WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
1 Dec 2010

Next Congress Must Acknowledge Changes in Latin America

As a new U.S. Congress is poised to take office in January, changing dynamics in Latin America require a new approach from policy makers, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). In congressional testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, WOLA Executive Director Joy Olson calls on Members of Congress to change their way of thinking about the region.

"The United States hasn't figured out how to play by the new rules in the hemisphere," explains Joy Olson in her testimony. "And many policy makers haven't learned that the United States doesn't write those rules anymore."

Citing examples of violence, poverty, drugs, and immigration, Olson shows how the political landscape in Latin America has shifted—and points out the need for U.S. policy to shift with it. She calls on Congress to refocus on the link between migration and development, explore new ways of thinking about drug policy, and pursue more collaborative responses to shared problems in the hemisphere.

Olson insists that "the U.S. approach to Latin America must changeeven if it means spending some money, using up some political capital, and confronting U.S. congressional hard-liners who won't move beyond conflicts of the Cold War."

In her testimony, Olson criticizes the polarized state of the U.S. Congress, noting a bent for black-and-white views of the region and lamenting the partisan approach to foreign policy. She shows that this does the United States no favors in Latin America. "U.S. political polarization distorts understanding, diminishes our credibility, and complicates our relationship with Latin America."

Olson and a panel of experts will focus on "Latin America in 2010: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Future of the U.S. Policy in the Hemisphere." The hearing begins at 2:30pm E.S.T. in 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, and will be streamed live online.

To read the full testimony, click here.

Kristel Mucino
WOLA Communications Coordinator