Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

U.S.-Cuba Relations

Author: Brianna Lee

The U.S.-Cuba relationship remains frozen after fifty years. Despite economic reforms in Cuba and swelling public opinion in favor of resuming diplomatic and economic ties, analysts do not anticipate any normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations in the near to medium term, explains this Backgrounder.

See more in Cuba; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Venezuela's Chávez Wins Fourth Term

Author: Brianna Lee

Longtime Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez's fourth term as president allows for the continuation of his "socialist revolution," but questions over his health remain a wildcard in assessing Venezuela's future.

See more in Venezuela

State Sponsors: Cuba

The U.S. State Department continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terror, though most experts say the country no longer poses a threat to U.S. national security.

See more in State Sponsors of Terrorism; Cuba

Brazil on the International Stage

Author: Stephanie Hanson

Brazil's economic dynamism has given it a stronger voice on global trade and energy issues. Experts say Washington can advance its regional interests more effectively through a more sophisticated relationship with Brazil.

See more in Brazil; Economic Development

Venezuela's Oil-Based Economy

Authors: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson

Venezuela is trying to develop new markets for its oil at a time of increasing friction with its main customer, the United States. But a significant short-term shift in oil relations between Venezuela and the United States is unlikely.

See more in Venezuela; Oil

Nicaragua’s Presidential Elections

Author: Stephanie Hanson

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega leads the polls ahead of November 5 presidential elections and appears on the verge of an extraordinary political comeback. It remains unclear what an Ortega presidency would mean for the country.

See more in Elections; Nicaragua

Brazil's Powerful Prison Gang

Author: Stephanie Hanson

Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), a Brazilian prison gang, staged a series of attacks in May that paralyzed the city of Sao Paulo. Subsequent waves of violence have raised concerns about the organization’s expanding influence.

See more in Rule of Law; Brazil

Hugo Chavez’s World Tour

Author: Stephanie Hanson

In a recent world tourstops included Belarus, Russia, and IranVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez attempted to expand his influence beyond Latin America and capitalize on the leverage afforded by his oil riches.

See more in United States; Venezuela

Bolivia's Nationalization of Oil and Gas

Author: Carin Zissis

In a region seen as turning leftward, forging alliances would seem a natural course of events. But Bolivian President Evo Morales' decision to nationalize the oil and gas industry is exposing tensions, causing experts to say there is more diffusion than alliance-building in Latin America.

See more in Bolivia; Oil

Colombia’s Elections

Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

Incumbent President Alvaro Uribe is favored to win Colombia's May 28 elections, a result that would mark a departure from the trend that has seen left-leaning governments come to power around the region.

See more in Colombia; Elections

Peru’s Elections

Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

Peru's upcoming presidential election could be an important litmus test in a region leaning leftward.

See more in Peru