RNC and DNC Platforms Weigh in on Latin America Policy

By Eve Ahearn

What Latin American policy issues do the GOP and Democrats spell out in their party platforms?

While Latin America is far from a dominant issue in either the Republican or Democratic platforms, both parties’ documents contain sections relevant to the region. The Republican and Democratic Committees voted on their 2012 party platforms August 28 and September 5 respectively. Both the Republican and Democratic platforms mention immigration, foreign aid, and free trade, among other issues, connected to Latin America. They differ in the characterization and emphasis of each issue.

The Republicans dedicated a section of their platform to the Americas and also mentioned the Western Hemisphere in reference to immigration, energy, and foreign aid. The platform condemns President Barack Obama’s actions on Latin America saying, “The current Administration has turned its back on Latin America, with predictable results.” Here are the Republican plans for the region. 

  • Foreign Aid: The GOP platform cites the success of former aid recipients in Latin America as a validation for donations. “The economic success and political progress of former aid recipients, from Latin America to East Asia, has justified our investment in their future.” The document goes on to call for limiting government foreign aid in the future to allow for greater private-sphere donations.
  • Immigration: The Republican Party focuses on the preserving the rule of law at the border and opposes amnesty for those who entered the country illegally. The party applauds states’ efforts to enforce immigration law, saying that the pending lawsuits against Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah should be dismissed and that federal funding should be denied to sanctuary cities that violate immigration law. Additionally, the GOP calls for the use of E-Verify, an internet-based verification system in the workplace.
  • Venezuela: The Republican platform calls Venezuela an “increasing threat to U.S. security,” a “narco-terrorist state,” and an “Iranian outpost in the Western hemisphere.” The document states that the Chávez government “issues Venezuelan passports or visas to thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists offering safe haven to Hezbollah trainers, operatives, recruiters, and fundraisers.” The platform also calls for standing with regional democracies “against both Marxist subversion and the drug lords, helping them to become prosperous alternatives to the collapsing model of Venezuela and Cuba.”
  • Cuba: In an extended paragraph on Cuba the Republican platform notes the rule of President Raúl Castro, saying the GOP “reject[s] any dynastic succession of power within the Castro family.” The GOP voices support for the Cuban pro-democracy movement and calls for the promotion of Internet access to bolster that effort. The platform states that the legalization of political parties, an independent media, and free and fair elections should be the conditions for the lifting of travel, trade, and financial sanctions.
  • Mexico and Colombia: The Republican party platform “salute[s] the people of Mexico and Colombia” as allies in the war on drugs. The platform proposes military-to-military training and intelligence sharing with Mexico.

As the party of the incumbent, the Democratic platform focuses on policies enacted in the last four years. The document does not contain a separate section on the Americas but does highlight policies relevant to the region. 

  • Immigration: The Democratic platform commits to future comprehensive immigration reform and references Obama’s deferred action program for those who would have qualified for the DREAM Act.
  • Haiti: The Democrats emphasize the $3.1 billion in aid provided to Haiti for relief, recovery, and reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake and commit to continued assistance to that country.
  • Free trade: Citing the recent implementation of free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, the Democratic platform singles out the Caribbean as an area where the administration “will continue to support robust trade and economic relationships.”
  • The vibrant democracies:” The Democratic platform highlights Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico as vibrant democracies in the Americas. The document also extolled democratic transfers of power during the current administration’s tenure, including in El Salvador and Uruguay.
  • Venezuela: The Democratic platform mentions Venezuela only briefly, promising to “promote greater freedom in Cuba and Venezuela until all their citizens enjoy the universal rights they deserve.” 
  • Cuba: As in the Republican platform, the Democratic Party devotes a separate paragraph to Cuba. The platform highlights the easing of regulations for Cuban Americans visiting and sending remittances to the island. While the Democratic platform does not note Cuba’s power transition, the document states that “going forward we will continue to support the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future.” The platform also commits to substantially reducing the population incarcerated in the Guantánamo detention center, but does not commit to closing the camp as the 2008 platform did.
  • Open Government Partnership: The Democratic Platform mentions that the U.S. joined Brazil to launch and co-chair the Open Government Partnership in order to promote transparent government worldwide.

While the differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms on Latin America could be signs of potential differences in foreign policy practices, the planks are simply guides to the goals of the parties. The combination of both president and congress elected this November will be key to any legislative changes.  

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