Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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The GOP Platform on Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
August 29, 2012

A convention goer wears a button during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa A convention goer wears a button during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa (Eric Thayer/Courtesy Reuters).


With the Tampa Bay Republican Convention underway, the Republican Party platform, in its entirety, has finally found its way onto the internet. The fifty-plus page document touches briefly on all of the hottest election year topics, addressing everything from traditional marriage to Medicare to foreign policy. In regards to Latin America, the Republican Party platform focuses almost exclusively on the two states toward which the GOP has the greatest antipathy: Venezuela and Cuba.

On Cuba, the language heralds back to the past, describing the regime as mummified and anti-democratic, and strongly declaring Republican support for Cuban opposition groups. Although the tone is decisively anti-Castro, the platform is less strict than in the past. Quite noticeably, there are no calls for a roll-back of the Obama administration reforms that loosened remittance restrictions and expanded family travel, perhaps because of their popularity with Cuban-Americans.

For Venezuela, the GOP’s concerns extend beyond President Chavez’s non-democratic practices. The real threat, as they see it, is the transformation of the country into an “Iranian outpost” in the Western Hemisphere. While the platform explicitly accuses Venezuela of offering safe haven to thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists, it stops short of suggesting what a GOP president would do about this threat.

On Latin America’s two biggest economies—Brazil and Mexico—there is close to nothing. Apart from saluting Mexico’s cooperation in the drug war, the more important mention is on energy. The GOP heralds the abundant resources of Mexico, Canada, and the United States and presents a long term vision of North American energy independence. While a good idea, making this a reality depends much more on Mexico’s next president, Enrique Peña Nieto (and his willingness and ability to change the Mexican constitution), than on the next U.S. president.

Another issue outlined in the platform that affects Latin America is immigration, and there the GOP takes a tough stance. The platform declares that illegal immigrants “pose grave risks to the safety and sovereignty of the United States,” and unequivocally opposes any programs that might allow undocumented immigrants a path toward citizenship or that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented college students (adding that it would go even further and deny federal funding from schools offering such rates). The posturing stands in stark contrast to Obama’s recent directive and the general Democratic Party position, which provides a means for undocumented youths to stay and gain legal work permits.

The GOP platform also calls for securing the rule of law along the border and completing a (double layer) border fence. At least in this first objective, the Republican Party is in line with the Obama administration’s actions over the last four years, which increased the border patrol from 14,900 in 2007 to 21,400 in 2011.

Overall, the Republican Party generally seems to see the region (when it considers it at all) as a threat rather than an opportunity. The question remains whether this matters to the descendants of Latin Americans, which make up 16 percent of the U.S. population and may play a decisive role in the November 6 election (especially in swing states such as Colorado, Florida, and Ohio). With little to entice Latinos in regards to immigration or foreign policy, it will remain to be seen whether the GOP can attract their votes based on U.S. domestic concerns alone.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Mark Mercer

    Disturbing, but very good analysis. I’m very concerned about the US directing the so-called “War on Terror” towards Latin America. The conflating of it with the futile “War on Drugs” makes it even more dangerous and illogical.

  • Posted by Matthew Gomez

    Personally, I think this shows the ignorance of the Republican Party in its views towards Latin America. Not to say President Obama has been the best President when it comes to Latin America, he has at least made comments which are more true than say the Republican Party’s views of “War of the Terror” in Latin America. However, no matter who wins in November, Latin America will remain on the backburner to Asia and Europe (unfortunately). Again, personally, I do not think this is a good idea since it is in the U.S. backyard and places like Mexico and Brazil deserve to be noticed and worked with.

  • Posted by MIGUEL

    Divide , conquer and exploit is still, was and always will be the U.S. policy for latin america. the historical and present attitude clearly bears that out. no ammount of rhetorical mumbo jumbo
    from any american political camp or talking head can dispel that ugly thruth.
    the “war on terror’ is all-ready directed at latin america.
    nothing new under the sun,only the history you chose to ignore.

  • Posted by John Burstein

    One would have at least have hoped that the Republic platform took up the analysis of the enormous economic opportunity that would come from increasing documented migration in this country. That would include reverting the crisis in the agricultural sector induced by limiting Mexican and other migrants from working in that vital sector. No internal coherence; no guts.

  • Posted by enrique millan

    muy interesante el enfoque de la Convencxon Republicana

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