Founded in 1975, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), a nonprofit, tax-exempt independent research and information organization, was established to promote the common interests of the hemisphere, raise the visibility of regional affairs and increase the importance of the inter-American relationship, as well as encourage the formulation of rational and constructive U.S. policies towards Latin America. In 1982, COHA’s board of trustees voted to expand its mandate to include monitoring Canadian/Latin American relations. Since its inception, COHA has been one of the most active and broadest-based U.S. private bodies dealing with the entire spectrum of political, economic and diplomatic issues, as well as responding to the economic and political challenges confronting the nations of this hemisphere. From its beginnings, COHA’s board consisted of the leadership of some of this country’s most important trade unions, professional organizations and religious groups, as well as distinguished civic and academic figures, who joined together to advance their common belief in support of representative government and pluralistic institutions throughout the hemisphere.
In recent years, COHA has directed a good deal of its research energies to such issues as unproductive U.S. pressure on President Aristide which eventually led to his ouster and Washington’s replacement with a hapless interim regime. COHA also has condemned Washington’s unexamined and reflexive policy towards Cuba and Venezuela, and the negative impact of neo-liberal reforms on the average Latin American. COHA was opposed to the adherence of the U.S. to NAFTA under the thesis that it shouldn’t have been initiated until basic Mexican institutions were truly democratic, its trade unions free enough to negotiate as equals, and the government purged of endemic corruption. COHA also is a critic of the indiscriminate application of structural adjustment formulas that end up negatively affecting the poorest stratum of Latin America’s population.