Latin America

DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano, Judith McHale, Bill Richardson, Arturo Sarukhan At Upcoming NDN Events

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to participate in three events in the next few weeks looking at the challenges and opportunities for the United States in a changing Latin America and along our border with Mexico. Capping these events will be a major speech on Friday April 1st here in Washington by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. Secretary Napolitano will discuss the Administration's vision for a "21st Century Border" with our Mexican neighbor, the progress being made nationwide in effectively enforcing U.S. immigration law, and the steps taken to ensure the strength and integrity of the entire immigration system. 

Our event on March 29th with Under Secretary of State Judith McHale and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and our conference "Forward Together/Avanzando Juntos/Avançando Juntos" on April 11th are open to the public. Due to space limitations, our event with Secretary Napolitano on April 1st will be available to the public by live webcast only. Information on each of these events is below. We hope you will join us.  

A 21st Century Border - A Speech by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
Friday, April 1, 9:30 am
Watch Webcast

We are proud to announce that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, will be giving a major policy address to NDN/NPI on Friday, April 1st.  The Secretary will review the Administration's vision for a "21st Century Border" with our Mexican neighbor, the progress being made nationwide in effectively enforcing U.S. immigration law, and the steps taken to ensure the strength and integrity of the entire immigration system. 

Following her speech there will be a special roundtable discussion with:

John Morton, Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
David V. Aguilar, Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Alan Krieger, Mayor, Yuma, AZ
Al Zapanta, President, U.S. Mexico Chamber of Commerce 

The speech will begin at 9:30am.  Due to space limitations, at this time only a live web-cast of the event will be open to the public.  Information about the webcast will be forthcoming.  

Public Diplomacy & Social Media in Latin America
Tuesday, March 29, 12:00pm - 2:00pm
SAIS Rome Building, Room 203, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC
RSVPWatch Webcast

As mobile phones and social media networks tie together more and more people across the Americas, these new technologies are enabling individuals to connect and communicate within countries and across borders. On March 29, NDN and the New Policy Institute will co-host a forum with the Latin America Studies Program of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) to discuss how these technologies are affecting diplomacy, politics and governance in Latin America.

A keynote speech by Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale will address how the State Department is advancing U.S. foreign policy in Latin America through increased engagement, including constructive and meaningful people-to-people exchanges, local and regional media outreach and the use of multiple social platforms to establish direct relationships across the region.  

Following Under Secretary McHale's speech, a panel discussion will explore the impact of social media and other network technologies on governance and civil society in certain Latin American countries, including Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico. Panelists will include:

  • Christopher Sabatini - Senior Director of Policy, Americas Society & Council of the Americas
  • Carlos Ponce - Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Oscar Salazar - Founder & CEO, Citivox; Co-Founder, Cuidemos el Voto
  • Ricardo Amado Castillo - Consultant & Researcher, Social Media in Latin-American Politics
  • Sam duPont - Policy Analyst, NDN & New Policy Institute (moderator)

Forward Together/Avanzando Juntos/Avançando Juntos- A Conference Looking at the Changing Politics of the Americas
April 11, 8:45am
Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC


NDN and the New Policy Institute will conduct a major day-long conference looking at how this fast-changing region might be able to do more to move forward together, in the years ahead.   The day will feature major addresses by influential thought leaders well experienced in the region, including Governor Bill Richardson, the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council Dan Restrepo, and the Ambassador from Mexico to the United States Arturo Sarukhan and a panel discussion with Latin American Ambassadors to the United States.

Additionally there will be a very special conversation about the state of our common border with Mexico with mayors from sister citiies on both sides of the border - Mayor Arturo Garino of Nogales, Arizona and Mayor Jose Angel Hernandez Barajas of Nogales, in the state of Sonora in northern MexicoThis important discussion will be moderated by Chappell Lawson, former Executive Director and Senior Policy Advisor to the Commissioner U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the Department of Homeland Security. Dr. Lawson is the  co-author of one of the seminal pieces of academic work on the future of the U.S - Mexico border region, Managing the United States-Mexico Border: Cooperative Solutions to Common Challenges. He is currently an Associate Professor at MIT with a concentration in Latin America.

Rounding out the day will be an in depth conversation about the economic ties that bind the United States and Mexico together. This panel will feature representatives from both U.S. and Mexican businesses and governments.

US Brokers Honduran Agreement, Zelaya to Return

From the NYTimes big news this am:

MEXICO CITY — A lingering political crisis in Honduras seemed to be nearing an end on Friday after the de facto government agreed to a deal that would allow Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, to return to office.

The government of Roberto Micheletti, which had refused to let Mr. Zelaya return, signed an agreement with Mr. Zelaya’s negotiators late Thursday that would pave the way for Congress to restore the ousted president and allow him to serve out the remaining three months of his term.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed on Friday that Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti had approved what she called “an historic agreement.”

“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” Mrs. Clinton said Friday in Islamabad, where she has been meeting with Pakistani officials.

The accord came after a team of senior American diplomats flew from Washington to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday to press for an agreement. On Thursday, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Tom Shannon, warned that time was running out for an agreement.

Mr. Micheletti’s government had argued that a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 29 would put an end to the crisis. But the United States, the Organization of American States and the United Nations suggested they would not recognize the results of the elections without a pre-existing agreement.

“We were very clearly on the side of the restoration of the constitutional order, and that includes the elections,” Mrs. Clinton said in Islamabad.

Mr. Micheletti appeared to have been persuaded that the warnings were serious.

“The accord allows a vote in Congress on Zelaya’s possible restitution with the prior approval of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Micheletti said in televised comments late Thursday. “This is a significant concession on the part of our government.”

“We are satisfied,” Mr. Zelaya said, according to Reuters. “We are optimistic that my reinstatement is imminent.”

News from Iran, Honduras Tonight

Important news breaking late tonight. 

From Iran the new Vice President bows to the Supreme Leader and steps down.  In Honduras Zelaya re-enteres the country, which Secretary Clinton describes as "reckless."

Interesting times these are.

Update on the Situation in Honduras

Yesterday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, interim leader Roberto Micheletti made comments offering to step down as long as ousted President Manuel Zelaya is not allowed to return to power.  

According to the AP, Micheletti says he is "willing to leave office if at some point that decision is needed to bring peace and tranquility to the country, but without any return, and I stress that, of former President Zelaya."

It was unclear if the U.S. government had received the proposal to end the standoff over the country's June 28 coup.

On the one hand, it is reported that pro-Zelaya walkouts planned.  Labor leader Israel Salinas, one of the main figures in the pro-Zelaya movement, said protest organizers were talking with union leaders at private companies to see if they could mount a general strike against interim President Roberto Micheletti, who has threatened to jail Zelaya if he tries to return.  In a statement that is indeed worrisome, Salinas said sympathetic unions in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador would try to block border crossings later this week "in solidarity with our struggle."

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is mediating talks aimed at resolving the impasse, but Zelaya has grown frustrated by the lack of progress.

On Monday, Zelaya announced that if the interim government did not agree to reinstate him at the next round of negotiations, "the mediation effort will be considered failed and other measures will be taken." He did not say what those measures would be.

The talks are scheduled to resume this Saturday after two earlier rounds failed to produce a breakthrough. Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending Central America's wars, has urged Zelaya to "be patient."

Micheletti's administration insists Zelaya was ousted legally because he violated the constitution by pushing for a referendum on retooling the charter. It has refused to bend on reinstating him despite international condemnation of the coup, including from the United States.

Regardless, the United States and other governments have now been put in an impossible position.  A responsible democratic government cannot, under any circumstances, stand by a government that took power by military insurrection - a degradation of all the democratic advancements that have been achieved over the past few decades in the Latin America region.  On the other hand, it is difficult to be forced to defend an individual that was similarly acting in a threatening manner to democracy, attempting to institute constitutional changes and referendums that had already been deemed unconstitutional by that country’s own judiciary and its internal system of checks and balances.  

The Latest on Honduras

In the first successful military overthrow of a government in Central America in 16 years, Honduras’ military deposed the country’s President yesterday.  After the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran Congress designated Roberto Micheletti as his successor.

The New York Times writes about Hemispheric unity during this time of crisis, and others comment on talks held by regional leaders and the Latin American response in the wake of the coup.  Much attention has been placed on the U.S. reaction – below you'll find the statement issued by President Barack Obama.  For the latest news analysis on the situation in Honduras, click here.


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                                          June 28, 2009

Statement from President on the situation in Honduras

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."



Weekly Immigration Update: New Reports Reveal Immigration Does Not Increase Unemployment

This week, two new reports prepared for the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) by the consulting firm Rob Paral & Associates debunk the all-too familiar and simplistic myth propagated by anti-immigration activists that immigrants fill U.S. jobs only at the expense of unemployed native-born workers.  We have made the case why this is not so, and we have argued that reforming our broken immigration system will help eliminate the existing market for false documentation for immigrant workers and the demand for human smugglers.  We must overhaul the current system and focus on providing sufficient legal pathways for current and prospective immigrants, rather focusing on border enforcement that has not worked, and will not work.  Even at the high levels of migration seen around 2005, those levels of migration (legal and illegal) were still only a minor fraction of the population and a small, but important, proportion of the workfoce. 

Rep. Loretta Sanchez touches on the security argument in an op-ed published in The Hill:

Addressing the current drug cartel violence must go beyond training Mexican policemen, adding Customs and Border Protection agents, and increasing the frequency of outbound gun checks. Although these tactics are essential to the fight, security measures alone cannot end the illegal flow of drugs, humans, and arms into the United States and Mexico....We must adopt a three-pronged strategy that will strengthen legitimate trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico; invest in economic development in Mexico; and implement appropriate security measures in the U.S and Mexico.

Immigration reform should serve as an important component of the plan to strengthen the commercial ties and security of which Rep. Sanchez speaks.  And for those who refuse to accept that immigrants have always and will always help bring prosperity to the U.S., the full article on the reports: 

New Reports Reveal Immigration Does Not Increase Unemployment

By Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact
Posted on May 20, 2009, Printed on May 22, 2009

Two new reports prepared for the IPC by the consulting firm Rob Paral & Associates debunk the simplistic myth propagated by anti-immigration activists that immigrants fill U.S. jobs only at the expense of unemployed native-born workers. The reports use data from the Census Bureau to demonstrate that there is no discernible relationship whatsoever between the number of recent immigrants in a particular locale and the unemployment rate among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, or Asians. This holds true even now, at a time of economic recession and high unemployment.

These reports are the first two installments of a three-part series, Untying the Knot, which seeks to unravel the complex and frequently misrepresented relationship between immigration and unemployment. The first report, “The Unemployment and Immigration Disconnect,” analyzes the relationship (or lack thereof) between recent immigration and the general unemployment rate in different regions, states, and counties. The report finds that areas with high unemployment rates do not necessarily have large numbers of recent immigrants. For instance, recent immigrants are 7.3% of the population in New Jersey and only 0.8% of the population in Maine, yet unemployment rates are nearly identical in both states. On average, counties with lower unemployment rates have larger populations of recent immigrants.

The second report, “Immigration and Native-Born Unemployment Across Racial/Ethnic Groups,” analyzes the relationship between recent immigration and unemployment among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians in different states and metropolitan areas. According to the report, the unemployment rate among African Americans is, on average, lower in states and metropolitan areas with the most recent immigrants in the labor force. For example, recent immigrants are 17% of the labor force in Miami and only 3% of the labor force in Cleveland, yet the unemployment rate of native-born blacks in Cleveland is double that of Miami. Rob Paral, Principal of Rob Paral & Associates, points out:

“On the question of race we find that there’s just no connection between immigration and unemployment. The culprit when it comes to unemployment is not immigration.”

Among serious immigration researchers, these findings should come as little surprise. Immigrants go where the jobs are, and the causes of unemployment among the native-born are far too complicated to be reduced to some simple-minded “immigrant vs. native” arithmetic. In addition, employment is not a zero-sum game in which workers compete for some fixed number of jobs. In the real world, workers don’t just fill jobs, but also buy homes and consumer goods, save and invest money, start businesses, and pay taxes-all of which increase the demand for labor. During a press call hosted by IPC today, Dan Siciliano, Executive Director of the Program in Law, Economics, and Business at Stanford Law School, explains:

“The level of unemployment in the U.S. is painful, scary and difficult-so we shouldn’t belittle it. However, the very notion that immigration has anything to do with unemployment does just that. It belittles the challenge of unemployment.”

Although it might be politically expedient in some circles to blame immigrants for unemployment, it is-quite simply-wrong.


Latin America Policy Initiative

Building on its years of work advocating for a modern approach to America's growing Latino community, NDN developed a robust inter-American policy program to focus on issues affecting countries in Latin America. The Latin America Policy Initiative (LAPI) has three parts: the Latin America Policy Seminar, the Latin America Policy Studies Program and the Latin America Policy Forum.

LAPI is a product of the work conducted at NDN and the New Policy Institute, and it educates and empowers leaders in policy, politics, and social and economic development to take on the challenges of Inter-American policy by providing a forum to discuss modern issues affecting Latin American countries. The program also aims to give its participants an enriching cross cultural experience, immersing them in a selected Latin American country, which will help guide their future leadership decisions.

2010 Highlights

Event Video: Colombian Ambassador Barco Addresses NDN on US-Colombian Relations

Event: Panamanian Ambassador and Congressman Engel discuss Bilateral Relations

Debrief on Obama's meeting with President Mauricio Funes by Sarah Sanchez

2009 Highlights

Flu Crisis Brought U.S., Mexico Together By Nelson Cunningham in the Houston Chronicle

Event Video: Preview of the Summit of the Americas Ambassador Carolina Barco

Event Video: Preview of the Summit of the Americas Former VP of Panama, Samuel Lewis Navarro

Video: Nelson Cunningham on the State of US-Latin American Relations

Hearing 'Friend' in Trinidad By Nelson Cunningham in the Chicago Tribune

Update on the Situation in Honduras by Zuraya Tapia-Alfaro

Zelaya's Return to Honduras by Zuraya Tapia-Alfaro

2008 Highlights

Announcing LAPI

The Latin America Policy Initiative is inter-American policy program dedicated to focusing on issues affecting countries in Latin America and improving inter-American dialogue.

A New Day Indeed for US Latin American Relations

From the NY Times this am:

"Leaders from the Western Hemisphere, inspired by a new American president, closed a two-day summit meeting proclaiming a new dawn for relations in the region, which had been marked by bitter disagreements in recent years with the United States.

The antagonism seemed to melt away, replaced by a palpable enthusiasm for a new openness from the United States and hopes of improved relations for Washington with Venezuela and Cuba, which emerged as a core issue here.

The newfound togetherness was a turning point for the region, leaders here said, at a time when the ability to work together could prove critical to weathering the global economic crisis, which threatens to reverse gains the region has made in alleviating poverty in the past several years.

“There was a spirit of good will that went way beyond the wildest dreams of any one of us,” Patrick Manning, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said Sunday."

As I sat down to write this morning I kept coming back to one notion - is it okay just to be proud of our President again?  While there will be bumps in regional relations in the years ahead, the President and his team have sent the most important signal they could have sent early in their Administration - that they are taking Latin America, its people and its challenges seriously.   They have shown respect to a region that has not seen enough of that from the US in our history.   And they have shown that they are willing to begin a process that we all hope will lead to a better day in Cuba, and better US-Cuban relations. 

This was a wildly successful trip for the President and his team.  A powerful start.  Congratulations to our new President and his dextrous team.

NDN Statement on the Meeting between President-elect Obama and President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón

NDN President Simon Rosenberg and NDN Vice President for Hispanic Programs Andres Ramirez today said President-elect Barack Obama's meeting with Mexico President Felipe Calderón this afternoon signifies more than long-standing protocol; it also reflects the realities of deeply rooted economic, cultural and political ties betweenthe two countries.

"Never before has a U.S. President been elected by such an overwhelming number of Hispanics in the United States," Rosenberg said. "The United States now has the third largest Latin population in the Americas and the futures of the United States and Mexico are bound together as never before. Hemispheric relations have taken a backseat for too long. Today's meeting is the first step to a genuine and sustained partnership that addresses pressing regional and global challenges. It  is the start of a new day for U.S.-Mexico relations."

"This meeting follows the commitment expressed by President-elect Obama and his advisors throughout the 2008 presidential campaign and during the presidential debates to make it a priority to build a more profound and engaged bilateral relationship with Mexico," Ramirez said. "This meeting also occurs at a time when Mexico is better positioned as a partner of the United States. Since the 2000 election in Mexico, that country has demonstrated major progress in governance, in its democratic institutions and it has developed increasingly diverse international economic and political relations."

Click here for additional background information on NDN's work in studying Latin America foreign policy.

Violence in Mexico Unprecedented, No One Outside of Mexico Seems to Care

A controversial Blago and a shoe being thrown at President Bush are stories that have made it around virtually every website and every newspaper in the world. The story of an American security expert being kidnapped doesn't even make front page news in his own country. The difference between the first two and the third is that the last is a reflection of a much broader crisis in America's own vicinity, which has much, MUCH more severe consequences for the U.S. and Latin American region. Felix Batista, 55, was taken by a group of armed men last week in the state of Coahuila, where he was giving seminars for business owners. Batista is a security expert, as well as an expert negotiator - he successfully led negotiations in high-profile kidnappings and criminal cases in Mexico. This kidnapping occurs just days after the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights issued a report on the "Fundamental Right to Security in Our Country," the Commission found that there have been approximately 20,000 kidnappings and 10,500 drug-related killings from 2006 to 2008. To put the number in perspective, this is more than twice the number of soldiers killed in Iraq over a longer period (2004-2008).

The Human Rights Commission concluded that an average 43,835 crimes are reported daily, there are no estimates as to how many go unreported. This fact is made more dramatic by the levels of impunity found by the Commission - according to its study, 9 out of every 10 crimes that occur in Mexico go unpunished, which translates to a 90% rate of impunity. And yet the international community has still not declared this a humanitarian crisis - Mexicans are not granted asylum or refugee status just because of a little drug war. And then they are criticized for trying to leave these dangerous conditions, particularly in Northern Mexico. Nor is the international community demonstrating much support to President Calderon as he tries to fight drug cartels that enjoy bottomless resources, while he also deals with the corruption within government ranks that is under investigation.

Almost one week later, the story of Batista made it into Time and the Times. Just in case no one had noticed, this is front page news. It is front page news to the communities who suffer the constant fear and threat of these drug wars, and it is front page news for the entire region. Just this week, a 3-ton shipment of cocaine was discovered in Peru, just before it was shipped off to Spain.  Hypothetically, let's say Mexico succeeds in cracking down on organized crime, as Colombia did - then what? Then some other poor Central American or South American country's shores will become ground zero of the fight for control among drug cartels.  It seems that the international community still doesn't get that this is not one country's problem, that this is an issue of shared responsibility, and that we will all be increasingly affected as it continues to spiral out of control. And the root of this crisis is not drugs - it is a lack of opportunity, corrpution, lack of education, lack of economic upward mobility.

What will it take for the international community to take notice? It would probably require a tragic turn affecting a non-Mexican, but then we'd probably have in international crisis on our hands. Let's hope it doesn't take an international tragedy - there have been enough Mexican tragedies in this war. I propose that the crisis is here. The question is, what is everyone going to do to solve it. As NDN has long said, we need to start a policy of engagement, as opposed to one of observation in Latin America. Ever heard of the frog in hot water.....


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