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Video Brief: Latin America

Speaker: Shannon K. O'Neil, Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
February 2, 2012

The U.S. president taking office in 2013 will have to confront the ongoing problem of drug trafficking from Latin America, but may also find opportunities to revamp immigration policy and economic ties with the region, says CFR's Shannon O'Neil.

Cross-border coordination of drug policy and enforcement is likely to continue to dominate the U.S.-Latin America security agenda, O'Neil says. "The United States is the largest consuming market for illegal drugs, and the vast majority of those drugs come from Latin America," she says. "This is an issue that concerns the United States and obviously the countries in which they operate. This issue can only be approached as a regional solution."

A "fundamental transformation" in immigration trends may provide the president an opportunity to reform U.S. immigration policy, says O'Neil. "In the last year, in particular for Mexico, what we've seen is what people call a 'net-zero' flow of migrants" into the United States, meaning that "the same number of people that are coming in are going out," she says.

As U.S. economic recovery woes continue, Latin America may also present new export opportunities for the United States, O'Neil says. "Latin America has over 600 million consumers ready for U.S. goods and more and more are rising to the middle class, increasing their purchasing power, which can prove beneficial to the U.S.," she says. To take advantage of this, O'Neil stresses, the winner of the 2012 U.S. presidential race will have to work to deepen ties with Latin American countries.

This video is part of Campaign 2012, a series of video briefings on the top foreign policy issues debated in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

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