"Over the past two decades, the Latin America and Caribbean region has made enormous strides in terms of political and economic development. Regular free and fair elections have become the norm. So far in 2008, Paraguay and the Caribbean nations of Barbados, Belize, and the Dominican Republic have held national elections, and Grenada is scheduled to have to hold parliamentary elections on July 8, 2008. Although the region overall experienced an economic setback in 2002- 2003, it has rebounded since 2004, most recently experiencing an estimated growth rate of 5.6% in 2007. Despite this progress, several nations face considerable challenges that affect U.S. interests and policy in the region. These include poverty, guerrilla conflicts, autocratic leaders, drug trafficking, and high rates of crime and violence. U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean are diverse, and include economic, political and security concerns. Geographic proximity has ensured strong economic linkages between the United States and the region, with the United States being the major trading partner and largest source of foreign investment for most countries in the region. Free trade agreements with Mexico and Canada, Chile, Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR), and most recently with Peru have augmented U.S. economic linkages with the region. The region is also the largest source of migration, both legal and illegal, with geographic proximity and economic conditions in the region being major factors in the migration. […] This report provides an overview of U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean and focuses on the role of Congress and congressional concerns. It will be updated periodically. For further information, see the CRS products listed after each topic."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33828