This Week in the Americas

The New Bilateral Relationship and Immigration Reform
By Laura Carlsen

The election of Barack Obama has changed the playing field for U.S.-Mexico relations, and especially when it comes to immigration. The current situation offers the opportunity to work toward a much more integrated and healthy bilateral agenda. Obama’s emphasis on domestic policy to reactivate the economy inevitably must include a rethinking of the relationship with Mexico due to the high degree of integration. This explains his insistence on NAFTA renegotiation. U.S. media has frequently pointed out the similarities with the Franklin Roosevelt era. When FDR developed the New Deal to cope with the Great Depression, he did not abandon external relations. Instead he constructed the Good Neighbor policy based on many of the same principles of solidarity that the New Deal relied on. In the Depression era, the lack of resources due to the economic crisis supported the new policy of non-intervention in foreign affairs.

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New from the Americas Program

U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in 2009 and Beyond
By Cynthia McClintock

This text was presented as testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on Feb. 4, 2009 by Cynthia McClintock, professor at George Washington University and a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for International Policy. Prof. McClintock cites three "failed policies" that should change: Cuba, drug control, and immigration. On Cuba policy, she recommends lifting restrictions on travel and remittances; on drug control she calls for decriminalization measures in the United States and a crackdown on U.S. arms smuggling; and on immigration a path to legal status.

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El Salvador Elections Set Stage for Tense Presidential Race
By Jena Andrews

On Jan.18, voters in El Salvador went to the polls to elect the mayors of the nation’s 262 municipalities and 84 deputies to the National Legislative Assembly. At the end of a tense day of voting, filled with legal disputes and allegations of irregularities and fraud, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) celebrated victory, despite losing the capital city to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

According to official results released by El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the FMLN won 42.6% of the national vote for deputies, making it the most popular party in El Salvador by four percentage points, or about 90,000 votes, over ARENA. This consolidates the party’s steady gains in legislative seats since 1994, when the FMLN first entered electoral politics having converted itself from a guerrilla force via the 1992 peace accords. It also puts the party on the path to winning the presidency in March.

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Is Brazil Creating Its Own "Backyard"?
By Raúl Zibechi

In past months a number of conflicts have occurred between the emerging global power of Brazil and its smaller neighbors, in particular Ecuador and Paraguay. This has led Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government to defend Brazil’s multinationals and to mobilize troops to protect the nation’s interests. This approach is basically an affirmation of the emerging power Brazil that its borders extend to wherever its national interests are. Perhaps due to this, many South Americans worry that Brazil is creating its own "backyard."

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Latest from the Texas-New Mexico Border Series by Tom Barry

Immigrant Prison Burns in Pecos

The Reeves County Detention Center started burning again on Wednesday night, and the billowing clouds of smoke could be seen for many miles across the northern reaches of the Chihuahua Desert. There’s nothing much here except abandoned ranch houses, still oil pumps, endless stretches of creosote and tar bush—and a prison for immigrants on fire.

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America’s Frontline Is Getting Crowded

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks set off the Bush administration’s "Global War on Terrorism" and a Border Patrol hiring frenzy that continues into the Obama administration. While other sectors are frantically shedding jobs, the homeland-security complex continues its hiring binge. "New Year, New Career" is the slogan of the new hiring campaign by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

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Boom Times on the Border

Tom Barry looks at the border boom town of Ft. Hancock where Homeland Security infrastructure and personnel are sparking public concern. Now, alongside the Rio Grande, which forms the natural divide between the United States and Mexico, another divide—a decidedly unnatural one—is marching west from El Paso, tearing through the farms and riparian zones that turn the desert green. The new "secure fence" is drawing local criticism as is the deployment of scores of more Border Patrol.

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Napolitano Finessing Immigrant Crackdown

In a Jan. 20 departmental directive on immigration and border control, DHS chief Janet Napolitano says: "Smart, resolute enforcement by the department can keep Americans safe, foster legal immigration to America, protect legitimate commerce, and lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive reform." A professional bureaucrat and politician, Napolitano is busy organizing, systematizing, and improving the crackdown that Chertoff so zealously launched.

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Homeland Security Colony

In the poverty-stricken poor west Texas border town of Ft. Hancock, the contrast between the billions spent on dubious projects to increase homeland security and harsh economic conditions of residents raises questions about governmental priorities.

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