Latin America: Overview of Legislative Issues for Congress in 2000

CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Latin America: Overview of Legislative Issues
for Congress in 2000
Mark P. Sullivan, Coordinator
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
In the second session of the 106th Congress, policymakers are facing an assortment
of issues in U.S.-Latin American relations, ranging from such broad topics as trade policy
and anti-drug policy to country-specific issues involving Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, and
Mexico. In the trade arena, Congress has completed action on an initiative begun last
year to provide preferential tariff treatment for countries of the Caribbean and Central
America because of concerns that these countries are losing U.S. trade and investment
opportunities to Mexico because of NAFTA. With regard to anti-drug policy, Congress
reviewed the President’s drug certification decisions for 14 countries in the region.
Colombia was a major focus of interest as Congress completed action on some $1.3
billion in new FY2000 and FY2001 funding for Andean counternarcotics efforts. Other
issues of congressional interest are funding for the development of counter-drug forward
operating locations in the region; the future of the U.S. Army School of the Americas;
various initiatives regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba, including initiatives to lift
restrictions on agricultural exports; and concerns about prospects for stability in Haiti
and democracy in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. This report will not be
Current Conditions in the Region
Over the past two decades, Latin American countries have made significant progress
in strengthening democratic institutions and practices. Although democratic elections have
become the norm in the region, this does not mean that all countries of the region are
strong democracies or always respect the civil rights and political liberties. Nor does
elected democracy always translate into political stability. (See CRS Report 98-684, Latin
America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections.)
In 2000, several nations have faced political crises threatening democratic order, and
economic difficulties in several countries have placed considerable pressure on elected
governments. In Ecuador, a coup in late January 2000 led by the country’s majority
indigenous population and backed by the military, toppled President Jamil Mahuad, whose
government became widely unpopular amidst deteriorating economic conditions. A

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military-led junta subsequently gave way to the constitutional succession of Vice President
Gustavo Noboa to the presidency, but the ouster of Mahuad raised concerns in the region
about restive militaries once again attempting to rule directly. In Venezuela, President
Hugo Chavez’s attempts to reform the political system have raised concerns about the
authoritarian nature of his rule and the increased role of the military in his government.
(See CRS Report RS20345, Venezuela under President Chavez: Political Conditions and
U.S. Policy.) Colombia, facing a strong guerrilla insurgency funded by drug traffickers,
has been plagued with political violence, while Haiti also struggles to overcome political
violence before presidential elections due in early December, and Peru faces a crisis of
legitimacy after elections deemed not free and fair by international standards. (See
discussions on Colombia, Haiti, and Peru below.)
U.S. policy toward the region has both political and economic dimensions. In the
political sphere, the major U.S. objective has been the consolidation of democracy. As
noted above, while democratic elections have become the norm, with the exception of
communist Cuba, many nations have weak civil institutions and face significant threats
from such problems as lingering guerrilla conflicts, widespread poverty exacerbated by
natural disasters, drug trafficking and its associated violence and corruption, autocratic
tendencies of elected leaders, and restive militaries. In the economic sphere, the major
U.S. goal is the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas, a commitment made by
hemispheric leaders at the 1994 and 1998 Summits of the Americas. Administration
officials stress the importance of this objective for creating enormous economic
opportunities for all nations of the region, including the United States. The handover of
the Panama Canal to Panamanian control in late December 1999 initiated a new era of
relations with that country, and in a sense symbolized the cooperation that now
characterizes U.S. policy toward the region. The United States will maintain an active
interest in Panama because of the economic importance of the Canal, which accounts for
about 12% of U.S. international seaborne trade. (For further information, see CRS Issue
Brief IB92088, Panama-U.S. Relations.)
Issues for Congress
Trade Issues. At the 1994 Summit of the Americas held in Miami, 34 hemispheric
leaders agreed to create a “Free Trade Area of the Americas” (FTAA) by 2005. The
summit process initiated in Miami has led to ongoing congressional interest and action
bearing on three inter-related trade policy issues. The first involves an invitation extended
to Chile to join the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Envisioned by the Clinton
Administration as the first concrete step towards creation of an FTAA, preliminary
negotiations started in July 1995. Chile, however, shortly thereafter suspended the
negotiations pending renewal of U.S. “fast-track” negotiating authority. In August 1999,
even though the Administration still lacked fast-track authority, Chile proposed to start
discussions on a bilateral free trade agreement (not NAFTA accession). The Clinton
Administration has remained divided on how to respond to Chile’s proposal. Some
agencies appear concerned that the initiative could divert attention from U.S. multilateral
or regional initiatives.
The second issue focuses on preferential tariff treatment for countries of the
Caribbean and Central America. These countries maintain that they have been losing trade
and investment opportunities to Mexico as a result of the preferential access Mexico has
to the U.S. market under NAFTA. On May 18, 2000, President Clinton signed into law

(P.L. 106-200) legislation that contained provisions (Title II, also known as the “U.S.-
Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act”) providing benefits for CBI beneficiary countries.
The key provisions expand access and preferential tariff treatment to certain textile and
apparel products assembled from U.S. fabric subject to specific conditions. Additionally,
the measure provides benefits for apparel made with regional fabric.
The third issue involves movement towards hemispheric free trade. Nearly four years
after the 1994 Summit of the Americas, hemispheric leaders formally launched the FTAA
negotiations in 1998. Subsequently, the negotiations have been slowed by domestic
economic and political problems in the hemisphere, the continued absence of U.S. fast
track trade authority, and the attempt to launch a new round of multilateral trade
negotiations. At a meeting held in Toronto November 3-4, 1999, trade ministers directed
negotiators to compile drafts from all negotiating groups for consideration at the next
ministerial meeting in April 2001 in Argentina. They also agreed to implement a number
of business facilitation measures designed to expedite the movement of the region’s goods
and services across borders. (Prepared by Raymond Ahearn, Specialist in Trade Relations)
(For further reading, see 1) CRS Issue Brief IB95017, Trade and the Americas; 2) CRS
Issue Brief IB95050, Caribbean Basin Interim Trade Program: CBI/NAFTA Parity.)
Drug Certification. During March, Congress reviewed President Clinton’s March
1, 2000 drug certification decisions on 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations, more
than half of the determinations required for 26 designated major illicit drug producing or
drug transit countries. Since the mid-1980s Congress has required the President to
designate the major drug producing or transit countries by November 1 of each year, to
withhold half of most U.S. assistance for those countries for that fiscal year, and to certify
by March 1 of each year whether the countries have been cooperating fully with the United
States in drug control efforts. If the President fails to issue a full certification, or to grant
a certification in the national interest, non-exempted assistance to the decertified country
is suspended, and U.S. representatives are required to vote against loans for the country
in the multilateral development banks. The sanctions would also apply if Congress, within

30 days, passes a congressional resolution disapproving any presidential certification,

although any such resolution would be subject to presidential veto.
The President found the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela to be fully
cooperative, and he granted Haiti and Paraguay national interest certifications. In recent
years, congressional interest has focused on Mexico, with the introduction but not passage
of congressional resolutions of disapproval to overturn the President’s full certifications
of Mexico. This year, although some Members criticized the certification of Mexico,
citing Mexico’s failure to take more forceful action against major drug traffickers, no
resolutions of disapproval were introduced. (Prepared by K. Larry Storrs, Specialist in
Latin American Affairs) (For further reading, see 1) CRS Issue Brief IB88093, Drug
Control: International Policy and Options; 2) CRS Report 98-174, Mexican Drug
Certification Issues: U.S. Congressional Action, 1986-2000.)
Forward Operating Locations. In its conference action on military construction
appropriations, Congress approved $116.5 million in funding for the development of three
sites in Latin America and the Caribbean from which air surveillance counternarcotics
operations can be conducted. Last session, the Administration sought $42.8 million to
establish four “Forward Operating Locations” (FOLs) after the mid-1999 closure of

Howard Air Force base in Panama, from which aircraft had observed activity in illegal
narcotics source and transit zones. Appropriators denied the funding because of the lack
of long-range master plans and long-term agreements with the host governments. This
year, with agreements in hand with Ecuador and the Netherlands (for sites in Aruba and
Curaçao), the Administration included a request for $38.6 million for an FOL at Manta,
Ecuador in its FY2000 supplemental funding initiative for Colombia. In passing the
emergency supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 3908, on March 9, the House
Appropriations Committee included not only the requested funding for the Ecuador site in
FY2000 but also $22.7 million for that site in FY2001 and $54.2 million for the Aruba and
Curacao sites for both fiscal years. The Senate approved the same funding in its version of
the Military Construction Appropriations bill, S. 2521. In conference action on the
Military Construction appropriations bill (H.R. 4425, H.Rept. 106-710), the House agreed
to add the funding to that bill; it was passed by the House on June 29, by the Senate on
June 30, and signed into law (P.L. 106-246) on July 13, 2000. Although there is no
earmark for the development of a fourth FOL in El Salvador, this site does not require a
separate line item as its anticipated cost is less than $5 million. (Prepared by Nina Serafino,
Specialist in International Security Affairs)
School of the Americas. Since 1993, there have been legislative attempts to cut
or condition funding for the U.S. Army School of the Americas because of concerns
regarding human rights violations committed by school graduates. Located in Fort
Benning, Georgia, the School trains officers, cadets, and non-commissioned officers from
Latin America, with about 1,000 students annually. The School’s budget comes from two
major sources: the Army’s Operation and Maintenance (OMA) account, provided through
the annual defense authorization and appropriations bills; and the annual foreign operations
appropriations bill. In November 1999, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera proposed a
plan to restructure and rename the school, making it more academic and recruiting civilians
from Latin American governments as well as military students from the region. Both the
House and Senate versions of the FY2001 defense authorization bill, H.R. 4205, include
provisions that would repeal the legislative authority for the School and replace it with new
authority for an Institute along the lines of Secretary Caldera’s proposal. On May 18,
2000, the House, during floor consideration of H.R. 4205, defeated by a vote of 204-214
an attempt to close the School and establish a task force to assess what type of education
would be appropriate for DOD to provide to Latin American military personnel. (Prepared
by Richard Grimmett, Specialist in National Defense, and Mark Sullivan, Specialist in Latin
American Affairs) (For further reading, see CRS Report RL30532, U.S. Army School of
the Americas: Background and Congressional Concerns.)
Country Issues
Colombia. Congressional action on the Administration’s request for $1.272 billion
in FY2000 and FY2001 emergency supplemental funding for its counternarcotics “Plan
Colombia” concluded in June 2000 with an appropriation of $1.289 billion. Although the
totals are similar, Congress made significant changes in funding allocations after
contentious debate over several aspects of the Plan. Questions at issue were whether
substantial assistance to the Colombian military, accused of aiding rightist paramilitary
forces in killings, could stem the flow of cocaine and heroin from Colombia to the United
States; and whether a military approach to combating illegal drugs would undermine U.S.
interests in advancing democracy. In February, the Administration had requested $1.02
billion for Colombia, with the remainder for other countries in the region and the regional

anti-drug operations of U.S. agencies; the final appropriation for Colombia was $860.3
million. On March 30, the House passed an emergency supplemental appropriations bill,
H.R. 3908, that would provide $1.418 billion in FY2000 and FY2001 emergency
supplemental assistance for “Plan Colombia,” with $989.3 to support Colombian programs
and the rest for counternarcotics activities in neighboring countries, including full funding
for the Forward Operating Locations (see the section on FOLs, above). The Senate
Appropriations Committee divided the funding for the same purposes between two bills,
the Military Construction Appropriations bill, S. 2521 (passed by the Senate on May 18)
and the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, S. 2522 (passed by the Senate June 20),
for a total of $1.138 billion, with $702.0 million for Colombia. Final “Plan Colombia”
action occurred in the conference on the Military Construction Appropriations bill (H.R.
4425, H.Rept. 106-710, P.L. 106-246, signed into law July 13, 2000). The conferees
almost evenly split the funding difference, a large part of which was the Senate decision to
cut $388 million to purchase 30 Blackhawk helicopters that the Administration had
requested for Colombian counternarcotics efforts and instead provide $118.5 million to
purchase 60 of the less expensive Huey II helicopters. Another major difference pertained
to human rights funding and conditions: although the Senate almost tripled House funding
for human rights programs, it attached stiff human rights conditions to much of the aid.
Negotiators opted to provide 30 Huey IIs and 18 Blackhawks and increased human rights
funding slightly over the Senate level, but attached a waiver to the Senate conditions.
(Prepared by Nina Serafino, Specialist in International Security Affairs. For further reading,
see 1) CRS Report RL30541, Colombia: U.S. Assistance and Current Legislation; 2) CRS
Report RL30330, Colombia: Conditions and U.S. Policy Options.)
Cuba. Under the rule of Fidel Castro, Cuba remains a Communist state with a poor
record on human rights. Since the early 1960s, U.S. policy has focused on isolating the
island nation through comprehensive economic sanctions. Another component of policy
consists of support measures for the Cuban people, including U.S.-sponsored broadcasting
to Cuba and U.S. government support for democracy-building efforts. Although
policymakers agree on the overall objective of U.S. policy – to help bring democracy and
respect for human rights to the island – there have been several schools of thought about
how to achieve that objective. These range from keeping maximum pressure on Cuba, to
removing sanctions in a graduated fashion, to normalizing relations swiftly, and are
reflected by the numerous measures introduced in the 106th Congress. Legislative action
this year has focused on initiatives to ease restrictions on U.S. food and medical exports
to Cuba and initiatives to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba. At the same time, there has
been legislative action to increase sanctions: by conditioning aid to Russia on closing the
Russian signals intelligence facility at Lourdes Cuba; and by making it easier for
enforcement of anti-terrorism judgments in U.S. courts, thereby allowing for the payment
of a $187.6 million 1997 judgment against Cuba to be paid from Cuba’s frozen assets in
the United States to the families of three U.S. citizens killed when Cuba shot down two
U.S. planes in 1996. Other initiatives introduced in the 106th Congress deal with such
issues as Cuba’s poor human rights situation, cooperation with Cuba on drug trafficking
efforts, and the Elian Gonzalez immigration case. (Prepared by Mark Sullivan, Specialist
in Latin American Affairs) (For further reading, see 1) CRS Report RL30628, Cuba: Issues
for Congress; 2) CRS Electronic Briefing Book on Trade, Cuba Sanctions, available on
the CRS Web site at [].)
Haiti. Haiti held elections for almost all of its legislative and local officials on May

21, 2000. Haiti has been without a legislature since President Preval dissolved Parliament

and began ruling by decree in January 1999. But hopes that these elections would put
Haiti’s democratic process back on track and promote stability are being frustrated. The
election process was marred by political violence. The OAS, U.N., and United States
judged Haiti’s election to be acceptable but questioned the validity of the percentage
counting process, which was manipulated so that several Lavalas candidates did not need
to proceed to a second-round election. After refusing to approve the election results,
Haiti’s top election official reportedly fled Haiti in fear for his life. Opposition members
have protested that the process was fixed to give former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s
Lavalas party an outright majority in the legislature, opening the way for Haiti to become
a one-party state. First-round presidential elections, which most observers expect Aristide
to win, are due to be held in December 2000. Haitian institutions are having to assume
greater responsibility as the international presence is greatly reduced: two U.N. missions
have been replaced by a single, smaller, unarmed mission, whose mandate is to help
organize elections, continue police training, and coordinate international aid. In FY2000
foreign operations appropriations legislation (H.R. 3196, as enacted by reference in P.L.
106-113), Congress outlined a series of priorities for the Administration in providing aid
to Haiti, including "aggressive action to support the Haitian National Police," and ensuring
that any elections there be "full, free, fair, transparent, and democratic." (Prepared by
Maureen Taft-Morales, Analyst in Latin American Affairs) (For further reading, see CRS
Issue Brief IB96019, Haiti Under President Preval: Issues for Congress.)
Mexico. Interest in Mexico has focused on drug trafficking, trade, and democracy
issues in the context of President Clinton’s March 1st certification of Mexico as a fully
cooperative partner on drug control efforts, continuing partnership under NAFTA, and
Mexico’s July 2, 2000 presidential and congressional elections. Over the years, Mexico has
been certified as fully cooperative in counter-narcotics efforts despite congressional
criticisms and calls for greater action against major drug traffickers. Congressional efforts
to overturn the President’s certifications of Mexico advanced the furthest in 1997, when
both houses passed modified resolutions of disapproval. Since then, a Senate resolution
was defeated in 1998, no action was taken on House resolutions in 1999, and no
resolutions were introduced in either house in 2000. In the July 2000 elections, Mexico
demonstrated its evolution toward fully democratic government by the election of Vicente
Fox, the first opposition candidate elected president in 71 years. Fox’s Alliance for Change
coalition defeated the candidate of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, while
in the bicameral legislature, no party will have a majority in either chamber. (Prepared by
K. Larry Storrs, Specialist in Latin American Affairs) (For further reading, see 1) CRS
Issue Brief IB10047, Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 106th Congress; 2) CRS Report
RS20611, Mexico’s Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections of July 2, 2000.)
Peru. President Alberto Fujimori won a third presidential term in May 2000, but
international observers maintain that the election process “failed dramatically” to meet
minimum international standards for free and fair elections. The Organization of American
States chose not to challenge the elections but is pressing for democratic reforms. Congress
passed legislation requiring the review and modification of U.S.-Peruvian relations (P.L.
106-186) and is considering legislation prohibiting aid to the government of Peru if it has
not made substantial progress in strengthening democratic institutions within a certain time-
frame. (Prepared by Maureen Taft-Morales, Analyst in Latin American Affairs) (For
further reading, see CRS Report RS20536, Peruvian Elections in 2000: Congressional
Concerns and Policy Approaches.)