, and in Colombia
over opposition to a range of government policies and proposals, from tax reform to education to
peace accord implementation.
Although each country is unique, several broad political and economic factors appear to be
driving the decline in satisfaction with democracy in the region. Political factors include an
increase in authoritarian practices, weak democratic institutions and politicized judicial systems,
corruption, high levels of crime and violence, and organized crime that can infiltrate or influence
state institutions. Economic factors include declining or stagnant regional economic growth rates
over the past several years; high levels of income inequality in many Latin American countries;
increased poverty; and the inadequacy of public services, social safety net programs, and
advancement opportunities, along with increased pressure on the region’s previously expanding
middle class.13 The COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate some of these factors and contribute to
further deterioration in political conditions in the region.

9 See “Latin America’s 21st-Century Militaries,” Americas Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 1 (2020), pp. 12-72.
10 See Brian Winter, “Latin America’s Armed Forces, Q&A: Why El Salvador’s Crisis Is Different – and Worrying,”
Am ericas Quarterly, February 13, 2020; and Christine Wade, “ Bukele’s Politicization of the Military Revives Old
Fears in El Salvador,” World Politics Review, February 12, 2020.
11 EIU, Democracy Index 2019.
12 Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Noam Lupu, LAPOP’s AmericasBarometer Takes the Pulse of Democracy, Vanderbilt
University, Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), 2019.
13 See, for example, the following studies and articles discussing social unrest in Latin America: EIU, Where Next and
What Next for Latin Am erica?
, December 2019; Michael Mantera and Maria de Lourdes Despradel, Latin Am erica and
the Caribbean in the New Decade, How Did We Get There?
, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January
2020; Michael Shifter, “T he Rebellion Against the Elites in Latin America,” New York Times, January 21, 2020; and
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

Human rights groups and other observers have expressed concerns about leaders taking advantage
of the pandemic to advance their own agenda. In Bolivia, the government of Interim President
Áñez issued a decree in April 2020 criminalizing the spread of misinformation affecting public
health; lawyers and human rights groups criticized the government for using a health emergency
to punish anyone who publishes information that the government deems incorrect.14 Critics
included the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.15 In El Salvador,
President Bukele has been accused of exploiting the health crisis to pursue his aggressive anti-
gang policies. Photos released by the government in late April 2020 of a crackdown on jailed
gang members prompted strong criticism by human rights organization of inhumane conditions
imposed on prisoners and actions that could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.16 In Venezuela,
according to Human Rights Watch, the security forces and Venezuelan government authorities
have used a state of emergency imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 as an excuse to crack
down on dissent and increase control over the population.17
In August 2020, the Inter-American Dialogue published a report with the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression at the Organization of American States (OAS) expressing concern about
the criminalization of free speech in the region related to governments’ responses to the
pandemic, restrictions on pandemic-related reporting, and stigmatization of media organizations
by some leaders for reporting on the pandemic. The report also documented restrictions on access
to public information related to COVID-19 in a number of countries in the region.18
Economic Conditions
Even before the onset of COVID-19 and its economic effects, Latin America and the Caribbean
experienced several years of slow economic growth. Beginning around 2015, the global decline
in commodity prices significantly affected the region, as did China’s economic slowdown and its
reduced appetite for imports from the region. According to the IMF, the region experienced an
economic contraction of 0.6% in 2016, dragged down by recessions in Argentina and Brazil and
by Venezuela’s severe economic deterioration as oil prices fel . From 2017 to 2019, the region
registered only marginal growth rates, including an estimated growth rate of 0.1% in 2019.
Regional growth in 2019 was suppressed by the collapse of much of the Venezuelan economy,
which contracted 35%, and by continued recession in Argentina, which suffered an economic
contraction of 2.2%.19
The reduction in economic activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant
economic decline for the region and wil have negative ramifications for the region’s economic
prospects. Compounding the problem was an historic drop in the price of oil (caused by

Eric Farnsworth, “In a Season of Discontent, Are Latin American Democracies at Risk?,” World Politics Review,
December 6, 2019.
14 Gideon Long, “Bolivia Leader Faces Claims of Using Outbreak to T ighten Grip,” Financial Times, May 5, 2020.
15 “Bolivia: Pandemic Policies Under Fire,” LatinNews Weekly Report, May 14, 2020; and “Bolivia: Misinformation
Decree Sparks Free Speech Concerns,” LatinNews Daily, May 13, 2020.
16 May Beth Sheridan, “Photos Show El Salvador’s Crackdown on Imprisoned Gang Members,” Washington Post,
April 28, 2020; Human Rights Watch, “El Salvador” Inhumane Prison Lockdown T reatment,” April 29, 2020.
17 “Venezuela: A Police State Lashes Out Amid COVID-19,” Human Rights Watch, August 28, 2020.
18 Catharine Christe, Edison Lanza, and Michael Camilleri, COVID-19 and Freedom of Expression in the Americas,
Inter-American Dialogue, August 2020.
19 Economic statistics are from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook Database, April
2020.
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disagreements among producers over production cuts) beginning in late February 2020; the fiscal
accounts of countries dependent on proceeds from oil sales (Venezuela and Ecuador in particular,
and to a lesser extent Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico) have deteriorated rapidly.20
In early 2020, the IMF projected regional growth would reach 1.6% during the year, led by
recovery in Brazil and spurred by growth forecasts of 3% or higher for Chile, Colombia, and
Peru. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMF has altered its forecast twice and now is predicting
the worst economic downturn on record for the region. In April 2020, the IMF predicted a
regional contraction of 5.2% in 2020, with almost al countries experiencing deep recessions. By
late June 2020, as the economic fal out from the pandemic intensified worldwide, the IMF revised
its forecast downward again, estimating a 9.4% economic contraction for the region in 2020, with
the region’s six largest economies forecast to contract between 7.5% and 13.9% (see Table 3).
Tourism-dependent Caribbean economies, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and
Eastern Caribbean countries, are being especial y hard hit economical y, with these economies
forecast to contract 10.3%.21
The IMF is currently forecasting a regional recovery of 3.7% in 2021, reflecting the
normalization of economic activity from very low levels in response to COVID-19. This rebound,
however, depends largely on the course of the pandemic and could be affected by a second
outbreak, both within the region and abroad.
Table 3. Latin America and Caribbean: Real GDP Growth, 2018-2021
(annual percentage change)
Regional Average
and Six Largest

2019
2020
2021
Economies
2018
estimate
projection
projection
Latin America and the
1.1
0.1
-9.4
3.7
Caribbean
Brazil
1.3
1.1
-9.1
3.6
Mexico
2.2
-0.3
-10.5
3.3
Argentina
-2.5
-2.2
-9.9
3.9
Colombia
2.5
3.3
-7.8
4.0
Chile
3.9
1.1
-7.5
5.0
Peru
4.0
2.2
-13.9
6.5
Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Update, June 2020, and “Outlook for Latin
America and the Caribbean: An Intensifying Pandemic,” IMF Blog, June 26, 2020.
The decline in economic growth in 2020 is expected to increase income inequality and poverty in
Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin America already was the most unequal region in the
world in terms of income inequality, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Despite an easing of income inequality in the region from

20 Mauricio Cárdenas, “T he Impact of Coronavirus and the Oil Price War on Latin America,” State of the Planet, Earth
Institute, Columbia University, March 18, 2020. Also see CRS Report R46270, Global Econom ic Effects of COVID-19,
coordinated by James K. Jackson.
21 IMF, World Economic Outlook Update, January 2020 and June 2020; IMF, World Economic Outlook Database,
October 2019 and April 2020; and IMF, “Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean: An Intensifying Pandemic,”
IMF Blog, June 26, 2020.
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2002 to 2014, reductions in income inequality had slowed since 2015. In 2020, ECLAC projects
that inequality wil rise in al countries in the region, with the worst results in some of the
region’s largest economies—Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.22
The level of poverty in the region, after having decreased significantly from 2002 through 2014,
has increased over the past five years. In 2014, 27.8% of the region’s population lived in poverty;
that figure increased to 30.3% by 2019, with an estimated 186 mil ion people living in poverty,
according to ECLAC. According to a July 2020 U.N. report, as a result of the pandemic, poverty
is expected to increase to 37.2% in 2020, with an increase of 45 mil ion people moving into
poverty, resulting in a total of 230 mil ion people in the region in poverty.23
A chal enge for the region’s economic recovery is the high rate of informality in the labor market
of many Latin American countries (reportedly about half of workers in Latin America work in the
informal economy). As the World Bank notes, many workers are self-employed and many are
paid under the table, living paycheck to paycheck; such characteristics make it more difficult for
governments to design programs that reach and provide adequate assistance to these workers.24
There were concerns that incoming remittances from abroad (the lion’s share from the United
States) would drop significantly because of the pandemic. For several countries—El Salvador,
Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, and Nicaragua—remittances play a significant role in their
economies. In April 2020, the World Bank predicted that remittances to Latin America and the
Caribbean would decline by 19.3% in 2020.25 An Inter-American Dialogue report estimated that,
as of April 2020, remittances from the United States to the region had declined 16% compared to
2019.26 Nevertheless, there are indications that remittances to the region have rebounded, with
Mexico showing an overal increase in remittances for the first six months of 2020, and
remittances to Central American countries recovering in June and July 2020.27
Although a number of countries in the region have implemented stimulus programs to help
protect their economies and vulnerable populations, many countries have needed external
financing to respond to the severe economic downturn. In response, the international financial
institutions are providing assistance to countries throughout the Latin America and Caribbean
region to support the region’s response to COVID-19.
 The World Bank, as of August 27, 2020, reported it is providing almost $4 bil ion
across the Latin American and Caribbean region; to date, it has identified specific
projects in 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The assistance focuses on
minimizing the loss of life, strengthening health systems and disease
surveil ance, mitigating the pandemic’s economic impact, and addressing supply-

22 U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Social Panorama of Latin America
2019
, December 2019, and The Social Challenge in Tim es of COVID-19, May 12, 2020.
23 U.N. ECLAC, Social Panorama of Latin America 2019, December 2019; and United Nations, Policy Brief: The
Im pact of COVID-19 on Latin Am erica and the Caribbean
, July 9, 2020.
24 World Bank, “Latin American and the Caribbean, Overview,” updated April 28, 2020. Also see Matías Busso et al,
“Covid-19: T he Challenge of Ensuring Assistance to Informal and Vulnerable Worker,” Inter-American Development
Bank, Ideas Matter, May 6, 2020.
25 World Bank, “World Bank Predicts Sharpest Decline of Remittances in Recent History,” press release, April 22,
2020.
26 Mariellen Malloy Jewers and Manuel Orozco, Migrants, Remittances, and COVID-19, Remittance Behavior and
Econom ic and Health Vulnerabilities
, Inter-American Dialogue, August 2020.
27 Kevin Sieff, “Migrant Remittances Increase Abroad, Defying Economists’ Predictions,” Washington Post, August 9,
2020; and “In Brief: Remittances Surge in El Salvador, Guatemala,” LatinNews Daily, August 27, 2020.
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

chain issues and delivery. Over the next 15 months, countries in the region also
may benefit from a portion of the $160 bil ion in worldwide assistance the bank
is providing.28
 The IMF, as of September 2, 2020, had approved $50.9 bil ion in lending to 20
countries in the region contending with the pandemic’s economic impact,
including $23.9 bil ion for Chile, $11 bil ion for Peru, and $10.8 bil ion for
Colombia.29
 The Inter-American Development Bank announced in March 2020 that it was
providing support to countries in four priority areas: (1) the immediate public
health response, (2) safety nets for vulnerable populations, (3) economic
productivity and employment, and (4) fiscal policies for the amelioration of
economic impacts. The bank is making available up to $12 bil ion, including $3.2
bil ion in additional funding for 2020 and the remainder in reprogrammed
existing health projects to address the crisis.30
 The Development Bank of Latin America, as of July 2020, is providing $4.9
bil ion in financing to address the effects of the pandemic in 54 operations across
the region.31
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF11581, Latin America and the Caribbean: Impact
of COVID-19
, by Mark P. Sullivan et al.; CRS Report R46270, Global Economic Effects of
COVID-19
, coordinated by James K. Jackson; and CRS Report R46342, COVID-19: Role of the
International Financial Institutions, by Rebecca M. Nelson and Martin A. Weiss.
U.S. Policy Toward Latin America and the
Caribbean
U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean are diverse and include economic, political,
security, and humanitarian concerns. Geographic proximity has ensured strong economic linkages
between the United States and the region, with the United States being a major trading partner
and source of foreign investment for many Latin American and Caribbean countries. Free-trade
agreements (FTAs) have augmented U.S. economic relations with 11 countries in the region. The
Western Hemisphere is a large source of U.S. immigration, both legal and il egal; geographic
proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration trends.
Curbing the flow of il icit drugs from Latin America and the Caribbean has been a key component
of U.S. relations with the region and a major interest of Congress for more than four decades. The

28 T he countries are Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador,
Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, St. Vin cent and the Grenadines, Suriname,
T rinidad and T obago, and Uruguay. See World Bank, “World Bank’s Response to Covid-19 (Coronavirus) in Latin
America & Caribbean,” fact sheet, updated August 27, 2020, at https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/factsheet/2020/04/
02/world-bank-response-to-covid-19-coronavirus-latin-america-and-caribbean.
29 T he other 17 countries receiving IMF support are the Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominica,
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, St.
Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, See IMF, “Emergency Fundin g and Debt Relief, Western Hemisphere,”
updated September 2, 2020, at https://www.imf.org/en/T opics/imf-and-covid19/COVID-Lending-T racker#WHD.
30 Inter-American Development Bank, “IDB Group Announces Priority Support Areas for Countries Affected by
COVID-19,” news release, March 26, 2020.
31 Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), “Latin America Works T ogether with CAF for Economic and Social
Recovery,” news release, July 7, 2020.
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

flow of il icit drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl from Mexico and cocaine
from Colombia, poses risks to U.S. public health and safety; and the trafficking of such drugs has
contributed to violent crime and gang activities in the United States. Since 2000, Colombia has
received U.S. counternarcotics support through Plan Colombia and its successor programs. In
addition, for over a decade, the United States sought to forge close partnerships with other
countries to combat drug trafficking and related violence and advance citizen security. These
efforts include the Mérida Initiative begun in 2007 to support Mexico, the Central America
Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) begun in 2008, and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative
(CBSI) begun in 2009.
Another long-standing component of U.S. policy has been support for strengthened democratic
governance and the rule of law. As described in the previous section, although many countries in
the region have made enormous strides in terms of democratic political development, several face
considerable chal enges. U.S. policy efforts have long supported democracy promotion efforts,
including support for strengthening civil society and promoting the rule of law and human rights.
Trump Administration Policy
In its policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, the Trump Administration has retained
many of the same priorities and programs of past Administrations, but it has also diverged
considerably. The Administration has general y adopted a more confrontational approach,
especial y regarding efforts to curb irregular immigration from the region. In 2018, the State
Department set forth a framework for U.S. policy toward the region focused on three pil ars for
engagement: (1) economic growth and prosperity, (2) security, and (3) democratic governance.32
The framework reflects continuity with long-standing U.S. policy priorities for the region but at
times appears to be at odds with the Administration’s actions, which sometimes have been
accompanied by antagonistic statements on immigration, trade, and foreign aid. Meanwhile,
according to Gal up and Pew Research Center polls, negative views of U.S. leadership in the
region have increased markedly during the Trump Administration (see text box “Latin America
and the Caribbean: Views of U.S. Leadership”).
In August 2020, the White House set forth a strategic framework for the Western Hemisphere,
which states that the principal goal of U.S. engagement with the region “is to support a
prosperous, safe, and democratic region with which the United States can partner to advance
shared interests.” The framework set forth five lines of effort to realize this goal: (1) securing the
homeland, which includes preventing il egal and uncontrolled human migration, smuggling, and
trafficking; (2) advancing economic growth and an expansion of free market in the Americas; (3)
reaffirming the region’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law, which includes efforts to
restore human rights and democracy in Nicaragua and Venezuela and enable a transition to
democracy in Cuba; (4) countering economic aggression and malign political influence in the
region from such external actors as China; and (5) expanding and strengthening cooperation with
like-minded partners in the region in such areas as resilience to threats and hazards,
countermeasures against actors that undermine political and economic stability, and efforts to
assist countries in achieving self-reliance and self-security.33

32 U.S. Department of State, then-Secretary of State Rex W. T illerson, “U.S. Engagement in the Western Hemisphere,”
February 1, 2018, at https://www.state.gov/u-s-engagement -in-the-western-hemisphere/. These three pillars dovetail
with key topics for the Western Hemisphere currently laid out on the State Department’s website: fostering inclusive
economic growth, protecting U.S. citizens at home and abroad, and defending freedom. See https://www.state.gov/
bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-political-affairs/bureau-of-western-hemisphere-affairs/.
33 White House, National Security Council, “Overview of Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework,”
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Foreign Aid. The Administration’s proposed
Latin America and the Caribbean:
foreign aid budgets for FY2018 and FY2019
Views of U.S. Leadership
would have cut assistance to the region by
more than a third, and the FY2020 budget
Negative views of U.S. leadership in the region have
predominated since the Trump Administration took
request would have cut funding to the region
office in 2017, influenced by disparaging political
by about 30% compared to that appropriated
rhetoric and certain actions on immigration and trade.
in FY2019. Congress did not implement those
Such views could affect the wil ingness of countries to
budget requests and instead provided
cooperate with the United States on regional and
significantly more for assistance to the region
global chal enges. A Gal up public opinion pol of
worldwide views on U.S. leadership in 2017 showed
in appropriations measures. Nevertheless, in
that in Western Hemisphere countries, 58%
2019, the Trump Administration withheld an
disapproved of U.S. leadership and 24% approved. The
estimated $405 mil ion that Congress had
highest rates of disapproval included Chile (74%),
appropriated for Central America in FY2018
Mexico (72%), and Uruguay (70%). This result was a
significant change from 2016, when the Gal up pol
and reprogrammed the funds elsewhere. For
showed that 27% disapproved of U.S. leadership and
FY2021, the Administration has requested
49% approved.
$1.4 bil ion in assistance for the region, 18%
Subsequent Gal up pol s in 2018 and 2019 showed
less than al ocated in FY2020. As of August
some improvement in views of U.S. leadership in the
21, 2020, U.S. agencies had al ocated more
region, with 31% approving in 2018 and 34% in 2019.
than $141 mil ion of new and previously
Despite the improvement, continued negative views
prevailed in most countries in the region, with 53% in
announced assistance to help the region
2018 and 51% in 2019 disapproving of U.S. leadership.
respond to chal enges posed by the COVID-19
Among the countries with the highest percentage
pandemic. (See “U.S. Foreign Aid” section.)
negative views of U.S. leadership in 2019 were Mexico
(75%), Chile (67%), and Uruguay (55%); those with the
Trade. In 2017, President Trump ordered U.S.
highest percentage of positive views were the
withdrawal from the proposed Trans-Pacific
Dominican Republic (56%) and El Salvador (44%). A
Partnership (TPP) FTA that had been
January 2020 Pew Research report likewise showed
negotiated by 12 Asia-Pacific countries in
low confidence rates for President Trump in Argentina
(22%), Brazil (28%), and Mexico (8%)
2015. The TPP would have increased U.S.
economic linkages with Latin American
Sources: Gal up, Rating World Leaders, 2018-2020, The
U.S. vs. Germany, China, and Russia
; “Trump Ratings
countries that were parties to the agreement—
Remain Low Around Glove, While Views of U.S. Stay
Chile, Mexico, and Peru. President Trump
Mostly Favorable,” Pew Research Center, January 8,
strongly criticized the North American Free
2020.
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and
Canada, repeatedly warned that the United States might withdraw from the agreement, and
initiated renegotiations in 2017. The three countries agreed in September 2018 to a new United
States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which entered into force on July 1, 2020; the
agreement retained many NAFTA provisions but also included some modernizing updates and
changes, including provisions on digital trade and the dairy and auto industries. (See “Trade
Policy” section.)
Mexico, Central America, and Migration Issues. Relations with Mexico have been tested by
inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigration actions, and changes in U.S. border and
asylum polices that have shifted the burden of interdicting migrants and offering asylum to
Mexico. In September 2017, the Administration announced that it would end the Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; begun in 2012 by the Obama Administration, the
program provides relief from deportation for several hundred thousand immigrants who arrived in
the United States as children. Ultimately, federal court chal enges led to a Supreme Court ruling
in June 2020 that vacated the Administration’s action on DACA. In December 2018, Mexico’s
president agreed to al ow the United States to return certain non-Mexican migrants to Mexico
(pursuant to Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP) while awaiting U.S. immigration court
decisions. In May 2019, President Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on motor vehicles from
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Mexico if the government did not increase actions to deter U.S.-bound migrants from Central
America; Mexico ultimately agreed in June 2019 to increase its enforcement actions and to al ow
more U.S.-bound asylum seekers to await their U.S. immigration proceedings in Mexico. Despite
tensions, U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations remain friendly, with continued strong energy and
economic ties, including the USMCA, and close security cooperation related to drug interdiction.
(See “Mexico” and “Migration Issues” sections.)
Other Administration actions on immigration have caused concern in the region. In 2017 and
2018, the Administration announced plans to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
designations for Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, but federal court chal enges have
put the terminations on hold. (See “Migration Issues” section.)
Unauthorized migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries—El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras—has increased in recent years, fueled by difficult socioeconomic and
security conditions and poor governance. To deter such migration, the Trump Administration
implemented a “zero tolerance” policy toward il egal border crossings in 2018 and applied
restrictions on access to asylum at the U.S. border. The Administration also has used aid cuts of
previously appropriated assistance for and threats of increased U.S. tariffs and taxes on
remittances to compel Central American countries and Mexico to curb unauthorized migration to
the United States. In 2019, the Administration negotiated “safe third country” agreements with
each of the Northern Triangle countries to permit the United States to transfer asylum applicants
from third countries to the Northern Triangle countries. (See “Central America’s Northern
Triangle” section.)
Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. In November 2018, then-National Security Adviser John
Bolton made a speech in Miami, FL, on the Administration’s policies in Latin America that
warned about “the destructive forces of oppression, socialism, and totalitarianism” in the region.
Reminiscent of Cold War political rhetoric, Bolton referred to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as
the “troika of tyranny” in the hemisphere that has “final y met its match.” He referred to the three
countries as “the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability,
and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere.”34
As the situation in Venezuela has deteriorated under the Maduro government, the Trump
Administration has imposed targeted and broader financial sanctions, including sanctions against
the state oil company, the country’s main source of income. In January 2019, the Administration
recognized the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim president. In
September 2019, the United States joined 11 other Western Hemisphere countries to invoke the
Rio Treaty to facilitate a regional response to the Venezuelan crisis. The Administration also is
providing humanitarian and development assistance for Venezuelans who have fled to other
countries, especial y Colombia, as wel as for Venezuelans inside Venezuela. (See “Venezuela”
section.)
With regard to Cuba, the Trump Administration has not continued the policy of engagement
advanced during the Obama Administration and has imposed a series of economic sanctions on
Cuba for its poor human rights record and support for the Maduro government. Economic
sanctions have included restrictions on travel and remittances, efforts to disrupt oil flows from
Venezuela, and authorization (pursuant to Title III of the LIBERTAD Act, P.L. 104-114) of the
right to file lawsuits against those trafficking in confiscated property in Cuba. In 2017, the State

34 T he White House, “Remarks by National Security Adviser John R. Bolton on the Administration’s Policies in Latin
America,” November 2, 2018.
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Department cut the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Havana by about two-thirds in response to
unexplained injuries of U.S. diplomatic staff. (See “Cuba” section.)
Since political unrest began to grow in Nicaragua in 2018, the Trump Administration has
employed targeted sanctions against several individuals close to President Ortega due to their
al eged ties to human rights abuses or significant corruption. (See “Nicaragua” section.)
Congress and Policy Toward the Region
Congress traditional y has played an active role in policy toward Latin America and the
Caribbean in terms of both legislation and oversight. Given the region’s geographic proximity to
the United States, U.S. foreign policy toward the region and domestic policy often overlap,
particularly in areas of immigration and trade.
The 116th Congress completed action on FY2019 foreign aid appropriations in February 2019
when it enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). Amounts appropriated
for key U.S. initiatives and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean exceeded the
Administration’s request by almost $600 mil ion. Congress completed action on FY2020 foreign
aid appropriations in December 2019 when it enacted the Further Consolidated Appropriations
Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94), with amounts for key countries and regional programs once again
significantly exceeding the Administration’s request. The House approved the FY2021 foreign
aid appropriations bil , Division A of H.R. 7608, in July 2020; the bil and accompanying report,
H.Rept. 116-444, do not specify aid levels for every country in the region, but the amounts for
several key aid programs (Central America, Colombia, Mexico, and the Inter-American
Foundation) are significantly more than requested (see “U.S. Foreign Aid” section).
In January 2020, Congress completed action on implementing legislation for the USMCA (P.L.
116-113).35 The agreement retains many of NAFTA’s provisions and includes new provisions on
the auto and dairy industries and some modernizing features. Before the legislation received final
congressional approval in January 2020, the trade agreement was amended to address concerns of
Congress regarding provisions related to labor (including enforcement), the environment, dispute
settlement procedures, and intel ectual property rights (IPR).36
On Venezuela, Congress has supported the Administration’s efforts to sanction the Maduro
government for its antidemocratic actions and to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan
migrants throughout the region. In December 2019, Congress enacted the Venezuela Emergency
Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act of 2019, or the VERDAD Act of 2019, in
Division J of P.L. 116-94. The measure incorporates provisions from S. 1025, as reported by the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 2019, and provisions from three bil s on Venezuela
passed by the House in March 2019: H.R. 854, to authorize humanitarian assistance to the
Venezuelan people; H.R. 920, to restrict the export of defense articles and crime control
materials; and H.R. 1477, to require a threat assessment and strategy to counter Russian influence
in Venezuela. In other legislative action, the House approved H.R. 549 in July 2019, which would
provide TPS to Venezuelans in the United States.

35 T he USMCA does not go into force until after Canada ratifies the agreement (Mexico did so in December 2019); and
at least 30 days prior to USMCA’s entry into force, the President must notify Congress that he has determined that the
other parties have taken the necessary legal and regulatory measures to comply with their commitments under the
agreement. See CRS Report R44981, The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreem ent (USMCA), by M. Angeles
Villarreal and Ian F. Fergusson.
36 Kimberly Ann Elliot, “T rump and Pelosi Both Claim Victory on the USMCA. Who Really Won?” World Politics
Review
, January 7, 2020.
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Congress included several provisions related to Latin America in the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020 NDAA; P.L. 116-92), signed into law in
December 2019. Among the provisions are the following:
Venezuela. Section 890 prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from
entering into a contract for the procurement of goods or services with any person
that has business operations with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Western Hemisphere Resources. Section 1265 provides that the Secretary of
Defense shal seek to enter into a contract with an independent nongovernmental
institute that has recognized credentials and expertise in national security and
military affairs to conduct an accounting and an assessment of the sufficiency of
resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command,
the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere.
Among other matters, the assessment is required to include “a list of investments,
programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or
other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the
United States.” A report on the assessment is due to Congress within one year, in
unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.
Brazil. Section 1266 requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the
Secretary of State, to submit a report to Congress regarding the human rights
climate in Brazil and U.S.-Brazilian security cooperation.
Guatemala. Section 1267 requires the Secretary of Defense to certify, prior to
the transfer of any vehicles to the Guatemalan government, that the government
has made a credible commitment to use such equipment only as intended.
Honduras. Section 1268 requires the Secretary of Defense to enter into an
agreement with an independent institution to conduct an analysis of the human
rights situation in Honduras.
Central America and Mexico. Section 5522 requires the Director of National
Intel igence, in collaboration with other agencies, to submit within 90 days a
comprehensive assessment of drug trafficking, human trafficking, and human
smuggling activities in Central America and Mexico; the report may be in
classified form, but if so, it shal contain an unclassified summary.
For the FY2021 NDAA, the House-passed version of the bil , H.R. 6395, approved in July 2020,
includes numerous provisions on Latin America and the Caribbean. These include the following:
 Section 1283, which would express the sense of Congress supporting the
enhancement of engagement with the Caribbean;
 Section 1290, which would prohibit the use of any federal funds to provide
assistance to Brazilian security forces to involuntarily relocate indigenous or
Quilombola communities;
 Section 1298, which would require a report on possible misuse of U.S. security
sector funds for il egal surveil ance by Colombia’s armed services;
 Section 1299A, which would require a report on the multifaceted crisis in
Venezuela and its implications for U.S. national security and regional security
and stability, including an assessment of the influence of external actors in
Venezuela, such as China, Cuba, Iran, and Russia;
 Section 1299I, which would require a report on Mexican security forces;
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 Section 1299K, which would extend the certification requirement from the
FY2020 NDAA related to the transfer of any equipment by the Department of
Defense to Guatemala;
 Section 1299P, which would incorporate many provisions of a bil approved by
the House in July 2019 (H.R. 2615) requiring the Secretary of State to develop
strategies to support efforts to advance prosperity, combat corruption, strengthen
democratic institutions, and improve security conditions in the Northern Triangle
countries of Central America, including the use of targeted sanctions to fight
corruption in these countries;
Other bil s and resolutions that have passed either or both houses include the following:
Mexico. In January 2019, the House approved H.R. 133, which would promote
U.S.-Mexican economic partnership and cooperation, including a strategy to
prioritize and expand educational and professional exchange programs with
Mexico. The Senate approved the bil , amended, in January 2020, which included
a new provision that would promote positive cross-border relations as a priority
for advancing U.S. foreign policy and programs.
Central America. The House approved H.R. 2615, the United States-Northern
Triangle Engagement Act, in July 2019, which would authorize foreign
assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to address the root causes of
migration. The bil would also require the State Department to devise strategies
to foster economic development, combat corruption, strengthen democracy and
the rule of law, and improve security conditions in the region.
Bolivia. The Senate approved S.Res. 35 in April 2019, expressing support for
democratic principles in Bolivia and throughout Latin America. In January 2020,
the Senate approved S.Res. 447, expressing concerns about election irregularities
and violence in Bolivia and supporting the convening of new elections.
Argentina. Both houses approved resolutions (H.Res. 441 in July 2019, and
S.Res. 277 in October 2019) commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1994
bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires.
Nicaragua. Both Houses approved similar resolutions, H.Res. 754, approved by
the House in March 2020, and S.Res. 525, approved by the Senate in June 2020,
regarding continued U.S. support for the people of Nicaragua in their peaceful
efforts to promote democracy and human rights and the use of tools under U.S.
law to increase political and financial pressure on the Ortega government.
Cuba. In June 2020, the Senate approved S.Res. 454, cal ing for the release of
democracy activist José Daniel Ferrer and al members of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba who have been arbitrarily imprisoned.
Congressional committees have held over 20 oversight hearings on the region, including on
Venezuela, Central America (including the impact of U.S. aid cuts), relations with Colombia,
human rights in Cuba, China’s engagement in Latin America, environmental concerns in the
Brazilian Amazon, repression in Nicaragua, Haiti, security cooperation with Mexico, and the U.S.
response to COVId-19 in the region (see Appendix).
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Regional U.S. Policy Issues
U.S. Foreign Aid
The United States provides foreign assistance to Latin American and Caribbean countries to
support development and other U.S. objectives. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different
strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the
Cold War to promoting democracy and open markets, as wel as countering il icit narcotics, since
the 1990s. The Trump Administration has sought to shift the focus of U.S. assistance efforts in
some parts of the region to address U.S. domestic concerns, such as irregular migration.
The Trump Administration also has sought to reduce U.S. assistance to Latin America and the
Caribbean, proposing significant cuts in each of its annual budget requests. Although Congress
has slightly increased aid to the region over the past four years, the Administration has used
various authorities to suspend and reprogram some of that assistance. In 2019, for example, the
Administration withheld an estimated $405 mil ion that Congress had appropriated for Central
America in FY2018 and reprogrammed the funds to address other foreign policy priorities inside
and outside the Western Hemisphere. (See “Central America’s Northern Triangle,” below.)
For FY2021, the Trump Administration has requested $1.4 bil ion for Latin America and the
Caribbean through foreign assistance accounts managed by the State Department and USAID.
That amount would be $314 mil ion, or 18%, less than the estimated $1.7 bil ion of U.S.
assistance al ocated to the region in FY2020 (see Table 4). The proposal would cut funding for
every type of assistance and most Latin American and Caribbean countries. For a fourth
consecutive year, the Trump Administration also has proposed eliminating the Inter-American
Foundation (IAF)—a smal , independent U.S. foreign assistance agency that promotes grassroots
development in the region—and consolidating its programs into USAID.
Congressional Action: After a partial government shutdown and a short-term continuing
resolution (P.L. 116-5), the 116th Congress completed action on FY2019 foreign aid
appropriations in February 2019. Of the funds appropriated in the Consolidated Appropriations
Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6), nearly $1.7 bil ion of foreign assistance was al ocated to Latin America
and the Caribbean. That amount was slightly more than was al ocated to the region in FY2018
and nearly $600 mil ion more than the Trump Administration requested for the region.
Table 4. U.S. Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2016-FY2021
(bil ions of U.S. dol ars)
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020 (est.)
2021 (req.)
1.69
1.67
1.67a
1.69
1.72
1.40
Sources: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justifications for Foreign Operations, FY2013-FY2021; and
U.S. Department of State, FY2020 estimate data, June 15, 2020.
Notes: These figures exclude Food for Peace Act (P.L. 480) food aid and assistance appropriated as voluntary
contributions to the Organization of American States.
a. Final FY2018 al ocations are unclear, because the Administration reprogrammed approximately $405 mil ion
of FY2018 aid that Congress appropriated for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, real ocating some of
those funds to countries outside of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Although the House passed an FY2020 foreign aid appropriations bil in June 2019 (H.R. 2740,
H.Rept. 116-78), and the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its bil in September 2019
(S. 2583, S.Rept. 116-126), neither measure was enacted before the start of FY2020. Instead,
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Congress passed two continuing resolutions (P.L. 116-59 and P.L. 116-69), which funded foreign
aid programs in Latin America and the Caribbean at the FY2019 level until December 2019,
when President Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L.
116-94). More than $1.7 bil ion appropriated in the act was al ocated to Latin America and the
Caribbean, which is $525 mil ion more than the Trump Administration requested for the region.
The House passed an FY2021 foreign aid appropriations measure (Division A of H.R. 7608) on
July 24, 2020. The bil and the accompanying report (H.Rept. 116-444) do not specify
appropriations levels for every Latin American and Caribbean country. Nevertheless, the amounts
designated for several key U.S. initiatives differ significantly from the Administration’s request.
The bil would provide
 $519.9 mil ion to address the underlying factors driving irregular migration from
Central America ($143 mil ion more than the Administration requested and $13.3
mil ion less than al ocated to the region in FY2020);
 $457.3 mil ion to support the peace process and security and development efforts
in Colombia ($44.4 mil ion more than requested and $5.6 mil ion more than
al ocated in FY2020);
 $159.9 mil ion to support security and rule-of-law efforts in Mexico ($96.2
mil ion more than requested and $2 mil ion more than al ocated in FY2020);
 $30 mil ion to support a democratic transition and reestablish health systems in
Venezuela ($175 mil ion less than requested and $5 mil ion than al ocated in
FY2020); and
 $41.5 mil ion for the IAF ($37.6 mil ion more than requested and $4 mil ion
more than Congress appropriated for the agency in FY2020).
The bil also includes $9.1 bil ion of emergency foreign aid to respond to the COVID-19
pandemic global y—$10 mil ion of which would be provided to the IAF. Those funds would
build on nearly $1.8 bil ion of FY2020 emergency foreign aid provided through two supplemental
appropriations bil s (P.L. 116-123 and P.L. 116-136). As of August 21, 2020, U.S. agencies had
al ocated more than $141 mil ion in new and previously announced assistance to help Latin
American and Caribbean countries respond to the health, economic, and humanitarian chal enges
posed by the pandemic.37
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up a foreign assistance appropriations bil
for FY2021.
In addition to appropriations measures, resolutions have been introduced in both houses (H.Res.
649 and S.Res. 297) to commend the IAF on its 50th anniversary, recognize its contributions to
development and to advancing U.S. national interests, and pledge continued support for the
agency’s work.
For additional information, see CRS Report R46367, Department of State, Foreign Operations,
and Related Programs: FY2021 Budget and Appropriations, by Cory R. Gil , Marian L. Lawson,
and Emily M. Morgenstern; CRS Report R45547, U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and
the Caribbean: FY2019 Appropriations
, by Peter J. Meyer and Edward Y. Gracia; CRS In Focus
IF11496, COVID-19 and Foreign Assistance: Issues for Congress, by Nick M. Brown, Marian L.
Lawson, and Emily M. Morgenstern; CRS In Focus IF11581, Latin America and the Caribbean:

37 U.S. Department of State, “Update: T he United States Continues to Lead the Global Response to COVID-19,” fact
sheet, August 21, 2020, at https://www.state.gov/update-the-united-states-continues-to-lead-the-global-response-to-
covid-19-6/.
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Impact of COVID-19, by Mark P. Sullivan et al.; and CRS In Focus IF11606, COVID-19 and
Foreign Assistance: Congressional Oversight Framework and Current Activities
, by Nick M.
Brown and Emily M. Morgenstern.
Drug Trafficking and Criminal Gangs
Latin America and the Caribbean feature prominently in U.S. counternarcotics policy due to the
region’s role as a source and transit zone for several il icit drugs destined for U.S. markets—
cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and opiates (plant-based and synthetic). Heroin abuse and
synthetic opioid-related deaths in the United States have reached epidemic levels, raising
questions about how to address foreign sources of opioids. Policymakers also are concerned that
methamphetamine and cocaine overdoses in the United States are on an upward trajectory.
Drug demand in the United States and changes in the international drug market have prompted
rising drug production in Mexico and Colombia. Mexico has experienced an uptick in opium
poppy cultivation, as wel as the production of heroin, fentanyl (a synthetic opioid), and
methamphetamine.38 Over 90% of heroin seized and sampled in the United States comes from
Mexico and increasingly has included fentanyl. In May 2019, the Chinese government
implemented strict controls on al forms of fentanyl, including fentanyl analogues—a
development that led to the emergence of Mexico as an important source of fentanyl-related
substances.39 Coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia, which supplies roughly 89%
of cocaine in the United States, reached record levels in 2017, leveled off in 2018, and slightly
increased in 2019.40
Whereas Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and most other source and transit countries in the region work
closely with the United States to combat drug production and interdict il icit flows, the
Venezuelan government does not. Public corruption in Venezuela also has made it easier for drug
trafficking organizations to smuggle il icit drugs. In March 2020, the Department of Justice
indicted Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro (whom the United States does not recognize as
Venezuela’s legitimate president) and other current and former high-ranking Venezuelan officials.
As charged, Maduro al egedly participated in the Cartel of the Suns drug trafficking organization
in conspiracy with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to produce and traffic
il icit drugs to the United States.
Contemporary drug trafficking and transnational crime syndicates have contributed to
degradations in citizen security and economic development in some countries, often resulting in
high levels of violence and homicide. Despite efforts to combat the drug trade, many Latin
American governments, particularly in Mexico and Central America—a region through which
roughly 93% of cocaine from South America transited in 2018—continue to suffer from weak
criminal justice systems and overwhelmed law enforcement agencies.41 Government corruption,
including high-level cooperation with criminal organizations, further frustrates efforts to interdict
drugs, investigate and prosecute traffickers, and recover il icit proceeds. At the same time, there is
a widespread perception—particularly among Latin American observers—that U.S. demand for

38 U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report
(INCSR) Volum e 1: Drug and Chem ical Contro l, March 2020 (hereinafter cited as State
Department, INCSR 2020 Volume 1).
39 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Fentanyl Flow to the United States, January 2020.
40 T he White House, “ONDCP Reports Cocaine Production in Colombia is Leveling Off,” June 26 , 2019; “United
States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to Reduce Cocaine Supply,” March 5, 2020.
41 U.S. Government, Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement (IACM), based on 2018 data from the
Consolidated Counterdrug Database (CCDB).
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il icit drugs is largely to blame for the region’s ongoing crime and violence problems. Although
the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered violence in many countries, organized crime-related
violence has escalated in a few countries, particularly Mexico.
Criminal gangs with origins in southern California, principal y the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and
the “18th Street” gang, continue to undermine citizen security and subvert government authority in
Central America. Gang-related violence has been particularly acute in El Salvador, Honduras, and
urban areas in Guatemala, contributing to some of the highest homicide rates in the world.
Although some gangs engage in local drug distribution, gangs general y do not have a role in
transnational drug trafficking. Gangs have been involved in a range of other criminal activities,
including extortion, money laundering, and weapons smuggling, and gang-related violence has
fueled unauthorized migration to the United States.
U.S. Policy. For more than 40 years, U.S. policy toward the region has focused on countering
drug trafficking and reducing drug production in Latin America and the Caribbean. The largest
support program, Plan Colombia, provided more than $10 bil ion to help Colombia combat both
drug trafficking and rebel groups financed by the drug trade from FY2000 to FY2016.42 After
Colombia signed a historic peace accord with the country’s largest leftist guerril a group, the
FARC, the United States provided assistance to help implement the agreement. U.S. officials
concerned about rising cocaine production have praised Colombian President Ivan Duque’s
wil ingness to restart aerial fumigation of coca crops and significantly scale up manual
eradication.
U.S. support to combat drug trafficking and reduce crime also has included a series of
partnerships with other countries in the region: the Mérida Initiative, which has led to improved
bilateral security cooperation with Mexico; the Central America Regional Security Initiative
(CARSI); and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). During the Obama Administration,
those initiatives combined U.S. antidrug and rule-of-law assistance with economic development
and violence prevention programs.
The Trump Administration’s approach to Latin America and the Caribbean has focused heavily
on U.S. security objectives. Al of the aforementioned assistance programs have continued, but
they place greater emphasis on combating drug trafficking, gangs, and other criminal groups than
during the Obama Administration. The Trump Administration also has sought to reduce funding
for each of the U.S. security assistance programs and has reprogrammed, withheld, or not yet
obligated significant portions of assistance to Central America due to concerns that those
governments have not adequately curbed unauthorized migration. President Trump has welcomed
Mexico’s assistance on migration enforcement, but noted in an FY2020 presidential
determination issued in August 2019 that “without further progress over [this year], he could
determine that Mexico has ‘failed demonstrably’ to meet its international drug control
commitments.”43 Such a determination could trigger U.S. foreign assistance cuts to Mexico. On
April 1, 2020, the Trump Administration announced the deployment of the largest military-led
antidrug effort in the Caribbean in several decades aimed at deterring drug trafficking emanating
from Venezuela.44
President Trump also has prioritized combating gangs, namely the MS-13, which the Department
of Justice (DOJ) has named a top priority. U.S. agencies, in cooperation with vetted units in

42 See CRS Report R43813, Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations, by June S. Beittel.
43 White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “ Memorandum on the Presidential Determination on Major Drug T ransit
or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2020 ,” presidential memorandum, August 8, 2019.
44 T he White House, “ Remarks by President T rump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus T ask
Force in Press Briefing,” April 1, 2020.
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Central America funded through CARSI, have brought criminal charges against thousands of MS-
13 members in the United States. U.S. assistance that supports vetted units working with the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DOJ have been exempt from recent aid reductions
for Central America.
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has held hearings on opioids, which included
consideration of heroin and fentanyl production in Mexico; corruption in the Americas; the
importance of U.S. assistance to Central America (including CARSI); and relations with
Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Central America, including antidrug cooperation and
concerns. Compared to FY2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6) provided
increased FY2019 resources for Colombia and Mexico, slightly less funding for CARSI, and
stable funding for the CBSI. P.L. 116-6 provided $1.5 mil ion to support the creation of a Western
Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission to assess U.S. policy and make recommendations on how it
might be improved. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94) provides
more security and rule of law funding for Colombia and Mexico than the estimated FY2019
appropriations level, less funding for CARSI, and slightly more funding for the CBSI. The
FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) requires the Director of National Intel igence, in collaboration with
other agencies, to submit within 90 days of enactment an assessment of drug trafficking, human
trafficking, and human smuggling activities and how those activities influence migration in
Mexico and the Northern Triangle. The FY2020 NDAA also establishes a Commission on
Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to report on, among other things, the scale of opioids
coming from Mexico.
The House-passed version of the FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil , Division A of H.R. 7608
(H.Rept. 116-444), approved July 24, 2020, would provide significantly more funding for
Colombia and Mexico, CARSI, and CBSI than the Administration’s FY2021 request. In
comparison to the FY2020 enacted funding levels, the House bil would provide an increase in
funding for CBSI and roughly level funding for Colombia, CARSI, and Mexico.
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF10578, Mexico: Evolution of the Mérida
Initiative, 2007-2020
, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS In Focus IF10400, Trends in Mexican
Opioid Trafficking and Implications for U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation
, by Liana W. Rosen
and Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report R41576, Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking
Organizations, by June S. Beittel; CRS Report R44812, U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central
America: Policy Issues for Congress
, by Peter J. Meyer; CRS Report R43813, Colombia:
Background and U.S. Relations
, by June S. Beittel; and CRS In Focus IF10789, Caribbean Basin
Security Initiative, by Mark P. Sullivan.
Trade Policy
The Latin American and Caribbean region is among the fastest-growing regional trading partners
for the United States. Economic relations between the United States and most of its trading
partners in the region remain strong, despite chal enges, such as slow economic growth and high
levels of violence in some countries. The United States accounts for roughly 31% of the Latin
American and Caribbean region’s merchandise imports and 44% of its merchandise exports. Most
of this trade is with Mexico, which accounted for 65% of U.S. imports from the region and 61%
of U.S. exports to the region in 2019. In 2019, total U.S. merchandise exports to Latin America
and the Caribbean were valued at $418.9 bil ion, down from $429.7 bil ion in 2018. U.S.
merchandise imports were valued at $467.0 bil ion in 2019 (see Table 5).
The United States strengthened economic ties with Latin America and the Caribbean over the past
26 years through the negotiation and implementation of FTAs. Starting with NAFTA in 1994,
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which was replaced by the USMCA when it entered into force on July 1, 2020, the United States
currently has six FTAs in force involving 11 Latin American countries: Mexico, Chile, Colombia,
Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and
Peru. NAFTA was the first U.S. FTA with a country in the Latin American and Caribbean region,
establishing new rules and disciplines that influenced future trade agreements on issues important
to the United States, such as IPR protection, services trade, agriculture, dispute settlement,
investment, labor, and the environment.
In addition to FTAs, the United States has extended unilateral trade preferences to some countries
in the region through several trade preference programs. The Caribbean Basin Economic
Recovery Act (no expiration), for example, provides limited duty-free entry of select Caribbean
products as a core element of the U.S. foreign economic policy response to uncertain economic
and political conditions in the region. Several preference programs for Haiti, which expire in
2025, provide generous and flexible unilateral preferences to the country’s apparel sector. Two
other preference programs include the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), which
expires in September 2020, and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which expires in
December 2020. The CBTPA extends preferences on apparel products to eligible Caribbean
countries similar to those given to Mexico under NAFTA, replaced by USMCA. The GSP
provides duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from 120 designated developing
countries throughout the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and other Latin American
and Caribbean countries.
In the 15 to 20 years after NAFTA, some of the largest economies in South America, such as
Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, resisted the idea of forming comprehensive FTAs with the
United States. That opposition, at least in the case of Brazil, may be changing. In September
2019, President Trump noted preliminary talks with Brazil for a trade agreement, and Brazilian
officials recently stated that the country was ready for a trade deal similar to USMCA. Numerous
other bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements throughout the Western Hemisphere do not
include the United States. For example, the Pacific Al iance, a trade arrangement composed of
Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile, is reportedly moving forward on a possible trade
arrangement with Mercosur, composed of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. On June 28,
2019, after 20 years of negotiations, the European Union and Mercosur reached a political
agreement in principle for an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement. On April 28, 2020,
Mexico and the European Union finalized negotiations to update their original FTA and remove
most of the remaining trade barriers between the two partners. U.S. policymakers, including in
Congress, could examine how the United States could enhance trade relations with these
countries through regional agreements or a broader regional FTA, such as the Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA) that was pursued in the mid-1990s but never concluded.45

45 In 1994, 34 Western Hemisphere nations met at the first Summit of the Americas, envisioning a plan to complete a
Free T rade Area of the Americas (FT AA) by January 1, 2005. Faced with deadlocked negotiations, the United States
and Brazil, the FT AA co-chairs, brokered a compromise at the November 2003 Miami trade ministerial. It moved the
FT AA away from the comprehensive, single undertaking principle, toward a two -tier framework comprising a set of
“common rights and obligations” for all countries, combined with voluntary plurilateral arrangements with country
benefits related to commitments. T he FT AA talks stalled in 2004. At the fourth Summit of the Americas held in
November 2005, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela blocked an effort to resta rt negotiations. Further
action has not occurred.
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Table 5. U.S. Trade with Key Trading Partners in Latin America and the Caribbean,
2012-2019
(in bil ions of U.S. dol ars)
Partner
Country
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
U.S. Exports









Mexico
215.9
226.0
241.0
236.5
230.2
243.5
265.4
256.4

Brazil
43.8
44.1
42.4
31.6
30.2
37.3
39.6
43.1

Chile
18.8
17.5
16.5
15.5
12.9
13.6
15.4
15.8

Colombia
16.4
18.4
20.1
16.3
13.1
13.4
15.2
14.8

Total LAC
399.1
410.4
424.9
389.0
366.1
393.9
429.7
418.9

World
1,545.8
1,578.5
1,621.9
1,503.3
1,451.5
1,546.5
1,666.0
1645.2
U.S. Imports









Mexico
277.6
280.6
295.7
296.4
293.5
312.8
346.1
358.1

Brazil
32.1
27.5
30.0
27.5
26.0
29.5
31.1
30.9

Colombia
24.6
21.6
18.3
14.1
13.8
13.6
13.8
14.1

Chile
9.4
10.4
9.5
8.8
8.8
10.6
11.4
10.4

Total LAC
449.4
439.0
446.0
412.3
401.2
428.7
468.3
467.0

World
2,276.3
2,268.0
2,356.4
2,248.8
2,186.8
2,339.9
2,540.8
2,498.4
Source: U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Interactive, “DataWeb: Tariff and Trade.”
Notes: This table provides statistics on the top four countries fol owed by the total of U.S. trade with al
countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
President Trump made NAFTA renegotiation and modernization a priority of his Administration’s
trade policy. Early in his Administration, he viewed FTAs as detrimental to U.S. workers and
industries, stating that NAFTA was “the worst trade deal” and repeatedly warning that the United
States may withdraw from the agreement. The United States, Canada, and Mexico subsequently
renegotiated NAFTA and concluded negotiations for USMCA on September 30, 2018. Mexico
was the first country to ratify the agreement in June 2019 and the first country to approve the
amended USMCA on December 12, 2019. On January 16, 2020, Congress approved the
agreement. Canada ratified the agreement on March 13, 2020. USMCA continues NAFTA’s
market opening provisions but also modernizes the agreement with new provisions on digital
trade, state-owned-enterprises, currency manipulation, anti-corruption, and enforcement of
worker rights and the environment. USMCA’s tighter rules-of-origin requirements for the motor
vehicle industry, removal of government procurement provisions for Canada, and lessening of
investor state dispute settlement provisions are significant, because they scale back U.S. trade
policy goals of previous Administrations.
In 2018, President Trump issued two proclamations imposing tariffs on U.S. imports of certain
steel and aluminum products using presidential powers granted under Section 232 of the Trade
Expansion Act of 1962. In doing so, the Administration added new chal enges to U.S. trade
relations with the region. The proclamations outlined the President’s decisions to impose tariffs of
25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports, with some flexibility on the application of tariffs by
country. In May 2018, President Trump proclaimed Argentina and Brazil permanently exempt
from the steel tariffs in exchange for quota agreements, but he threatened to impose tariffs again
in December 2019. The United States imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from
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Mexico on May 31, 2018, and Mexico subsequently imposed retaliatory tariffs on 71 U.S.
products, covering an estimated $3.7 bil ion worth of trade. By May 2019, President Trump had
exempted Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs, and Mexico agreed to terminate its retaliatory
tariffs. On August 30, 2020, President Trump tightened the cap on al owable steel imports from
Brazil, stating that the decision was made under Section 232 and acknowledging that the
tightened quota may affect production activities in the United States.
President Trump’s January 2017 withdrawal from the proposed TPP, an FTA that included
Mexico, Peru, and Chile as signatories, signified another change to U.S. trade policy. In March
2018, al remaining TPP parties signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-
Pacific Partnership (CPTPP or TPP-11), which essential y brought a modified TPP into effect.
The TPP-11 has entered into force among seven countries—Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico,
New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam. Chile and Peru expect to ratify the agreement eventual y.
Colombia has expressed plans to request entry into the agreement after it enters into force among
al partners. Some observers contend that U.S. withdrawal from the proposed TPP could damage
U.S. competitiveness and economic leadership in the region, whereas others see the withdrawal as
a way to prevent lower-cost imports and potential job losses.
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress, in both its legislative and oversight capacities, faced
numerous trade policy issues related to NAFTA’s renegotiation and the USMCA. The U.S. House
of Representatives approved USMCA implementing legislation, H.R. 5430, on December 19,
2019, by a vote of 385-41, and the Senate approved it on January 16, 2020, by a vote of 89-10; it
was signed into law (P.L. 116-113) on January 29, 2020. Lawmakers took an interest as to
whether the Administration followed U.S. trade negotiating objectives and procedures as required
by Trade Promotion Authority (Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act
of 2015, or TPA; P.L. 114-26). Some Members also considered issues surrounding the labor and
environment provisions’ enforceability, access to medicine, and economic effects. Other
Members showed interest in how the USMCA may affect U.S. industries, especial y the auto
industry, as wel as the overal effects on the U.S. and Mexican economies, North American
supply chains, and trade relations with the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The effects of COVID-19 on the U.S.-Mexico supply chain may be of interest for U.S.
policymakers, especial y for products manufactured in Mexico for U.S. essential sectors,
including the highly integrated motor vehicle industry. Automotive manufacturing plants in
Mexico were closed for approximately two months due to the pandemic and started reopening in
June, staggering hours and following government-established safety protocols. The industry
currently is experiencing a market decrease of 32% compared with 2019. Some officials,
including the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, noted that the United States and Mexico
need to improve coordination in determining which sectors are essential and that the two
countries need to work together to restart or continue production safely in essential sectors.
Depending on how the pandemic spreads in the fal and winter, policymakers may wish to
address how the United States and Mexico are cooperating on the possibility of future shutdowns.
Among other trade issues, legislation was introduced (H.R. 991 and S. 2473) that would extend
CBTPA benefits through September 2030. Regarding Brazil, numerous Members of Congress are
monitoring bilateral trade relations with increased concern about Brazil’s restrictions on imports
of ethanol from the United States. These concerns may have prompted the Trump
Administration’s tightening of the U.S. quota on semi-finished steel from Brazil. Regarding the
Section 232 investigations on aluminum and steel imports, the impact of tariffs and retaliatory
tariffs from Mexico on U.S. producers, domestic U.S. industries, and consumers raised numerous
issues for Congress. Policymakers also may consider how U.S. trade policy is perceived by the
region and whether it may affect multilateral trade issues and cooperation on matters regarding
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security and migration. Another issue relates to U.S. market share. If Mexico, Chile, Colombia,
Peru, and Mercosur countries continue trade and investment liberalization efforts with other
countries without the United States, doing so may open the door to more intra-trade and
investment among certain Latin American and Caribbean countries, or possibly China and other
Asian countries, which may affect U.S. exports.
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF10997, U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade
Agreement
, by M. Angeles Vil arreal and Ian F. Fergusson; CRS Report R44981, The United
States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
, by M. Angeles Vil arreal and Ian F. Fergusson; CRS
In Focus IF10038, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), by Ian F. Fergusson; CRS Report RL32934,
U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications, by M. Angeles Vil arreal; and
CRS Report R45249, Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress, coordinated
by Rachel F. Fefer and Vivian C. Jones.
Migration Issues
Latin America’s status as a leading source of both legal and unauthorized migration to the United
States means that U.S. immigration policies significantly affect countries in the region and U.S.
relations with their governments. Latin Americans comprise the vast majority of individuals who
have received relief from removal (deportation) through the TPS program and the DACA
initiative; they also comprise a large percentage of recent asylum seekers.46 As a result, several
U.S. immigration policy changes have affected countries in the region. These include the
following Trump Administration actions: ending TPS designations for Haiti, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, and Honduras; rescinding DACA through a process that the Supreme Court ruled in
June 2020 did not follow proper procedures and had to be vacated;47 and restricting access to
asylum in the United States. In January 2019, the Administration launched the Migrant Protection
Protocols (MPP), a program that requires many migrants and asylum seekers processed at the
Mexico-U.S. border to be returned to Mexico to await their immigration proceedings; the
program is currently facing legal chal enges but remains in place.48 The Administration also
signed what it termed “asylum cooperative agreements”—also referred to as “safe third country”
agreements—with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to al ow the United States to transfer
certain migrants who arrive at a U.S. border seeking asylum to apply for asylum in one of those
countries. DHS began implementing the agreement with Guatemala in November 2019, but the
agreements with Honduras and El Salvador have not yet been implemented.
The factors that have driven U.S.-bound migration from Latin America are multifaceted, and
some have changed over time. They include poverty and unemployment, political and economic
instability, crime and violence, natural disasters and climate change, as wel as relatively close
proximity to the United States, familial ties in the United States, and relatively attractive U.S.
economic conditions. As an example, Venezuela, a historical y stable country with limited

46 T emporary Protected Status (T PS) is a discretionary, humanitarian benefit granted to eligible nationals after the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines that a country has been affected by arme d conflict, natural
disaster, or other extraordinary conditions that limit the country’s ability to accept the return of its nationals from the
United States. T PS designations began for Nicaragua and Honduras in 1999, for El Salvador in 2001, and for Haiti in
2010. T he Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) initiative is an initiative that the Obama Administration
implemented in 2012 to provide temporary relief from removal and work authorization to certain unlawfully present
individuals who arrived in the United States as children.
47 U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec. v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal.,—S. Ct.—, 2020 WL 3271746, at *3 (2020).
48 DHS, “Migrant Protection Protocols,” press release, January 24, 2019. For additional information, see
https://www.dhs.gov/publication/policy-guidance-implementation-migrant -protection-protocols.
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emigration to the United States, recently has become the top country of origin among those who
seek U.S. asylum affirmatively due to Venezuela’s ongoing crisis.49
Migrant apprehensions at the southwest border had been steadily declining, reaching a 50-year
low in 2017, but they began to rise in mid-2017. By FY2019, DHS apprehended 977,509
migrants, roughly 456,400 more than in FY2018.50 Unaccompanied children and families from
the Northern Triangle, many of whom were seeking asylum, made up a majority of those
apprehensions.51 During the first 10 months of FY2020, total apprehensions declined compared
with FY2019, particularly since mid-March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.52 In response
to the pandemic, nonessential travel and asylum processing have been suspended at the U.S.-
Mexico border through September 21, 2020, with any persons without valid travel documents
returned to Mexico as quickly as possible.53 Under these so-cal ed Title 42 CDC travel
restrictions, more than 90,000 migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle have been
expel ed to Mexico.54 Mexico has had to contend with those individuals as wel as the tens of
thousands of individuals from those and other countries asked to “remain in Mexico” under MPP
during a pandemic.
The Trump Administration’s rhetoric and policies have tested U.S. relations with Mexico and the
Northern Triangle countries. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to shelter
migrants affected by the MPP program and then, to avoid U.S. tariffs, al owed the MPP to be
expanded in Mexico and increased Mexico’s immigration enforcement efforts, particularly on its
southern border. Amidst U.S. foreign aid cuts and tariff threats (in the case of Guatemala), the
Northern Triangle countries signed “safe third country” agreements despite serious concerns
about conditions in the three countries. Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries, which
received some 91% of the 267,258 individuals removed from the United States in FY2019, have
expressed concerns that removals could overwhelm their capacity to receive and reintegrate
migrants. Central American countries also are concerned about the potential for increased
removals of those with criminal records to exacerbate their security problems. More recently, in
response to the United States deporting some migrants to Guatemala that turned out to be infected
with COVID-19, the Guatemalan government has suspended repatriation flights on multiple
occasions and cal ed for the United States to adequately screen returning migrants for the
disease.55
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has provided foreign assistance to help address some
of the factors fueling migration from Central America and to support Mexico’s migration
management efforts in FY2019 (P.L. 116-6) and FY2020 (P.L. 116-94). The House-passed
version of the FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil , Division A of H.R. 7608, would continue
that funding. The report accompanying the bil , H.Rept. 116-444, would prohibit funds
appropriated from being used to help implement asylum cooperation agreements. In July 2019,

49 In FY2018, Venezuela ranked first among countries of origin for tho se seeking affirmative asylum in the United
States. Guatemala and El Salvador ranked second and third. See DHS, Office of Immigration Statistics, Annual Flow
Report: Refugees and Asylees: 2018
, October 2019.
50 DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “Southwest Border Migration FY2019” (hereinafter cited as CBP,
“Southwest Border Migration FY2019”).
51 CBP, “Southwest Border Migration FY2019.”
52 CBP, “Enforcement Statistics FY2020.
53 See CRS Insight IN11308, COVID-19: Restrictions on Travelers at U.S. Land Borders, by Audrey Singer.
54 CBP, “ Nationwide Enforcement Encounters: T itle 8 Enforcement Actions and T itle 42 Expulsions,” August 26,
2020.
55 Cindy Carcamo and Molly O’T oole, “Migrants Deported by U.S. Make up More T han 15% of Guatemala’s
Coronavirus Cases,” Los Angeles Tim es, May 4, 2020.
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the House passed H.R. 2615, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act,
which would require a report on the main drivers of migration from Central America.
The 116th Congress has also acted on bil s that could affect significant numbers of individuals
from Latin America and the Caribbean living in the United States. For example in June 2019, the
House passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would establish a
process for certain unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States as children, such as
DACA recipients, and for certain TPS recipients to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR)
status. In July 2019, the House passed H.R. 549, the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019, which would
provide TPS designation for Venezuela. In December 2019, the House passed H.R. 5038, the
Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which would create a new temporary immigration
status (certified agricultural worker (CAW) status) for certain unauthorized and other agricultural
workers and would establish a process for CAWs to become LPRs.
For more information, see CRS Report R46419, Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 116th
Congress
, coordinated by Andorra Bruno; CRS Legal Sidebar LSB10402, Safe Third Country
Agreements with Northern Triangle Countries: Background and Legal Issues
, by Ben Harrington;
CRS In Focus IF11151, Central American Migration: Root Causes and U.S. Policy, by Peter J.
Meyer and Maureen Taft-Morales; CRS In Focus IF10215, Mexico’s Immigration Control
Efforts
, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report R45266, The Trump Administration’s “Zero
Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy
, by Wil iam A. Kandel; CRS Report R45995,
Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals, DACA, and Related Legislation, by Andorra Bruno; CRS
Legal Sidebar LSB10497, Supreme Court: DACA Rescission Violated the APA, by Ben
Harrington; CRS Report R44849, H-2A and H-2B Temporary Worker Visas: Policy and Related
Issues, by Andorra Bruno; CRS Report RS20844, Temporary Protected Status: Overview and
Current Issues
, by Jil H. Wilson; CRS In Focus IF11363, Processing Aliens at the U.S.-Mexico
Border: Recent Policy Changes
, by Hil el R. Smith, Ben Harrington, and Audrey Singer; and
CRS Report R46012, Immigration: Recent Apprehension Trends at the U.S. Southwest Border, by
Audrey Singer and Wil iam A. Kandel.
Selected Country and Subregional Issues
The Caribbean
Caribbean Regional Issues
The Caribbean is a diverse region of 16 independent countries and 18 overseas territories,
including some of the hemisphere’s richest and poorest nations. Among the region’s independent
countries are 13 island nations stretching from the Bahamas in the north to Trinidad and Tobago
in the south; Belize, which is geographical y located in Central America; and Guyana and
Suriname, located on the north-central coast of South America (see Figure 2).
Pursuant to the United States-Caribbean Strategic Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-291), the
State Department submitted a multiyear strategy for the Caribbean in 2017. The strategy
established a framework to strengthen U.S.-Caribbean relations in six priority areas or pil ars: (1)
security, with the objectives of countering transnational crime and terrorist organizations and
advancing citizen security; (2) diplomacy, with the goal of increasing institutionalized
engagement to forge greater cooperation at the Organization of American States (OAS) and the
U.N.; (3) prosperity, including the promotion of sustainable economic growth and private sector-
led investment and development; (4) energy, with the goals of increasing U.S. exports of natural
gas and the use of U.S. renewable energy technologies; (5) education, focusing on increased
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exchanges for students, teachers, and other professionals; and (6) health, including a focus on
long-standing efforts to fight infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
In July 2019, the State Department issued a report to Congress on the implementation of its
multiyear strategy. The report maintained that limited budgets and human resources have
constrained opportunities for deepening relations, but funding for the strategy’s security pil ar has
supported meaningful engagement and produced tangible results for regional and U.S. security
interests.56
Because of their geographic location, many Caribbean nations are vulnerable to use as transit
countries for il icit drugs from South America destined for the U.S. and European markets. Many
Caribbean countries also have suffered high rates of violent crime, including murder, often
associated with drug trafficking activities. In response, the United States launched the Caribbean
Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) in 2009, a regional U.S. foreign assistance program seeking to
reduce drug trafficking in the region and advance public safety and security. The program
dovetails with the first pil ar of the State Department’s Caribbean multiyear strategy for U.S.
engagement. From FY2010 through FY2020, Congress appropriated almost $677 mil ion for the
CBSI. These funds benefitted 13 Caribbean countries. The program has targeted assistance in five
areas: (1) maritime and aerial security cooperation, (2) law enforcement capacity building, (3)
border/port security and firearms interdiction, (4) justice sector reform, and (5) crime prevention
and at-risk youth.
Many Caribbean nations depend on energy imports and, over the past decade, have participated in
Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program, which supplies Venezuelan oil under preferential financing
terms. The United States launched the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) in 2014, with
the goals of promoting a cleaner and more sustainable energy future in the Caribbean.57 The CESI
includes a variety of initiatives to boost energy security and sustainable economic growth by
attracting investment in a range of energy technologies through a focus on improved governance,
increased access to finance, and enhanced coordination among energy donors, governments, and
stakeholders.58

56 U.S. Department of State, 2019 Report to Congress on Progress of Public Law (P.L.) 114 -291: Efforts to Implement
the Strategy for U.S. Engagem ent with the Caribbean Region
, July 2019.
57 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, “U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership,” at
https://www.state.gov/u-s-caribbean-resilience-partnership/.
58 For background, see U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, “Caribbean Energy Security
Initiative (CESI),” at https://www.state.gov/caribbean-energy-security-initiative-cesi/.
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Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

Figure 2. Map of the Caribbean Region: Independent Countries

Source: CRS Graphics.
Notes: With the exception of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, the remaining 14 independent countries of the
Caribbean region are members of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, an organization established by
English-speaking Caribbean nations in 1973 to spur regional integration. Six Eastern Caribbean nations—Antigua
and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—are
members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, established in 1981 to promote economic integration,
harmonization of foreign policy, and other forms of cooperation among member states.
Many Caribbean countries are susceptible to extreme weather events such as tropical storms and
hurricanes, which can significantly affect their economies and infrastructure. Recent scientific
studies suggest that climate change may be increasing the intensity of such events.59 In September
2019, Hurricane Dorian caused widespread damage to the northwestern Bahamian islands of
Grand Bahama and Abaco, with 70 confirmed deaths and many missing.60 The United States
responded with nearly $34 mil ion in humanitarian assistance, including almost $25 mil ion
provided through USAID. Prior to the hurricane, the State Department had launched a U.S.-
Caribbean Resilience Partnership in April 2019, with the goal of increasing regional disaster
response capacity and promoting resilience to natural disasters. In December 2019, USAID
announced it was providing $10 mil ion to improve local resilience to disasters in the Caribbean.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant economic impact on many Caribbean countries
that depend on tourism. In 2020, al Caribbean economies (with the exception of Guyana) are
expected to experience deep recessions. In June 2020, the IMF forecast that tourism-dependent

59 See, for example, Kieran T Bhatia et al., “Recent Increases in T ropical Cyclone Intensification Rates,” Nature
Com m unications
, vol. 10, no. 635 (2019).
60 T he Government of the Bahamas, Cabinet & Disaster Management (NEMA), “Hurricane Dorian, NEMA Update,”
November 29, 2019.
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Caribbean economies would contract an average of 10.3% in 2020.61 St. Lucia’s ambassador to
the United States, Anton Edmunds, maintains the pandemic could be “catastrophic to Caribbean
tourism and regional economies,” not only because of the cruise industry but more significantly
because of the effect on land-based tourism, which is the major economic driver for most
Caribbean countries.62 To date, the Dominican Republic is the Caribbean country most affected
by the spread of COVID-19, with 1,738 deaths as of September 2, 2020. Most other Caribbean
countries have had significantly fewer deaths.63
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has continued to appropriate funds for Caribbean
regional programs. Over the past two fiscal years, Congress has funded the CBSI at levels
significantly higher than requested by the Trump Administration. For FY2019, Congress
appropriated $58 mil ion for the CBSI ($36.2 mil ion was requested), in the Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). For FY2020, the Trump Administration requested $40.2
mil ion for the CBSI, about a 30% drop from FY2019 appropriations. Ultimately, Congress
appropriated not less than $60 mil ion for the CBSI for FY2020 in the Further Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94). For FY2021, the Administration is requesting $32
mil ion for the CBSI, a cut of almost 47% from that appropriated for FY2020. The House-passed
version of the FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil , Division A of H.R. 7608 (H.Rept. 116-
444), approved July 24, 2020, would provide a minimum of $74.8 mil ion for the CBSI, including
$10 mil ion to strengthen resilience to emergencies and disasters.64
In other legislative action, on July 29, 2020, the House Foreign Affairs Committee ordered
reported, without amendment, H.R. 7703, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization
Act. The bil would authorize $74.8 mil ion for the CBSI for each year from FY2021 through
FY2015, included monitoring and reporting requirements for the CBSI, and would require the
State Department to prioritize efforts to increase disaster response and resilience by carrying out
such programs in beneficiary countries.
Congress has also continued to provide funding for the CESI, appropriating $2 mil ion in FY2019
(P.L. 116-6) and $3 mil ion in FY2020 (P.L. 116-94). For FY2021, House-passed H.R. 7608
would provide $3 mil ion for the CESI.
More broadly, a provision in the House-passed version of the FY2021 NDAA, Section 1283 of
H.R. 6395, approved by the House by July 21, 2020, would express the sense of Congress
supporting the strengthening of engagement with the Caribbean.
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF10789, Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, by
Mark P. Sullivan; CRS In Focus IF10666, The Bahamas: An Overview, by Mark P. Sullivan; CRS
Insight IN11171, Bahamas: Response to Hurricane Dorian, by Rhoda Margesson and Mark P.
Sullivan; CRS In Focus IF10407, Dominican Republic, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS In Focus

61 T he exception in the region, Guyana, is forecast to have a 53% because of its new oil wealth. See IMF, World
Econom ic Outlook Database
, April 2020, and “ Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean: An Intensifying
Pandemic,” IMF Blog, June 26, 2020.
62 “Feature Q&A, Can the Caribbean T ourism Industry Withstand COVI-19?” Latin America Advisor, Inter-American
Dialogue, March 23, 2020.
63 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mor tality Analyses, September 2,
2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.
64 For FY2020, the report to the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill,
H.Rept. 116-178 to H.R. 2839, directed that bilateral economic assistance be made available to strengthen resilience to
emergencies and disasters in the Caribbean. (Division G of the explanatory statement to P.L. 116-94 provided that
federal departments and agencies were directed to comply with the directives, reporting requirements, and instructions
contained in H.Rept. 116-78 accompanying H.R. 2839 and S.Rept. 116-126 accompanying S. 2583, unless specifically
directed to the contrary.)
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IF11381, Guyana: An Overview, by Mark P. Sullivan; CRS In Focus IF10912, Jamaica, by Mark
P. Sullivan; and CRS In Focus IF10914, Trinidad and Tobago, by Mark P. Sullivan.
Cuba
Political and economic developments in Cuba, a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human
rights record, frequently have been the subject of intense congressional concern since the 1959
Cuban revolution. Current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April
2018, but Castro continues to head Cuba’s Communist Party. A new constitution took effect in
2019 that introduced some political and economic reforms but maintained the state sector’s
dominance over the economy and the Communist Party’s predominant role. Over the past decade,
Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, but it has not taken
enough action to foster sustainable economic growth.
The Cuban economy is being hard hit by Venezuela’s economic crisis, which has reduced
Venezuela’s support for Cuba; increased U.S. economic sanctions; and the economic decline
associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Economist Intel igence Unit is forecasting an 8.3%
economic contraction in 2020.65
Since the early 1960s, the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward Cuba has been economic sanctions
aimed at isolating the Cuban government. Congress has played an active role in shaping policy
toward Cuba, including by enacting legislation strengthening, and at times easing, U.S. economic
sanctions. In 2014, the Obama Administration initiated a policy shift away from sanctions and
toward a policy of engagement. This shift included the restoration of diplomatic relations (July
2015); the rescission of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of international terrorism (May
2015); and an increase in travel, commerce, and the flow of information to Cuba implemented
through regulatory changes.
President Trump unveiled a new policy toward Cuba in 2017, rolling back some efforts to
normalize relations and introducing new sanctions. These included restrictions on transactions
with entities controlled by the Cuban military, intel igence, and security services. The State
Department issued a list of “restricted entities” in 2017, which has been updated several times and
now includes almost 230 Cuban entities. In September 2017, the State Department reduced the
staff of the U.S. Embassy by about two-thirds in response to unexplained health injuries of
members of the U.S. diplomatic community in Havana. The reduction affected embassy
operations, especial y visa processing.
By 2019, the Trump Administration had largely abandoned engagement by increasing economic
sanctions significantly to pressure the Cuban government for its human rights record and support
for the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. The Administration has tightened
restrictions on travel to Cuba, eliminating people-to-people educational travel, prohibiting cruise
ship travel from the United States, and limiting flights between the United States and Cuba to
Havana flights only. The Administration also has taken actions to al ow lawsuits against those
trafficking in property confiscated by the Cuban government (as provided for in the 1996
LIBERTAD Act, P.L. 104-114), imposed sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil exports to Cuba, and
imposed a series of other trade and financial sanctions. In addition, the Administration has
increased efforts to cal attention to al eged coercive labor practices in Cuba’s foreign medical
missions. In May 2020, the State Department added Cuba to its annual list of countries certified
as not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts, the first such certification for Cuba since
2015.

65 EIU, Cuba Country Report, August 2020.
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Cuba’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have been effective. As of
September 2, 2020, the country registered 4,065 confirmed cases and 95 deaths, with a mortality
rate of 0.84 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cuba has provided
international assistance to respond to the pandemic by sending over 3,700 medical professionals
to almost 40 countries worldwide, including in Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the
Caribbean. The pandemic led to increased cal s, including by United Nations officials, for the
United States to ease sanctions to make it less difficult for Cuba to acquire needed equipment,
supplies, and medicines to confront the health crisis. U.S. officials responded by maintaining that
U.S. sanctions al ow for such exports providing humanitarian relief and assistance to the Cuban
people.
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has continued to fund democracy assistance for Cuba
and U.S. government-sponsored broadcasting to Cuba: $20 mil ion for democracy programs and
$29.1 mil ion for broadcasting in FY2019 (P.L. 116-6) and $20 mil ion for democracy programs
and $20.973 mil ion for broadcasting in FY2020 (P.L. 116-94, Division G). P.L. 116-94 (Division
J) included benefits for U.S. government employees and dependents injured while stationed in
Cuba. For FY2021, the Administration requested $10 mil ion for democracy programs and
$12.973 mil ion for broadcasting. The House-passed version of the FY2021 foreign aid
appropriations bil , Division A of H.R. 7608 (H.Rept. 116-444), approved July 24, 2020, would
provide $20 mil ion for democracy programs and would fully fund the broadcasting request. In
other legislative action, the Senate approved S.Res. 454 in June 2020, cal ing for the release of
democracy activist José Daniel Ferrer and al members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba who have
been arbitrarily imprisoned.
Among other introduced bil s, several would ease or lift U.S. sanctions: H.R. 213 (basebal ); S.
428 (trade); H.R. 1898/S. 1447 (U.S. agricultural exports); H.R. 2404 (overal embargo); and
H.R. 3960/S. 2303 (travel). H.R. 4884 would direct the Administration to reinstate the Cuban
Family Reunification Program. S. 3977 would require the State Department to report on countries
contracting with Cuba for medical missions. Several introduced resolutions would address Cuba’s
medical missions (S.Res. 14/H.Res. 136); U.S. fugitives from justice in Cuba (H.Res. 92/S.Res.
232); religious/political freedom in Cuba (S.Res. 215); the release of José Daniel Ferrer (H.Res.
774); Las Damas de Blanco human rights organization, (S.Res. 531); and the 35th anniversary of
broadcasting to Cuba (H.Res. 971/S.Res. 637). In September 2019, the House Subcommittee on
the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade (House Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee) held a hearing on the human rights situation in Cuba (see Appendix).
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF10045, Cuba: U.S. Policy Overview, by Mark P.
Sullivan; CRS Report R45657, Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 116th Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan;
and CRS Report RL31139, Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances, by Mark P.
Sullivan.
Haiti
During the administration of President Jovenel Moïse, who began a five-year term in February
2017, Haiti has been experiencing political and social unrest, high inflation, and resurgent gang
violence. The Haitian judiciary is conducting investigations into Moïse’s possible involvement in
money laundering, irregular loans, and embezzlement; the president denies these al egations. He
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has dismissed some officials looking into corruption.66 Because Haiti failed to hold legislative
elections, Moïse is now ruling by decree.
In mid-2018, Moïse decided to end oil subsidies, which, coupled with deteriorating economic
conditions, sparked massive protests. Government instability heightened after May 2019, when
the Superior Court of Auditors delivered a report to the Haitian Senate al eging Moïse had
embezzled mil ions of dollars. Mass demonstrations have cal ed for an end to corruption, the
provision of government services, and Moïse’s resignation. Nevertheless, a legislative motion to
impeach the president did not pass. Moïse has said that he wil not resign.
Haiti’s elected officials exacerbated the ongoing instability by not forming a government. After
the first two prime ministers under Moïse resigned, the Haitian legislature did not confirm the
president’s subsequent two nominees for prime minister, who serves as head of government.
Because the legislature also did not pass an elections law, parliamentary elections scheduled for
October 2019 were postponed indefinitely. On January 13, 2020, the terms of the entire lower
Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired, as did the terms of al local
government posts, without newly elected officials to take their place. Currently, there is no
functioning legislature.
Since January 2020, the U.N., the OAS, and others have supported a dialogue among the
government, opposition, civil society, and private sector to establish a functioning government,
develop a plan for reform, create a constitutional revision process, and set an electoral calendar.67
Early talks stal ed without producing a national unity government. The Trump Administration
supports the efforts to break the political impasse but states that “while constitutional reforms are
necessary and welcome, they must not become a pretext to delay elections.”68
President Moïse appointed a new cabinet and prime minister, Joseph Jouthe, and replaced elected
mayors with his own nominees, al by decree. Although creating some stability, the appointments
also served to solidify his political control. Moïse has little public support. Armed gangs have
proliferated in recent years and have targeted low-income neighborhoods where citizens held
anti-government protests. Moïse fired a justice minister after he criticized the government’s
response to the rise in gangs and violent crime as inadequate. Haitian politicians historical y have
used gangs for political benefits, and some observers raise concerns that pro-government gangs
could bolster Moïse’s position.
Some observers are concerned Moïse wil use decrees to advance constitutional reforms he
advocates, including changes to strengthen Haiti’s presidency and executive branch and possibly
a provision to al ow presidential reelection, setting himself up for a second consecutive term,
which Haiti’s current constitution prohibits. Moïse likely wil schedule legislative elections to
coincide with the presidential election, due to be held in 2021. Some observers argue that by
continuing to support Moïse, the United Nations, the United States, and other international
partners are facilitating Moïse’s apparent effort to rule by decree as long as possible.69

66 Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “Hearing Before Regional
Human Rights Body Leads to Request for Site Visit t o Haiti,” October 4, 2019, p. 2; and EIU, Haiti Country Report, 3rd
Quarter 2020.
67 U.N. Security Council, Report of the Secretary General, S/2020/123, “Unit ed Nations Integrated Office in Haiti,”
February 13, 2020, p. 3.
68 U.S. Mission to the U.N., “Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, Ambassador Cherith
Norman-Chalet,” February 20, 2020.
69 Jacques Létang, “Annex II: Statement by the President of the Haitian Bars Federation, Jacques Létang,” United
Nations Security Council, “Letter dated 23 June 2020 from the President of the Security Council addressed to the
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Haiti has received high levels of U.S. assistance for many years given its proximity to the United
States and its status as the poorest country in the hemisphere. In recent years, it was the second-
largest recipient of U.S. aid in the region, after Colombia. Since a peak in 2010, the year a
massive earthquake hit the country, aid to Haiti has been declining steadily. Since 2014, a
prolonged drought and a hurricane have severely affected Haiti’s food supply. U.N. peacekeepers
inadvertently introduced cholera in Haiti in 2010. After nine years, Haiti has contained the
epidemic, having zero laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera since January 2019.70
The U.N. has had a continuous presence in Haiti since 2004, recently shifting from peacekeeping
missions to a political office, and authorized its Integrated Office in Haiti for an initial one-year
period scheduled to expire on October 16, 2020. The office’s mandate is to protect and promote
human rights and to advise the government of Haiti on strengthening political stability and good
governance through support for an inclusive inter-Haitian national dialogue.
With the support of U.N. forces and U.S. and other international assistance, the Haitian National
Police (HNP) force became increasingly professional and took on responsibility for domestic
security. New police stations have given more Haitians access to security services, but with
14,000-15,000 officers, the HNP’s size remains below international standards for the country’s
population. It is also underfunded. Members of the HNP have been protesting their low pay and
unsafe working conditions; their protests have repeatedly turned violent. According to the U.N.,
the HNP has committed human rights abuses, including extrajudicial kil ings.71
The COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional chal enge to governance. The government has
limited resources to treat the disease and prevent its spread. A panel of Haitian health experts
cal ed for Moïse to suspend U.S. deportations of Haitians held in U.S. prisons to Haiti because
they pose a high risk of introducing COVID-19 in Haiti.72 Conditions are such that the disease is
likely to spread rapidly and result in a high death rate, and it could provoke more social unrest. As
of September 2, 2020, Haiti reported 8,230 confirmed cases and 203 deaths.73 The government
also is not wel equipped to deal with the pandemic’s economic impact; Haiti’s economy is
expected to contract by at least 4% in 2020.74 Despite the recent surge in cases, Moïse reopened
borders in July, hoping to increase economic activity but raising concerns that imported
transmission of the virus also wil occur.
Congressional Action: The Trump Administration’s FY2020 aid request for Haiti totaled $145.5
mil ion, which would have been 25% reduction from FY2019; ultimately, an estimated $172.5
mil ion for FY2020 is being provided through the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020
(P.L. 116-94). The act requires that aid to Haiti be provided only through the regular notification
procedures. Under the act, economic assistance for Haiti may not be made available for assistance
to the Haitian central government unless the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the
Committees on Appropriations that the government is taking effective steps to strengthen the rule
of law, combat corruption, increase government revenues, and resolve commercial disputes. The

Secretary-General and the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Security Council,” S/2020/568, June 23,
2020, pp. 5-6; and EIU, Haiti Country Report, 3rd Quarter 2020.
70 T he World Bank, “Haiti: Overview,” May 1, 2020.
71 Marta Hurtado, “Press briefing note on Haiti unrest,” Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights,
November 1, 2019.
72 Jacqueline Charles and Monique O. Madan, “Haiti coronavirus panel demands that ICE halt deportations until
pandemic is controlled,” Miami Herald, May 10, 2020.
73 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, September 2,
2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality; and Kevin Sieff, “ Haiti, Spared A Major Coronavirus
Outbreak So Far, Now a ‘T inderbox’ Set to ‘Explode,’” Washington Post, May 15, 2020.
74International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2020.
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act provides budget authority for $51 million in development assistance; it also provides $10
mil ion in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds for prison assistance,
prioritizing improvements to meet basic sanitation, medical, nutritional, and safety needs at
Haiti’s National Penitentiary. The measure also prohibits the provision of appropriated funds for
assistance to Haiti’s armed forces.
The Administration’s FY2021 request for Haiti totals $128.2 mil ion, almost a 26% cut compared
with estimated assistance being provided in FY2020. The House-passed version of the FY2021
foreign aid appropriations bil (Division A of H.R. 7608, H.Rept. 116-444), approved July 24,
2020, would, among its provisions on Haiti, extend the certification requirement contained in P.L.
116-94, provide budget authority for $51 mil ion in development assistance, make the Haitian
government eligible to purchase defense articles and services for the Coast Guard, and prohibit
funding under the act for assistance to Haiti’s armed forces.
As of August 2020, the State Department said the United States was providing $13.2 mil ion in
previously announced health and humanitarian assistance for Haiti to support efforts to respond to
the COVID-19 pandemic, including aid to support risk communication, improve water and
sanitation, prevent infections in health facilities, manage COVID-19 cases, and strengthen
laboratories.75
The CBTPA, which extends certain trade preferences to Haiti and several other Caribbean
nations, is due to expire September 30, 2020 (see “Trade Policy” section, above.) H.R. 991 and S.
2473 would extend the CBTPA through September 2030.
The House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee held a hearing on U.S. policy toward Haiti in
December 2019 (see Appendix).
For background, see CRS Report R45034, Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions, by
Maureen Taft-Morales.
Mexico and Central America
Mexico
Congress has demonstrated renewed interest in Mexico, a neighboring country and top trading
partner with which the United States has a close but complicated relationship. In recent decades,
U.S.-Mexican relations have improved, as the countries have become close trade partners and
worked to address crime and other issues of shared concern. Nevertheless, the history of U.S.
military and diplomatic intervention in Mexico and the asymmetry in the relationship continue to
provoke periodic tension.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA), approved by Congress in
January 2020, entered into force on July 1, 2020, and its implementation is likely to receive
congressional attention. Congress remains concerned about the effects of organized-crime-related
violence in Mexico on U.S. security interests and U.S. citizens’ safety in Mexico and has
increased oversight of U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. Congress may appropriate foreign
assistance for Mexico and oversee bilateral efforts to address U.S.-bound unauthorized migration,
il egal drug flows, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist leader of the National Regeneration Movement
(MORENA) party, which he created in 2014, took office for a six-year term in December 2018.

75 U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesperson, “ Update: T he United States Is Continuing T o Lead the
Response to COVID-19,” fact sheet, August 21, 2020.
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He is the first Mexican president in over two decades to enjoy majorities in both legislative
chambers. In addition to combating corruption, he pledged to build infrastructure in southern
Mexico, revive the poor-performing state oil company, address citizen security through social
programs, and adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy.
President López Obrador’s approval ratings have remained relatively high (58% in July 2020),
even as his government has struggled to address organized crime-related violence, the COVID-19
pandemic, and a deep recession. In 2019, most Mexicans approved of the López Obrador
government’s new social programs and minimum wage increases, but some viewed the cuts to
government expenditures as shortsighted. After several high-profile massacres and record
homicide levels, the López Obrador government came under pressure to improve its security
strategy. Mexico’s economy recorded zero growth in 2019, and the IMF estimates that it may
contract 10.5% in 2020. Nevertheless, President López Obrador has been slow to implement
economic policies and public health measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, which had
caused 65,241 reported deaths as of September 2, 2020.76
Despite some predictions to the contrary, U.S.-Mexico relations under the López Obrador
government have remained cordial thus far. Nevertheless, tensions have emerged over several
issues, including trade disputes and tariffs, immigration and border security issues, and U.S.
citizens kil ed in Mexico. Security cooperation under the Mérida Initiative has continued,
including efforts to address the production and trafficking of opioids and methamphetamine, but
the Administration has pushed Mexico to improve its antidrug efforts. The López Obrador’s
administration has accommodated most of the Trump Administration’s border and asylum policy
changes that have shifted the burden of interdicting migrants and offering asylum to Mexico.
After enacting labor reforms and raising wages, the López Obrador administration achieved a key
foreign policy goal: U.S. congressional approval of implementing legislation for the USMCA. On
July 8, 2020, President López Obrador traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with President Trump
to mark the agreement’s entry into force and to sign a joint declaration on goals for bilateral
relations.77
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress closely followed the Trump Administration’s efforts
to renegotiate NAFTA and recommended modifications to the proposed USMCA (on labor, the
environment, and dispute settlement, among other topics) that led to the three countries signing an
amendment to the agreement on December 10, 2019. The House approved the implementing
legislation for the proposed USMCA in December 2019, and the Senate followed suit in January
16, 2020 (P.L. 116-113). Both houses have taken action on H.R. 133, the United States-Mexico
Economic Partnership Act (H.R. 133), which directs the Secretary of State to enhance economic
cooperation and educational and professional exchanges with Mexico; the House approved the
measure in January 2019, and the Senate approved an amended version in January 2020. The
FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) requires a classified assessment of drug trafficking, human
trafficking, and alien smuggling in Mexico.
Regarding foreign aid, Congress provided $162.5 mil ion in foreign assistance to Mexico in
FY2019 (P.L. 116-6) and an estimated $157.9 mil ion in FY2020 (P.L. 116-94). For FY2021, the
Administration requested $63.8 mil ion for Mexico, a decline of almost 60% compared with that
provided in FY2020. The House-passed version of the FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil ,
Division A of H.R. 7608, would provide $159.9 mil ion for Mexico. H.Rept. 116-444, the report

76 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, September 2,
2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.
77 T he White House, “ Remarks by President T rump and President López Obrador of the United Mexican States in
Signing of a Joint Declaration,” July 8, 2020.
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accompanying the measure, would require a comprehensive strategy on the Mérida Initiative, as
wel as reports on (1) steps Mexico is taking to meet human rights standards, (2) how Mexico is
addressing highway crimes, and (3) the chal enges facing U.S. citizen minors in Mexico.
Additional House-passed bil s with provisions on Mexico that have not yet received Senate
consideration include H.R. 951, the United States-Mexico Tourism Improvement Act of 2019,
approved by the House in April 2019, which would require the State Department to develop a
strategy to improve bilateral tourism. More recently, the FY2021 House-passed NDAA (H.R.
6395) would require a report on Mexican security forces. The House-passed FY2018-FY2020
Intel igence Authorization Act (H.R. 3494) would require intel igence assessments of drug
trafficking, human smuggling, and human smuggling in Mexico (and the Northern Triangle) and
a review of intel igence community collection efforts in that region.
In the wake of recent high-profile massacres in Mexico, congressional concerns about the
efficacy of U.S.-Mexican security cooperation and cal s for oversight have increased. Other
oversight issues may include bilateral public health, immigration, and economic responses to
COVID-19, as wel as the entry into force of the USMCA.
For additional information, see CRS Report R42917, Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations, by
Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report RL32934, U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues,
and Implications
, by M. Angeles Vil arreal; CRS In Focus IF10997, U.S.-Mexico-Canada
(USMCA) Trade Agreement
, by M. Angeles Vil arreal and Ian F. Fergusson; CRS In Focus
IF10578, Mexico: Evolution of the Mérida Initiative, 2007-2020, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS
Report R41576, Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations, by June S.
Beittel; CRS In Focus IF10215, Mexico’s Immigration Control Efforts, by Clare Ribando Seelke;
and CRS In Focus IF10400, Trends in Mexican Opioid Trafficking and Implications for U.S.-
Mexico Security Cooperation, by Liana W. Rosen and Clare Ribando Seelke.
Central America’s Northern Triangle
The Northern Triangle region of Central America (see Figure 3) has received renewed attention
from U.S. policymakers in recent years, as it has become a major transit corridor for il icit drugs
and has surpassed Mexico as the largest source of irregular migration to the United States. In
FY2019, U.S. authorities apprehended nearly 608,000 unauthorized migrants from El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras at the southwest border; 81% of those apprehended were families or
unaccompanied minors, many of whom were seeking asylum.78 These narcotics and migrant
flows are the latest symptoms of deep-rooted chal enges in the region, including widespread
insecurity, fragile political and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty. The COVID-19
pandemic has exacerbated these chal enges, as the sharp economic downturn has led to increased
unemployment and food insecurity, and some governments have used the crisis to curtail civil
liberties and engage in corruption.
The Obama Administration determined it was in the national security interests of the United
States to work with Central American countries to improve security, strengthen governance, and
promote prosperity in the region. Accordingly, the Obama Administration launched a whole-of-
government U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America and requested a significant
increase in foreign assistance for the region to support the strategy’s implementation. Since
FY2016, Congress has appropriated more than $3.1 bil ion of aid for Central America, al ocating
most of the funds to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Annual appropriations measures
have required a portion of the aid to be withheld, however, until the Northern Triangle

78 CBP, “U.S. Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions by Sector Fiscal Year 2 019,” October 29, 2019.
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governments take steps to improve border security, combat corruption, protect human rights, and
address other congressional concerns.
Figure 3. Map of Central America

Source: CRS Graphics.
Notes: Belize, although located in Central America, is considered a Caribbean country and belongs to the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The Trump Administration has maintained the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America
but suspended most aid for the Northern Triangle in March 2019 due to the continued northward
flow of migrants and asylum seekers from the region. The aid suspension forced U.S. agencies to
close some projects prematurely and cancel some planned activities. Although Administration
officials acknowledged that U.S. foreign aid programs had been “producing the results [they]
were intended to produce” with regard to security, governance, and economic development in the
region, they argued that, “the only metric that matters is the question of what the migration
situation looks like on the southern border” of the United States.79
Over the course of 2019, the Trump Administration reprogrammed approximately $405 mil ion of
aid appropriated for the Northern Triangle to other foreign policy priorities while negotiating a
series of migration agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Under a safe third
country agreement (also known as an asylum cooperative agreement), the United States sent
nearly 1,000 Hondurans and Salvadorans to Guatemala between November 2019 and March
2020, requiring them to apply for protection there rather than in the United States.80 Guatemala
suspended that agreement in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; similar agreements
with Honduras and El Salvador that had yet to be implemented also were suspended. Although
U.S. deportations to al three countries have continued, Guatemala has suspended repatriation
flights on multiple occasions due to nearly 200 deportees reportedly testing positive for COVID-
19 after arriving in Guatemala.81

79 Remarks of Michael G. Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
and Kirsten D. Madison, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs,
“Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on U.S. Policy in Mexico and Central America, ” CQ
Congressional Transcripts
, September 25, 2019.
80 Instituto Guatemalteco de Migración, “T raslados Acuerdo de Cooperación de Asilo –ACA,” data provided to CRS in
April 2020.
81 “Guatemala Says 8 Minors of 60 Deported Were COVID-19 Positive,” Associated Press, August 25, 2020.
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In October 2019, following the conclusion of the migration agreements, the Administration
announced it would begin restoring targeted aid to the region. As of mid-June 2020, the
Administration was in the process of obligating the last of the previously suspended assistance.
For FY2021, the Administration has requested almost $377 mil ion for Central America, based on
the assumption that countries in the region wil continue to take action to stem unauthorized
migration to the United States. The request does not include any foreign aid specifical y for El
Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, but the Administration asserts that those countries could
receive a portion of the assistance requested for CARSI and the USAID Latin America and
Caribbean Regional Program.
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has demonstrated continued support for the U.S.
Strategy for Engagement in Central America but has reduced annual funding for the initiative.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6) provided $527.6 mil ion for the Central
America strategy, which is about $92 mil ion more than the Trump Administration requested. The
Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94), provided $519.9 mil ion for the
initiative, which is about $75 mil ion more than the Trump Administration requested.82 For
FY2021, the House-passed foreign aid appropriations bil (H.R. 7608, H.Rept. 116-444) would
again provide $519.9 mil ion for Central America, which is $143 mil ion more than the
Administration requested. The bil would maintain conditions on U.S. assistance to the
governments of the Northern Triangle.
Congress has also sought to improve the effectiveness of the Central America strategy. The
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, and House Western
Hemisphere Subcommittee each held oversight hearings to assess U.S. policy and foreign
assistance in Central America (see Appendix). The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced
Engagement Act (H.R. 2615), passed by the House in July 2019, would authorize assistance for
Central America and require the State Department, in coordination with other agencies, to
develop five-year strategies to support inclusive economic growth, combat corruption, strengthen
democratic institutions, and improve security conditions in the Northern Triangle. Many of those
same provisions are included in the House-passed FY2021 NDAA (H.R. 6395). Other measures
introduced in the 116th Congress that would authorize certain types of assistance and guide U.S.
policy in the region include the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act (S. 1445), the
Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act (H.R. 3524), and the Central American Women
and Children Protection Act (H.R. 2836/S. 1781).
Congress has continued to express concerns about corruption and human rights abuses in the
region. P.L. 116-94 provides $45 mil ion for offices of attorneys general and other entities and
activities to combat corruption and impunity in Central America in FY2020. That act also
includes $20 mil ion for combating sexual and gender-based violence in the region, as wel as a
total of $3 mil ion for the offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala
and Honduras and El Salvador’s National Commission for the Search of Persons Disappeared in
the Context of the Armed Conflict. H.R. 7608 would maintain the same funding levels for those
priorities in FY2021. H.Rept. 116-444 would direct the Secretary of State, in consultation with
the Secretary of the Treasury, to report the names of Northern Triangle officials known to have
engaged in corruption and the steps that have been taken to impose sanctions on those
individuals.
Several other legislative measures also include provisions intended to address corruption and
human rights abuses in the Northern Triangle. The FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) requires DOD to

82 Final allocations have differed slightly from enacted levels, with funding for the strategy totaling approximately $525
million in FY2019 and an estimated $533 million in FY2020.
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enter into an agreement with an independent institution to conduct an analysis of the human rights
situation in Honduras. The act also requires DOD to certify, prior to the transfer of any vehicles to
the Guatemalan government, that the government has made a credible commitment to use such
equipment only as intended. A provision in the House-passed FY2021 NDAA, H.R. 6395, would
extend the certification for assistance for Guatemala for another year. Other initiatives introduced
in the 116th Congress addressing corruption and human rights include the Guatemala Rule of Law
Accountability Act (H.R. 1630/S. 716) and the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act
(H.R. 1945).
For additional information, see CRS Report R44812, U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central
America: Policy Issues for Congress
, by Peter J. Meyer; CRS Report R43616, El Salvador:
Background and U.S. Relations
, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report R42580, Guatemala:
Political and Socioeconomic Conditions and U.S. Relations
, by Maureen Taft-Morales; CRS
Report RL34027, Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations, by Peter J. Meyer; and CRS Legal
Sidebar LSB10402, Safe Third Country Agreements with Northern Triangle Countries:
Background and Legal Issues, by Ben Harrington.
Nicaragua
President Daniel Ortega, who wil turn 75 in November 2020, has been suppressing popular
unrest in Nicaragua in a manner reminiscent of Anastasio Somoza, the dictator he helped
overthrow in 1979 as a leader of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Ortega
served as president from 1985 to 1990, during which time the United States backed right-wing
insurgents known as contras in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government. In the early
1990s, Nicaragua began to establish democratic governance. Democratic space has narrowed as
the FSLN and Ortega have consolidated control over the country’s institutions, including while
Ortega served as an opposition leader in the legislature from 1990 until 2006. Ortega reclaimed
the presidency in 2007 and has served as president for the past 13 years, becoming increasingly
authoritarian. Until recently, for many Nicaraguans, Ortega’s populist social welfare programs
that improved their standard of living outweighed his authoritarian tendencies and self-
enrichment. Similarly, for many in the international community, the relative stability in Nicaragua
outweighed Ortega’s antidemocratic actions.
Ortega’s long-term strategy to retain control of the government began to unravel in 2018 when
his proposal to reduce social security benefits triggered protests led by a wide range of
Nicaraguans. The government’s repressive response led to an estimated 325-600 extrajudicial
kil ings, torture, political imprisonment, suppression of the press, and thousands of citizens going
into exile.83 The government says it was defending itself from coup attempts. Such suppression
has continued. The crisis undermined economic growth in the hemisphere’s second poorest
country, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to make it worse. Nicaragua’s economy
contracted by almost 4% in 2019; in April 2020, the IMF estimated it would contract by 6% in
2020, with unemployment nearly doubling from 6% to 11%.84
The international community has sought to hold the Ortega government accountable for human
rights abuses and facilitate the reestablishment of democracy in Nicaragua. An Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights team concluded in July 2018 that the Nicaraguan security forces’
actions could be considered crimes against humanity. In November 2019, the OAS High Level

83 Organization of American States, Report of the High-Level Commission on Nicaragua of the Organization of
Am erican States
, November 19, 2019.
84 IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2020.
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Commission on Nicaragua concluded that the government’s actions “make the democratic
functioning of the country impossible,” in violation of Nicaragua’s obligations under Article 1 of
the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Many OAS members reportedly are urging that
Nicaragua be suspended from the organization.85 The Nicaragua Human Rights and
Anticorruption Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-335), effectively blocks access to new multilateral lending
to Nicaragua. The Trump Administration has imposed targeted sanctions against multiple high-
level officials, including Vice President and First Lady Rosario Muril o. In March 2020, the
Trump Administration imposed sanctions against the Nicaraguan National Polic e for its role in
serious human rights abuses. On July 17, 2020, the Treasury Department sanctioned Juan Carlos
Ortega Muril o, the third son of the president to be sanctioned.
Dialogue between the government and the opposition collapsed in 2019 and has not resumed.
Two wings of protest groups united into the National Coalition, hoping to present a unified
candidate in 2021 general elections. Sandinista-controlled state institutions are likely to impede
such efforts, however.
Although Nicaragua announced its first case of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020, as of May 12, the
Sandinista government had maintained the position it established in February, that “Nicaragua has
not and wil not establish any type of quarantine.” Although the Health Ministry reportedly told
hospital directors and health officials in late April to prepare for the pandemic, Nicaragua has not
taken other international y recommended preventive measures against the COVID-19 virus, and
has encouraged large gatherings. Experts and observers are concerned that the government is now
concealing the disease’s spread. While the government reports low numbers (4,668 cases and 141
deaths as of September 2, 2020), health specialists and non-governmental organizations estimate
the number of cases to be much higher, and some observers say the government is burying
patients suspected of dying of COVID-19 within hours and concealing the cause of death from
families.86
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress remains concerned about the erosion of democracy
and human rights abuses in Nicaragua. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L.
116-94) appropriates $10 mil ion for foreign assistance programs to promote democracy and the
rule of law in Nicaragua. For FY2021, the Administration has requested $10 mil ion for
democracy and civil society programs in Nicaragua; the House-passed foreign aid appropriations
measure (Division A of H.R. 7608, H.Rept. 116-444) would fully the Administration’s request.
In March 2020, the House approved H.Res. 754, a resolution expressing the sense of the House of
Representatives that the United States should continue to support the people of Nicaragua in their
peaceful efforts to promote democracy and human rights and to use the tools under U.S. law to
increase political and financial pressure on the Ortega government. In June 2020, the Senate
agreed to a similar resolution, S.Res. 525. In June 2019, the House Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee held a hearing on the Nicaraguan government’s repression of dissent (see
Appendix).

85 EIU, Nicaragua Country Report, August 2020.
86 Alfredo Zuniga, “Quick burials in Nicaragua hint at a coronavirus crisis that officials say doesn’t exist,” Associated
Press, May 12, 2020. Nicaragua’s COVID-19 cases are from: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,
Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, September 2, 2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
data/mortality.
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South America
Argentina
Current President Alberto Fernández of the center-left Peronist Frente de Todos (FdT, Front for
Al ) ticket won the October 2019 presidential election and was inaugurated to a four-year term in
December 2019. He defeated incumbent President Mauricio Macri of the center-right Juntos por
el Cambio
(JC, Together for Change) coalition by a solid margin of 48.1% to 40.4% but by
significantly less than the 15 to 20 percentage points predicted by polls. The election also
returned to government former leftist Peronist President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-
2015), who ran on the FdT ticket as vice president.
Argentina’s economic decline in 2018 and 2019, with high inflation and increasing poverty, was
the major factor in Macri’s electoral defeat. Macri had ushered in economic policy changes in
2016-2017 that lifted currency controls, reduced or eliminated agricultural export taxes, and
reduced electricity, water, and heating subsidies. In 2018, as the economy faced pressure from a
severe drought and large budget deficits, the IMF supported the government with a $57 bil ion
program. Macri’s economic reforms and IMF support were not enough to stem Argentina’s
economic decline, and the government reimposed currency controls and took other measures to
stabilize the economy.
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Fernández faced an economy in
crisis, with a recession expected to extend into 2020, high poverty, and a high level of
unsustainable public debt requiring restructuring. He pledged to restructure Argentina’s debt by
the end of March 2020, and opened talks with bondholders and other creditors, including the IMF.
Fernández also rolled out several measures, including a food program and price controls on basic
goods, aimed at helping low-income Argentines cope with inflation and increased poverty. By
August 2020, the government announced it had reached an agreement with private bondholders
for a $66 bil ion restructuring agreement and requested negotiations with the IMF to replace its
previous $57 bil ion program.87
The Fernández government’s swift action imposing strict quarantine measures to respond to the
COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March 2020 appears to have had a significant effect in keeping
death rates low initial y. However, by July 2020, the number of confirmed cases and deaths began
to increase significantly (almost 9,000 deaths as of September 2, 2020).88 With the economic
shutdown because of the pandemic, the IMF forecast in April 2020 an economic contraction of
5.7% in 2020; in June 2020, the IMF revised its forecast to an economic contraction of 9.9%.89
U.S. relations with Argentina were strong under the Macri government, marked by increasing
engagement on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. After Argentina’s 2019
presidential race, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States looked forward to
working with the Fernández administration to promote regional security, prosperity, and the rule
of law. One point of contention in relations could be Argentina’s stance on Venezuela. Under
Macri, Argentina was strongly critical of the antidemocratic actions of the Maduro regime. The
country joined with other regional countries in 2017 to form the Lima Group seeking a

87 “Argentina: Gov’t and Bondholders Reach Agreement,” LatinNews Daily, August 4, 2020; and Patrick Gillespie and
Jorgelina Do Rosario, “Argentina Asks for New IMF Plan to Replace $57 Billion Deal,” Bloomberg, August 26, 2020.
88 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, September 2,
2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.
89 IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2020, and “Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean: An
Intensifying Pandemic,” IMF Blog, June 26, 2020.
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democratic resolution, and in 2019, recognized the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan
Guaidó, as the country’s interim president. In contrast, the Fernández government does not
recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
Congressional Action: Argentina has not traditional y received much U.S. foreign aid because of
its relatively high per capita income level, but for each of FY2018-FY2020, Congress has
appropriated $2.5 mil ion in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement assistance to
support Argentina’s counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and law enforcement capabilities.
Congress has expressed concern over the years about progress in bringing to justice those
responsible for the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in
Buenos Aires that kil ed 85 people. Both Iran and Hezbollah (the radical Lebanon-based Islamic
group) al egedly are linked to the attack, as wel as to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in
Buenos Aires that kil ed 29 people. As the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing approached in
July 2019, the House approved H.Res. 441, reiterating condemnation of the attack and expressing
strong support for accountability; the Senate followed suit in October 2019 when it approved
S.Res. 277.
For additional information, see CRS In Focus IF10932, Argentina: An Overview, by Mark P.
Sullivan; CRS In Focus IF10991, Argentina’s Economic Crisis and Default, by Rebecca M.
Nelson; and CRS Insight IN11184, Argentina’s 2019 Elections, by Mark P. Sullivan and Angel
Carrasquil o Benoit.
Bolivia
Bolivia experienced relative stability and prosperity from 2006 to 2019, but as governance
standards weakened, relations with the United States deteriorated under populist President Evo
Morales. Morales was the country’s first indigenous president and leader of the Movement
Toward Socialism (MAS) party. On November 10, 2019, President Morales resigned and sought
protection abroad (first in Mexico and then in Argentina) after weeks of protests al eging fraud in
the October 20, 2019, election in which he had sought a fourth term. After three individuals in
line to succeed Morales also resigned, opposition Senator Jeanine Áñez, formerly second vice
president of the senate, declared herself senate president and then interim president on November
12. Bolivia’s constitutional court recognized her succession. In late November, the MAS-led
Congress unanimously approved an electoral law to annul the October elections and select a new
electoral tribunal. On January 3, 2020, the reconstituted tribunal scheduled new presidential and
legislative elections for May 3, 2020, but then postponed them twice due to the COVID-19
pandemic and national quarantine. With protests mounting about the delays, electoral authorities
established October 18, 2020, as the first-round election date.
The situation in Bolivia remains volatile. On January 24, 2020, Interim President Áñez
announced her intention to run in the May presidential election, abandoning her earlier pledge to
preside over a caretaker government focused on convening credible elections. Even before she
announced her candidacy, observers had criticized Áñez for exceeding her mandate by using
excessive force against protesters, reversing several MAS foreign policy positions, and bringing
charges of sedition and terrorism against Morales and other former MAS officials.
The Trump Administration has sought to bolster ties with the Áñez government while expressing
support for “free, fair, transparent, and inclusive elections.”90 U.S. officials have praised the Áñez

90 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, “Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Bolivian Foreign Minister
Longaric,” readout, January 20, 2020.
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government for expel ing Cuban officials and recognizing Venezuela’s Guaidó government. In
January 2020, President Trump waived restrictions on U.S. assistance to Bolivia.91 USAID has
provided $3 mil ion in support for the upcoming elections, and, as of August 2020, the State
Department said it was providing $900,000 to help Bolivia respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. officials have not commented on reports by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
and other institutions on human rights abuses committed by the Áñez government or criticized
that government’s corruption scandals.92
Congressional Action: Members of the 116th Congress have expressed concerns about the
situation in Bolivia in resolutions and letters to the Administration. S.Res. 35, approved in April
2019, expressed concern over Morales’s efforts to circumvent term limits in Bolivia and cal ed on
his government to al ow electoral bodies to administer the October 2019 elections in accordance
with international norms. Although some Members condemned the ouster of Morales as a “coup,”
most have focused on ensuring a democratic transition. In January 2020, the Senate agreed by
unanimous consent to S.Res. 447, expressing concerns about election irregularities and violence
in Bolivia, urging the Bolivian government to protect human rights and promptly convene new
elections, and encouraging the U.S. State Department and the OAS to help ensure the integrity of
the electoral process.
For more information, see CRS Insight IN11198, Bolivia: Elections Postponed to October, by
Clare Ribando Seelke and CRS In Focus IF11325, Bolivia: An Overview, by Clare Ribando
Seelke.
Brazil
Occupying almost half of South America, Brazil is the fifth-largest and fifth-most-populous
country in the world. Given its size and tremendous natural resources, Brazil has long had the
potential to become a world power and periodical y has been the focal point of U.S. policy in
Latin America. Brazil’s rise to prominence has been hindered, however, by uneven economic
performance and political instability. After a period of strong economic growth and increased
international influence during the first decade of the 21st century, Brazil has struggled with a
series of domestic crises in recent years. Since 2014, the country has experienced a deep
recession, record-high homicide rate, and massive corruption scandal. Those combined crises
contributed to the controversial impeachment and removal from office of President Dilma
Rousseff (2011-2016). They also discredited much of Brazil’s political class, paving the way for
right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro to win the presidency in October 2018.
Since taking office in January 2019, President Bolsonaro has begun to implement economic and
regulatory reforms favored by international investors and Brazilian businesses and has proposed
hardline security policies intended to reduce crime and violence. Rather than building a broad-
based coalition to advance his agenda, Bolsonaro has sought to keep his political base mobilized
by taking social y conservative stands on cultural issues and verbal y attacking perceived
enemies, such as the press, nongovernmental organizations, and other branches of government.
This confrontational approach to governance has alienated potential al ies within the
conservative-leaning congress and hindered Brazil’s ability to address serious chal enges, such as
the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It also has

91 White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “ Presidential Determination on Waiving a Restriction on United States
Assistance to Bolivia,” presidential memorandum, January 6, 2020.
92 U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The Human Rights Situation in the Aftermath of the
October 20, 2019 General Elections in Bolivia,
August 2020; “ Bolivian Health Minister Held For Suspected
Corruption,” Agence France Presse, May 20, 2020.
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placed additional stress on the country’s already strained democratic institutions. With COVID-19
continuing to spread throughout the country and the economy projected to contract 9.1% in 2020,
Brazilian public opinion toward Bolsonaro remains polarized.
In international affairs, the Bolsonaro Administration has moved away from Brazil’s traditional
commitment to autonomy and toward alignment with the United States. Bolsonaro has
coordinated closely with the Trump Administration on regional chal enges, such as the crisis in
Venezuela. On other matters, such as commercial ties with China, Bolsonaro general y has taken
a pragmatic approach intended to ensure continued access to Brazil’s major export markets. The
Trump Administration has welcomed Bolsonaro’s rapprochement and sought to strengthen U.S.-
Brazilian relations. In 2019, the Trump Administration took steps to bolster bilateral cooperation
on counternarcotics and counterterrorism efforts and designated Brazil as a major non-NATO al y
for the purposes of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. 2321k) and the
Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.). The United States and Brazil also have agreed
to lower some agricultural trade barriers and have begun negotiating additional accords on
customs administration, e-commerce rules, regulatory practices, and anti-corruption measures.
Congressional Action: The 116th Congress has continued long-standing U.S. support for
environmental conservation efforts in Brazil. In September 2019, the House Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on preserving the Amazon rainforest that focused on the
surge of fires and deforestation in the region (see Appendix). Congress ultimately appropriated
$15 mil ion for foreign assistance programs in the Brazilian Amazon, including $5 mil ion to
address fires in the region, in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94).
That amount is $4 mil ion more than Congress appropriated for environmental programs in the
Brazilian Amazon in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). The House-passed
FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil (H.R. 7608, H.Rept. 116-444) would again provide $15
mil ion for conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon.
Members of Congress have introduced several other legislative proposals intended to protect the
Brazilian Amazon. A Senate resolution (S.Res. 337) would express concern about fires and il egal
deforestation in the Amazon, cal on the Brazilian government to strengthen environmental
enforcement, and support continued U.S. assistance to the Brazilian government and NGOs. The
Act for the Amazon Act (H.R. 4263) would take a more punitive approach. The act would ban the
importation of certain fossil fuels and agricultural products from Brazil, prohibit certain types of
military-to-military engagement and security assistance to Brazil, and forbid U.S. agencies from
entering into free trade negotiations with Brazil.
Congress also has expressed concerns about the state of democracy and human rights in Brazil. A
provision of the FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination
with the Secretary of State, to submit a report to Congress regarding the human rights climate in
Brazil and U.S.-Brazilian security cooperation. A provision in the House-passed FY2021 NDAA
(H.R. 6395) would prohibit the use of any federal funds to provide assistance to Brazilian security
forces to involuntarily relocate indigenous or Quilombola communities. Some Members have
cal ed for more far-reaching changes to U.S.-Brazilian security cooperation. A resolution
introduced in September 2019 expressing profound concerns about threats to human rights, the
rule of law, democracy, and the environment in Brazil (H.Res. 594) would cal for the United
States to rescind Brazil’s designation as a major non-NATO al y and suspend assistance to
Brazilian security forces, among other actions.
For additional information, see CRS Report R46236, Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations, by
Peter J. Meyer; and CRS In Focus IF11306, Fire and Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, by
Pervaze A. Sheikh et al.
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Colombia
Colombia is a key U.S. al y in Latin America. Because of the country’s prominence in il egal
drug production, the United States and Colombia have forged a close relationship over the past
two decades. “Plan Colombia,” a program focused initial y on counternarcotics and later
counterterrorism, laid the foundation for an enduring security partnership. President Juan Manuel
Santos (2010-2018) made concluding a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC)—the country’s largest leftist guerril a organization at the time—his
government’s primary focus. Following four years of formal peace negotiations, Colombia’s
Congress ratified the FARC-government peace accord in November 2016. During a U.N.-
monitored demobilization effort in 2017, approximately 13,200 FARC disarmed, demobilized,
and began the process of reintegration.
Iván Duque, a former senator from the conservative Democratic Center party, won the 2018
presidential election and was inaugurated to a four-year term in August 2018. Duque campaigned
as a critic of the peace accord and quickly suspended peace talks with the National Liberation
Army (ELN), Colombia’s current largest leftist guerril a group. President Duque’s approval
ratings slipped early in his presidency, and his government faced weeks of protests and strikes in
late 2019 focused on several administration policies, including what many Colombians viewed as
a halting approach to peace accord implementation.
According to polling in spring of 2020, President Duque’s approval ratings rose from 23% in
February to 52% in April—the highest of his tenure. Although the rise likely was linked to
Duque’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colombian respondents rated corruption as
their top concern, fol owed by unemployment and the coronavirus.93 The Duque administration
took early measures to contain the virus, including a national lockdown beginning March 24,
2020, which was fitfully lifted between May and August. However, by September 2, 2020,
Colombia surpassed 20,000 COVID-19 deaths (40 deaths per 100,000).94 As of August 21, 2020,
the U.S. State Department announced some $23.6 mil ion in pandemic-related response
assistance, including humanitarian assistance to reach Colombia’s most vulnerable populations.95
Along with the global pandemic, Colombia continues to face major chal enges. These include a
spike in coca cultivation and cocaine production; vulnerability to a mass migration of
Venezuelans fleeing the authoritarian government of Maduro; violence against human rights
defenders and social activists, including recent massacres of youth and those leading peace
programs; and chal enges enacting the ambitious peace accord commitments while controlling
crime and violence by armed groups.
In August 2019, a FARC splinter faction announced its return to arms. Neighboring Venezuela
appears to be sheltering and perhaps collaborating with FARC dissidents and ELN guerril a
forces. Some 3,000-4,000 former FARC fighters are estimated to have returned to armed struggle.
The majority of demobilized FARC members remain committed to the peace process, but face
numerous risks, with more than 200 former fighters and demobilized FARC kil ed since 2016.

93 “Coronavirus Response Boosts Approval for Colombia’s Duque,” Reuters News, April 30, 2020.
94 Data from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center, Mor tality Analyses,
September 2, 2020, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.
95 U.S. State Department, “Update: T he United States is Continuing to Lead the Response to COVID-19,” Fact Sheet,
August 21, 2020. T he support included 200 ventilators provided by the United States in June 2020.
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In February 2020, 1.8 mil ion Venezuelans were residing in Colombia, having fled their homes.
The pandemic, however, has sharply strained the Duque government’s approach to receiving the
exodus of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, with some opting to return to Venezuela as a result.
Senator and former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), credited with bringing the conflict with
Colombia’s insurgencies under control, was ordered into house arrest by the Colombian Supreme
Court during its investigation of witness tampering charges early in August 2020. Later that
month, he was asked to testify in another Supreme Court probe about three massacres that
occurred during the 1990s when he served as a state governor of Antioquia. In a separate
development in August 2020, the Duque government requested the extradition of a Colombian
paramilitary leader who had served a 12-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in the United
States and was wanted in Colombia on charges of crimes against humanity; at the end of August,
press reports indicated the Trump Administration would, pending legal chal enges, move to
deport the paramilitary leader to Colombia.96
Colombia has set records in cocaine production in recent years. In 2019, according to U.S.
estimates, the country’s cocaine production reached 951 metric tons of pure cocaine. In 2019,
President Duque and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed a March 2018 commitment to
work together to lower coca crop levels and cocaine production by 50% by 2023.97 President
Duque campaigned on resuming forced aerial eradication (or spraying of coca crops) with the
herbicide glyphosate, and in late August 2020, he cal ed for a resumption of spraying while
escalating other means of forced eradication, such as forced manual eradication.98 Critics contend
only voluntary eradication coupled with alternative development wil reduce coca cultivation
sustainably.
The United States remains Colombia’s top trading partner. In April 2020, Colombia became the
third Latin American country-member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and
Development. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the IMF forecast that Colombia’s economy
would exceed 3% growth in 2020; following the pandemic’s outbreak and a crash in oil prices, a
top Colombian export, the IMF revised its forecast in June 2020 to a contraction of 7.8%.99 In
August 2020, the Trump Administration announced a new United States-Colombia Growth
Initiative, Colombia Crece, to harness assistance from a variety of U.S. agencies to bring
investment to Colombia’s rural areas and fight crime through sustainable development and
growth. According to the U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, on an official visit to
Colombia in August, investment levels wil reach $5 bil ion.100
Congressional Action: U.S. government assistance to Colombia over the past 20 years has
totaled nearly $12 bil ion, with funds appropriated by Congress mainly to the U.S. Departments
of State and Defense and to USAID.101 Many Members of Congress have expressed support for
Colombia’s continued leadership role to assist in a democratic transition in Venezuela and to

96 Christine Armario, “Colombia Court Calls on Uribe to T estify in Massacre Probe,” Associated Press, August 23,
2020; Joshua Goodman, “Colombia Calls on U.S. to Extradite Warlord over Fears He will Escape Justice,” The
Guardian
, August 21, 2020; and Joshua Goodman, “ Sources: U.S. Stops Ex Colombia Warlord’s Deportation to Italy,”
Associated Press, August 31, 2020.
97 Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), “ United States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to
Reduce Cocaine Supply,” Fact Sheet, March 5, 2020.
98 Jake Kincaid, “Coca Eradication in Colombia Hits Post -peace-deal High During Coronavirus Pandemic,” Miami
Herald
, August 19, 2020.
99 IMF, “Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean: An Intensifying Pandemic,” IMF Blog, June 26, 2020.
100 White House, “Statement by National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien,” press release, August 17, 2020;
“Colombia y Estados Unidos Lanzan Iniciativa ‘Colombia Crece,’” El Tiempo (Colombia), August 17, 2020.
101“Update: T he United States Is Continuing to Lead the Response to COVID-19,” fact sheet, August 21, 2020.
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respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis. The State Department al ocated more than $400
mil ion by late 2019 to support countries receiving Venezuelan migrants, with over half for
Colombia, as the most severely affected country. (For more, see “Venezuela.”)
For FY2020, Congress provided $448 mil ion in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act,
2020 (P.L. 116-94), for State Department- and USAID-funded programs in Colombia. For
FY2021, the Administration requested $412.9 mil ion for Colombia (about a 9% decline
compared with the FY2020 aid estimate); the House-passed FY2021 foreign aid appropriations
bil , Division A of H.R. 7608 (H.Rept. 116-444), would provide not less than $457.3 mil ion. A
provision in the House-passed FY2021 NDAA (Section 1298 of H.R. 6395) would require a
report on possible misuse of U.S. security sector funds for il egal surveil ance by Colombia’s
armed services and recommendations to prevent such abuse.
For additional information, see CRS Report R43813, Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations,
by June S. Beittel; and CRS Report RL34470, The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement:
Background and Issues, by M. Angeles Vil arreal and Edward Y. Gracia.
Venezuela
Venezuela remains in a deep crisis under the authoritarian rule of Nicolás Maduro of the United
Socialist Party of Venezuela. Maduro, narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chávez
(president, 1999-2013), began a second term on January 10, 2019, that most Venezuelans and
much of the international community consider il egitimate. Since January 2019, Juan Guaidó,
president of Venezuela’s democratical y elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly, has
sought to dislodge Maduro from power so that a transition government can serve until
international y observed elections can be held.
The United States and 57 other countries recognize Guaidó as interim president, but he has been
unable to wrest Maduro from power and has faced increased danger since returning from an
international tour in early 2020, during which he met with President Trump. Maduro has used
repression to quash dissent; rewarded al ies with income earned from il egal gold mining, drug
trafficking, and other il icit activities; and relied on support from Russia, China, Iran, and others
to subvert U.S. sanctions. The COVID-19 pandemic, low oil prices, and gasoline shortages do not
appear to have weakened Maduro’s grip on power. A botched raid against Maduro in early May
2020 by U.S. mercenaries and former Venezuelan soldiers weakened the Guaidó-led
opposition.102 Maduro is seeking to convene new National Assembly elections in December 2020;
many observers maintain that such a vote wil not meet international standards, and most
opposition parties plan to boycott the vote.
Venezuela’s economy has collapsed. The country is plagued by hyperinflation, severe shortages
of food and medicine, and a dire humanitarian crisis that has further deteriorated in 2020 as a
result of gasoline shortages, an outbreak of COVID-19, and strengthened U.S. sanctions. Maduro
has blamed U.S. sanctions for the economic crisis, but many observers cite economic
mismanagement and corruption as the main factors. U.N. agencies estimate that 5.1 mil ion
Venezuelans have fled the country as of August 2020, primarily to neighboring countries.
U.S. Policy. Since recognizing the Guaidó government in January 2019, the United States has
coordinated its efforts with Interim President Guaidó. U.S. strategy has emphasized diplomatic
efforts to bolster support for Guaidó; targeted sanctions and visa revocations to increase pressure
on Maduro officials; broader sanctions on the state oil company, other state-controlled companies

102 Patrick J. McDonnell, Mery Mogollan, “Maduro Buoyed, Guaidó Reeling After Failed Amphibious Raid in
Venezuela,” Los Angeles Tim es, May 10, 2020.
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and institutions, and the government; and humanitarian aid ($534 mil ion to countries sheltering
Venezuelans and $76 mil ion for Venezuela from FY2017 through May 2020). As of August 21,
2020, the State Department had announced $13.7 mil ion in COVID-related humanitarian aid to
Venezuela.103 In October 2019, the USAID signed an agreement with the Guaidó government
enabling the provision of development assistance, health assistance, and increased democracy
assistance. In 2020, the Administration has sanctioned companies that have transported
Venezuelan oil and seized Venezuela-bound ships carrying Iranian petroleum products in
violation of sanctions. U.S. officials have vowed to keep “maximum pressure” on Maduro and his
foreign backers until he agrees to al ow a transition government to convene free and fair
legislative and presidential elections.
Congressional Action: Congress has supported the Administration’s efforts to support a
restoration of democracy in Venezuela without U.S. military intervention in the country and to
provide humanitarian support to Venezuelans, although some Members have expressed concerns
about the humanitarian impact of sanctions. In December 2019, Congress enacted P.L. 116-94,
which appropriated $30 mil ion in FY2020 assistance for democracy programs in Venezuela and
incorporated the Senate-reported version of the VERDAD Act (S. 1025), a comprehensive bil to
address the crisis in Venezuela. The VERDAD Act incorporated House-passed measures
authorizing FY2020 humanitarian aid to Venezuela (H.R. 854), restricting the export of defense
articles to Venezuela (H.R. 920), and requiring a U.S. strategy to counter Russian influence in
Venezuela (H.R. 1477). In December 2019, Congress also enacted P.L. 116-92, which prohibited
federal contracting with persons who do business with the Maduro government. In July 2019, the
House passed H.R. 549, designating Venezuela as a beneficiary country for temporary protected
status; however, a Senate effort to pass H.R. 549 by unanimous consent failed.
For FY2021, the Administration requested $200 mil ion in democracy aid aimed to support a
democratic transition in Venezuela and $5 mil ion in global health assistance; the House-passed
version of the FY2021 foreign aid appropriations bil (Division A of H.R. 7608, H.Rept. 116-444)
would provide $30 in democracy aid for Venezuela and would support the provision of additional
aid if a democratic transition occurs. The House-passed version of the FY2021 NDAA (H.R.
6395, H.Rept. 116-442) would require a report on the crises in Venezuela and their impacts on
U.S. and regional security. House and Senate committees have held hearings on the situation in
Venezuela and U.S. policy (see Appendix).
For additional information, see CRS Report R44841, Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations,
coordinated by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS In Focus IF10230, Venezuela: Political Crisis and
U.S. Policy
, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Insight IN11306, U.S. Indictment of Top Venezuelan
Officials
, by Clare Ribando Seelke and Liana W. Rosen; CRS In Focus IF10715, Venezuela:
Overview of U.S. Sanctions, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS In Focus IF11216, Venezuela:
International Efforts to Resolve the Political Crisis
, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report
R46213, Oil Market Effects from U.S. Economic Sanctions: Iran, Russia, Venezuela, by Phil ip
Brown; and CRS In Focus IF11029, The Venezuela Regional Humanitarian Crisis and COVID-
19, by Rhoda Margesson and Clare Ribando Seelke.
Outlook
Even before the arrival of COVID-19, the Latin American and Caribbean region was facing
significant political and economic chal enges—most prominently, Venezuela’s ongoing political

103 U.S. Department of State, “ Update: T he United States Is Continuing to Lead the Response to COVID-19,” August
21, 2020.
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impasse and economic and humanitarian crisis—which has resulted in over 5.1 mil ion
Venezuelan refugees and migrants. The pandemic has multiplied the region’s chal enges and
negatively affected its future economic prospects. Instead of registering low economic growth
levels, as original forecast, the region is forecast to experience a deep recession, with mil ions of
people moving into poverty. The pandemic continues to surge in several countries in the region.
Human rights groups and other observers have expressed concerns about leaders taking advantage
of the pandemic to advance their own agendas. Forthcoming presidential elections in Bolivia,
postponed twice in 2020 and now scheduled for October 18, 2020, could be an important test of
the country’s political system in the aftermath of President Morales’s October 2019. Social
protests racked many Latin American countries in late 2019, and such unrest could reemerge in
2020, given that many of the underlying conditions that prompted the protests stil exist or have
been exacerbated by the poor economic conditions brought about by the pandemic.
As the 116th Congress winds down, these chal enges and the appropriate U.S. policy responses
may remain oversight issues for Congress. Final congressional action awaits on FY2021 foreign
aid appropriations and the FY2021 NDAA; House-passed bil s for both measures include
numerous provisions on U.S. assistance and policy toward the region.

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Appendix. Hearings in the 116th Congress
Table A-1. Congressional Hearings in the 116th Congress on Latin America
and the Caribbean
Committee and Subcommittee
Date
Title
Senate Armed Services Committee
February 7, 2019
United States Africa Command and United
States Southern Command
House Foreign Affairs Committee
February 13, 2019
Venezuela at a Crossroads
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
February 26, 2019
Made by Maduro: The Humanitarian Crisis in
Subcommittee on the Western
Venezuela and U.S. Policy Responses
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
March 7, 2019
U.S.-Venezuela Relations and the Path to a
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere,
Democratic Transition
Transitional Crime, Civilian Security,
Democracy, Human Rights, and Global
Women’s Issues
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
March 13, 2019
Hearing on H.R. 1004, Prohibiting
Subcommittee on the Western
Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Act
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
March 26, 2019
Understanding Odebrecht: Lessons for
Subcommittee on the Western
Combatting Corruption in the Americas
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
House Foreign Affairs Committee
April 10, 2019
The Importance of U.S. Assistance to Central
America
House Armed Services Committee
May 1, 2019
National Security Chal enges and U.S. Military
Activity in North and South America
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
May 9, 2019
Dol ar Diplomacy or Debt Trap? Examining
Subcommittee on the Western
China’s Role in the Western Hemisphere
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
June 11, 2019
Crushing Dissent: The Ongoing Crisis in
Subcommittee on the Western
Nicaragua
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Senate Armed Services Committee,
July 9, 2019
Implementation of the National Defense
Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and
Strategy in the United States Command
Capabilities
Southern Command Area of Responsibility
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
July 11, 2019
Human Rights in Cuba: Beyond the Veneer of
Subcommittee on the Western
Reform
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
September 10, 2019
Preserving the Amazon: A Shared Moral
Subcommittee on the Western
Imperative
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
September 18, 2019
U.S.-Colombia Relations: New Opportunities
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere,
to Reinforce and Strengthen Our Bilateral
Transitional Crime, Civilian Security,
Relationship
Democracy, Human Rights, and Global
Women’s Issues
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
September 25, 2019
U.S. Policy in Mexico and Central America:
Ensuring Effective Policies to Address the
Crisis at the Border
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Committee and Subcommittee
Date
Title
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
October 23, 2019
The Trump Administration’s FY2020 Budget
Subcommittee on the Western
and U.S. Policy Toward Latin American and
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
the Caribbean
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
December 10, 2019
Haiti on the Brink: Assessing U.S. Policy
Subcommittee on the Western
Toward a Country in Crisis
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
January 15, 2020
Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in
Subcommittee on the Western
Mexico
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Senate Armed Services Committee
January 30, 2020
United States Africa Command and United
States Southern Command
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
February 13, 2020
Assessing U.S. Security Assistance to Mexico
Subcommittee on the Western
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
House Armed Services Committee
March 11, 2020
National Security Chal enges and U.S. Military
Activity in North and South America
House Foreign Affairs Committee,
July 01, 2020
The Trump Administration’s Response to
Subcommittee on the Western
COVID-19 in Latin America and the
Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade
Caribbean.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
August 04, 2020
Venezuela in Maduro’s Grasp: Assessing the
Deteriorating Security and Humanitarian
Situation
Source: CRS, prepared by Nese F. DeBruyne, Senior Research Librarian.
Notes: See also hearing information at House Foreign Affairs Committee at https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/
hearings; Senate Foreign Relations Committee at http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings.



Author Information

Mark P. Sullivan, Coordinator
Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Specialist in Latin American Affairs


June S. Beittel
Maureen Taft-Morales
Analyst in Latin American Affairs
Specialist in Latin American Affairs


Peter J. Meyer
M. Angeles Villarreal
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Specialist in International Trade and Finance



Acknowledgments
Nese F. DeBruyne, former CRS Senior Research Librarian (now retired), prepared the appendix of hearings
in this report.
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Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should n ot be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not
subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in
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