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United States: new focus on the region

Friday, February 6, 2015


In the twilight of his administration, Barack Obama is trying to solve several longstanding issues involving Latin America.

The US president wants on one hand to reform immigration policy, including the right of millions of undocumented Central Americans and Mexicans to live and work in the United States under so-called provisional legal status, which in turn can lead to permanent residence.

The administration in addition last month announced a plan to spend $1 billion in Central America, mainly to combat poverty and crime in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Finally, Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba as part of series of measures that could end a bitter conflict, which is now more than 60 years old.

There is no certainty that any of these initiatives will thrive.

A Central American aid plan needs the approval of Congress.

An expansion of immigration reform and of Cuban relations will to a considerable extent depend on the results of next year’s elections.

These and other measures could be stalled or even reversed by a combination of a Republican president and legislature.

Even if a Democrat wins the presidency, it seems likely that Republicans will control both houses of Congress.

The presidency in this case would have limited power to improve relations with the region.

On the other hand, Obama’s recent moves show that even in such a case it may be possible to move forward.