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U.S. Security Interests In The Region

Encouraging Democracy in the Hemisphere
Expanding Access to Regional Economic Markets
Responding to the Criminal Drug Trade in the Hemisphere
Controlling Migration Into the U.S.

In identifying U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere three points need emphasis. First, the United States has long placed global interests ahead of purely regional ones. However, the changing economic demands that produced NAFTA may portend a more important role for regionalism. Second, the twentieth-century U.S. approach to security has combined principle with pragmatic calculation. Concern for democratic forms of government, human rights, self-determination, and free-market capitalism have been balanced with the necessity to defend the nation and retain freedom of action in world affairs. Third, the line between domestic and hemispheric policy is becoming harder to define. There are few other areas of the world where so many domestic political interests, advocacy groups, and lobbies are tied to regional rather than strictly national interests and concerns.

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Encouraging Democracy
in the Hemisphere

The United States sees the rising tide of democratic reform promoting stability and peaceful internal change. Representative governments share core values, tend to settle disagreements with neighbors without conflict, make better partners in trade and diplomacy, and reduce the desire of citizens to migrate. It is therefore in the U.S. interest to encourage and consolidate democracy in the hemisphere. Only Cuba is out of the fold at the moment, but the durability of democracy in many other Latin American and Caribbean countries will depend upon the character of governments and their ability to effectively deal with long-standing internal political, economic, and social problems. This is especially true in Haiti.

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Expanding Access to Regional
Economic Markets

Tightly intertwined with the U.S. desire to encourage democracy is its economic interest. The U.S. wishes to see trade liberalized in the Western Hemisphere, in order to build a free trade area, in President Bush's terms, "from Alaska to Patagonia."

The Latin American and Caribbean region boasts a large and growing market with a population of over 470 million that may exceed 750 million by the year 2010. Over one-quarter of that number live in Mexico and one-third reside in Brazil. Two-way trade with Latin America and the Caribbean has already more than doubled since 1983, from $67 billion to roughly $153 billion last year. The U.S. is already a significant partner, with 37 percent of its global exports going to the hemisphere, with 25 percent of those to non-NAFTA markets. The U.S. sells as much to Brazil as to China, and more to Venezuela than to Russia. Ecuador is a larger export market for the U.S. than Poland and Hungary combined. Since 1985, U.S. exports to the hemisphere have generated approximately 900,000 jobs in this country. Continued growth in trade is expected to generate 2 million jobs by the year 2003.

To achieve this progress, Washington is focusing on reducing trade barriers in the hemisphere and fostering more economic integration, including greater financial, telecommunications, transportation, and energy linkages, forward-looking investment agreements, and financial market reform. The implementation of NAFTA--and the prospect of broadening it to include other states in the region--is the single most important incentive to economic reform in the Americas, and is a cornerstone of economic security at home.

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Responding to the Criminal
Drug Trade in the Hemisphere

The illegal narcotics industry represents a serious threat to representative government in many Latin American and Caribbean nations. Its most destructive effect is the way it undermines a democratic society's core institutions--the legislative branch, the judiciary system, the forces of law and order, and the political parties--which in turn erodes a society's hope for justice. It also hinders economic development. "Laundered" drug money distorts local and national economies, and the trade in coca displaces traditional crops and disrupts labor patterns, as poor farmers are lured by the false belief that this industry will lead to financial security. Another impact is ecological. The demand to grow more coca leaves or poppies encourages unsound slash-and-burn farming techniques that destroy forests, and invaluable watersheds are polluted by the runoff of the precursor chemicals needed to manufacture the finished product.

The afflicted nations across the Americas, particularly Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, cannot defeat this scourge alone. They desire U.S. assistance to develop their limited law enforcement and judicial capabilities. Their opponents are enormously wealthy and sophisticated narco-criminal syndicates that are adept at using propaganda, bribery, and violence to attain their ends, and that recognize no national boundaries. Should the need arise, they can quickly shift their manufacturing operations or smuggling patterns to another region or country. The challenge to national governments and the U.S. is to limit this flexibility, find their vulnerabilities, and assist each other in attacking them.

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Controlling Migration
Into the U.S.

The U.S. faces a growing wave of legal and illegal immigrants from the south that has increased steadily over the last forty years, often with U.S. encouragement. The United States is now the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. This has created daunting, destabilizing political and socioeconomic problems--public health, education, smuggling, street violence--in several southern and southwestern border states. One estimate of the cost of illegal immigration to California was be $2.3 billion for 1993. In response, Californians approved in November 1994 Proposition 187 by a 3 to 2 ratio barring illegal immigrants from receiving publicly funded health services, except in emergencies, and preventing their children from attending the state's public schools.

The number of undocumented aliens in the U.S. ranges between two and four million--a majority from the hemisphere. In addition, more than 22 million Hispanics legally live in the continental United States, according to the 1990 census--a 53 percent increase over 1980. "Latinos" are now the largest non-English-speaking immigrant group in the country.

While some of the Mexican, Central American, and Caribbean migrants are driven by political violence, most are influenced by U.S. economic wealth and this country's seemingly insatiable demand for labor. The U.S. market still demands the sort of low-wage labor in fields, factories, and service sectors that U.S. citizens are generally unwilling to provide. The complement to a free trade agreement, from a Mexican perspective, would be an agreement on freer movement of people. The ground swell of opposition to new migrants, however, is based less on concerns about competition for jobs, and more on the skyrocketing costs of the social programs associated with them.

Legal Migrant-Producing States for the Unites States, 1991 Chart

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