Monday, January 21, 2019

Travis Sawchik's Big Data Baseball

Travis Sawchik's Big Data Baseball is easily seen as a sequel to Michael Lewis' classic Moneyball, which showed how a General Manager (Billy Beane) found a metric (getting on base, especially with walks) that other teams undervalued. With less money, Lewis wrote about how Beane built a winning team (the 2002 A's). Fast forward to 2013, and Pirates' GM Neal Huntington hires people with strong data analytics skills who use new technology (especially PITCHf/x) to find new strategies such as pitch framing and shifts that other teams undervalue. Free agent catcher Russell Martin plays a key role as the diamond in the rough.

But there are important differences between the two books. Unlike Lewis, Sawchik focuses on harmony--Manager Clint Hurdle overcomes skepticism and players see how well the unorthodox strategies work. He shows how important the manager is because he's the gatekeeper to what happens on the field (A's Manager Art Howe was often portrayed as a puppet with no power). Perhaps that just shows how much changed between 2002 and 2013. The baseball traditionalists were strong but minds were opening up everywhere. Nowadays all teams have plenty of data scientists and the best baseball bloggers get snapped up. (In this sense, the tone is far different from Keith Law's Smart Baseball, which tends to be insulting toward skeptics).

Sawchik tells a good story. He also points out some important issues. One is that when a team finds a winning strategy, everyone will copy it and the advantage will disappear quickly. Especially when you can't afford lots of big salaries, you have to keep innovating on a constant basis, and that includes players. That's not easy. Further, one of the critical things we don't know is how to use data to prevent injury. With pitchers throwing harder than ever, arms get blown out easily. Tommy John surgeries are routine, even more than one. How can we use data to avoid that? He suggests the Pirates had some proprietary data, but there's nothing public.

The book was published in 2015 and it's amazing to think about how fast things move now. He mentions the initial development of Statcast, which is now everywhere. Launch angle is all the rage (Like *cough* the Padres' Eric Hosmer). These rapid changes make the game even more fun to watch and read about.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Who Is President of Venezuela?

Juan Guaidó posted a video yesterday on Twitter, referring to the "usurper" and the need to come out on January 23 as a sign of support for change. What I find curious is that the opposition is referring to him as the president of the National Assembly, not of the Republic. He further discusses the need for a transition government. It's curious because the constitution does give the National Assembly president the right to become president of the country while new elections are scheduled, but it does not stipulate anything about a transition government.

The problem is that the constitution never anticipated this sort of situation where the entire government, as opposed simply to the president, is illegitimate. There is mention of the Vice President taking over if the president is out of office (for whatever reason) in the first four years of the term. But right now there is no term--the election was fraudulent. The President of the National Assembly takes over if a president is out after the election but before the inauguration. There is no mention at all of transition governments outside these parameters.

I assume, then, that the opposition figures it is in murky waters and prefers to be cautious right now in order not to scare people. If they can get momentum on January 23, then they can start pushing the idea of a transitional government led by Guaidó, which is close if not exact to the constitution, and get the military's support. Or, at least, get foreign support that might tip the military toward accepting the solution, along with an amnesty pledge.

This seems to mean, however, that the opposition is simultaneously calling Maduro an "usurper" while accepting his position as president, unless they claim there is no president at all, which I guess is possible, though unusual. Someone is conducting foreign affairs, for example, or incurring debt, and the like, and right now that is Maduro.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Charlotte Running Company 13 Mile Trail Race

I ran the Charlotte Running Company 13 Mile Trail Race this morning, and it was perhaps the most challenging race I've ever run. It's on the trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center here in Charlotte and it was muddy, steep, and slippery, though fortunately the weather was mild. I had to walk numerous times to deal with the hills and although I didn't fall (a guy at the first water stop was calling out, "WHO'S GONNA BE THE FIRST TO BITE IT?") I came close a few times. I can't believe the winner ran it at a 7:30 pace, which means he was running hard up and down slick hills.

Most people do the shorter distances (you can do 4 or 9) and so for the last 4 miles I was alone most of the time. That was actually nice, but my legs were too tired to fully enjoy it.  If I do it again, I may scale back.

Pro tip: this race always gives out a nice hoodie instead of a shirt. It's worth running it for that alone.


Friday, January 18, 2019

George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo is a book you won't soon forget after reading. It takes place at the crypt in Washington, DC where Abraham Lincoln's 11-year old son Willie was taken after dying of typhoid fever in 1862. Lincoln went there at night to hold the body right after the funeral.

The story is one day at that crypt, which unbeknownst to Lincoln is full of spirits in the bardo, or Buddhist space between death and rebirth. There is no traditional narrative, but rather dialogue between the spirits (lots of them from all walks of life) as well as excerpts of both real and fictional histories of the time. Your understanding of their plight expands as the novel goes on, and you see how they have not accepted their own deaths. In ways you will have to read to understand, both Lincolns have a huge impact on these suffering souls. It is somehow both a surreal and very human story (years ago I read Saunders' The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, one of the strangest things I've read, yet also so funny).

Suffering is at the core of the novel, how we all suffer, and how that affects our own actions. Ultimately, too, it is about how we cannot let suffering cripple us. Lincoln needed to save a country. The spirits squabble with each other and live in suffering denial, thinking their coffins are only "sick-boxes" and hoping in vain they might return.


Countering China in Latin America

A member of the Venezuelan opposition, Carlos Vecchio, published an op-ed in The Miami Herald about China. It is a more alarmist view than mine, but I agree with his overall point.
First, the United States’ top priority should be to ensure the triumph of democratic norms, human rights and the rule of law throughout the continent. 
Second, the United States should incentivize economic and social development in the region by leveraging its close technological, cultural and commercial ties with Latin America.
It is notable that the Trump administration is doing neither. Democracy is not a priority and in fact the administration is working against anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala. Meanwhile, Trump publicly calls for cutting development aid. Aid is just not MAGA.
To achieve this, the United States could promote summits and scholarships to attract Latin Americans to Silicon Valley and lean on its private sector to support promising technological enterprises abroad.
Bring in immigrants and promote foreign business? That's not MAGA either.
The United States could also promote social development by sponsoring sports partnerships across the region. 
Trump just said no to that in Cuba.

In short, none of these things will happen under the current administration. It is becoming conventional wisdom that the administration's Latin America policy is giving China a major boost in the region.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Polarization in Venezuela

María Pilar García-Guadilla and Ana Mallen, "Polarization, Participatory Democracy, and Democratic Erosion in Venezuela’s Twenty-First Century Socialism," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 681, 1 (2019): 62-77.


This article analyzes the emergence and consolidation of political polarization in Venezuela during the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, led by Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro from 1999 to 2018. We also examine the conditions under which polarization in Venezuela became pernicious, and contributed to erosion of democracy. Given the underlying class cleavages that were associated with pro- and anti-Chavista identities, we argue that the central dimension of polarization began with a political-ideological rift around competing concepts of democracy—participatory and representative, the rights that each vision privileged (individual civil and political rights vs. collective social and economic rights), and the interpretation of participatory democracy as a complement or substitute for representative democracy. As a result, the inclusion of representative and participatory models of democracy in the 1999 Bolivarian constitution failed to deepen democracy. Instead, they came to be seen as mutually exclusive or incompatible. The result was a polarized democracy that became increasingly authoritarian.
I agree with the idea that cleavages emerge between "participatory democracy" and "representative democracy." The same is true of Cuba and Fidel Castro brought it up all the time to highlight how the U.S. was not really democratic.

However, I don't think we can say that Hugo Chávez created polarization. There is a chicken and egg issue here. Chávez became prominent because of polarization. In a non-polarized society, the leader of failed coups would never become a hero.
Despite Venezuela’s historic high levels of poverty, social inequality, and social class differences, the country did not suffer class warfare or overt polarization before President Hugo Chávez came to power.
This just doesn't jibe for me. Chávez became a hero because he channeled the polarization created by all the problems noted above. The authors actually seem to acknowledge this.
Moreover, in 1989, the acute oil-related economic crisis led the government of Carlos Andrés Perez to apply neoliberal macroeconomic adjustment policies that caused widespread riots and political instability, with high costs for the legitimacy of the entire political party system, which the popular sector viewed as broadly collusive.
In other words, CAP holds a lot of responsibility for polarization. This actually becomes a distraction from the more interesting and relevant points about different definitions of democracy. One reason the opposite can't gain traction is the widespread view that its vision of democracy is not participatory and is entirely elite-centric. It may be "representative" but in the past dominant parties had a stranglehold on how got represented.

In fact, right now the discourse is all about elections and you hear nothing about how the poor and marginalized will be brought into the system.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Considering Oil Sanctions Against Venezuela

Kejal Vyas at The Wall Street Journal says the U.S. government is considering oil sanctions against Venezuela.
The U.S. is evaluating whether to impose tougher sanctions against Venezuela's military and vital oil industry, a senior White House official said Monday, as it seeks to ratchet up pressure on authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro to hold free and fair elections. 
The Trump administration is considering a range of measures including curtailing the flow of Venezuelan oil to the U.S., the official said, in what could be the harshest blow to the country's money supply. No final decision has been made.
This is the nuclear option. Oil is the ironic tether that binds the U.S. and Venezuela together. Hugo Chávez threatened countless times to cut the U.S. off, but there was no way he could do that without destroying himself. Socialism of the 21st century needed the empire to give it life.

Here is a look at Venezuela's oil exports to the U.S.

As Vyas points out, this is about half of Venezuela's oil exports and it has always been difficult to switch because Venezuela's crude is hard to refine. In short, oil sanctions would be devastating. They would also be damaging to the U.S. economy, but that's a separate issue.

The essential question here is the effect on Venezuelans. Geoff Ramsey and David Smilde just finished recommending that the U.S. refrain from any sanction that exacerbates the country's humanitarian crisis. This nuclear option certainly would do so.

I think their suggestions are preferable to this kind of move. Simply saying "We don't recognize Maduro" is pretty minimal without a broader strategy beyond that. There are a number of options before simply dropping the bomb.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Decade of US-Mexican Relations

President-elect Barack Obama and Felipe Calderón met exactly ten years ago. We can see how little we have accomplished.

  • Obama said he wanted an "upgrade" of NAFTA. Mexican officials said they had no idea what he meant.
  • A U.S. senior aide said Obama was also concerned about how the flow of U.S. guns to the south was exacerbating the drug war. You don't hear that anymore.
  • Obama said he wanted to have a "comprehensive and thoughtful" strategy for immigration that would benefit both countries. Obama was blocked at every turn on that and of course it has now blown up.
  • Obama said he wanted more cooperation with Calderón on climate change. Now that's all unraveled. 
For many presidents, U.S.-Mexican relations are an afterthought, or develop only in secondary manner. Trump changed that by directly linking bilateral relations to the well-being of the U.S. on a constant basis, but in a negative way. What I want to see is a U.S. presidential candidate turning that on its head by making U.S.-Mexican relations a priority and showing that we are all better off by working in a mutually beneficial way. 

As we gear up absurdly early for the U.S. presidential race, I will be looking for U.S.-Mexican relations in the Democratic candidates' platforms. Talking about immigration without putting the issue in a broader context is a mistake.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Constitutional Argument For Ousting Maduro

Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's National Assembly President, said he should be president, citing the Venezuelan constitution. He hopes the military agrees.
"¿Es suficiente apegarnos a la Constitución en (una) dictadura? No. Deben ser el pueblo de Venezuela, la Fuerza Armada y la comunidad internacional las que nos lleven a asumir", expresó Guaidó. Por ello, el diputado llamó a una "gran movilización en todos los rincones de Venezuela". 
Este viernes, mediante un comunicado de prensa, la Asamblea Nacional informó que los artículos 333, 350 y 233 de la Constitución Nacional de Venezuela son los que le permiten asumir la Presidencia.
So what are these articles?

Artículo 333. Esta Constitución no perderá su vigencia si dejare de observarse por acto de fuerza o porque fuere derogada por cualquier otro medio distinto al previsto en ella.

En tal eventualidad, todo ciudadano investido o ciudadana investida o no de autoridad, tendrá el deber de colaborar en el restablecimiento de su efectiva vigencia.

Artículo 350. El pueblo de Venezuela, fiel a su tradición republicana, a su lucha por la independencia, la paz y la libertad, desconocerá cualquier régimen, legislación o autoridad que contraríe los valores, principios y garantías democráticos o menoscabe los derechos humanos.

Artículo 233. Serán faltas absolutas del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: la muerte, su renuncia, la destitución decretada por sentencia del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, la incapacidad física o mental permanente certificada por una junta médica designada por el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia y con aprobación de la Asamblea Nacional, el abandono del cargo, declarado éste por la Asamblea Nacional, así como la revocatoria popular de su mandato.

Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente electo o Presidenta electa antes de tomar posesión, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreto dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.

Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente o Presidenta de la República durante los primeros cuatro años del período constitucional, se procederá a una nueva elección universal y directa dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva.

En los casos anteriores, el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta completará el período constitucional correspondiente.

Si la falta absoluta se produce durante los últimos dos años del período constitucional, el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva asumirá la Presidencia de la República hasta completar el mismo.

You may remember Article 233 from almost exactly six years ago, as Venezuelans wondered whether the winning presidential candidate was either unconscious or dead. This time around the idea is that the legislature has the authority to determine that the president is illegitimate by virtue of, among other things, violating human rights and democratic principles and can call new elections.

This is intended to give the military a legal-constitutional means of forcing Maduro out. If they don't want to, then you can talk about the constitution until you're blue in the face. The opposition is calling for national protests on January 23. Combine that with all the international condemnation, and they hope to push the armed forces.

I won't hazard a guess about what will happen. The safe money is on preservation of the status quo but we just don't know the tipping point of the military. This does seem the most propitious moment for the opposition we've seen in a long time, however.

Update (1/13/19) Now Guaidó has been arrested and his whereabouts unknown. As long as the military is on board, the government can act with impunity.

Update later the same day: government claims it was individuals who did this without authority. Who knows what's exactly going on.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Jason Matthews Red Sparrow

I read and liked Jason Matthews' Red Sparrow, the first novel in a trilogy (and also a movie). It is a spy novel about Russia and the U.S., with all the intrigue, double-crossing, and violence you associate with the genre. A Russian woman, Dominika  Egorova, is trained as a sparrow, or a sex spy, and her experiences lead to her being recruited by the CIA, specifically the agent Nate Nash (and then you get a romance there). She can actually see colors around people that indicate their mood, which is an intriguing addition to the narrative. There are American being paid by the Russians to spy as well.

The story moved along well, with plenty of twists and good descriptions of all the places they were. The odd thing about the novel is that there is mention of food in every chapter, then at the end is a short recipe for one of the dishes they ate. It was distracting to begin with, but then I got used to it and liked seeing what these dishes (many of them unfamiliar to me) were like. As you might expect from a spy novel written by a former CIA agent, the U.S. (and its spies) are all good and all the Russians (except those that spy for us) are bad. Indeed, one downside to the book is that the Russians come out much less nuanced.

The CIA itself gave it a favorable review, with this tidbit:

The amount of tradecraft, particularly surveillance and countersurveillance, will make the in-house reader wonder how he got all this past the Publications Review Board.
 I enjoyed it enough that I plan to read the sequel.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Maduro's Illegitimate Inauguration

I'm quoted in this story about the pressures being put on Nicolás Maduro as he is inaugurated for a term widely seen as illegitimate. My basic point is that just talking might not be enough. Illegitimate regimes can go on as long as they have the military's support. (Note that after the inauguration there was a ceremony at the military academy).

And that's the obvious unknown here. We do know there are rumblings from time to time, and that the government periodically feels compelled to punish officers who get out of line. We don't know the full extent of the gap between the rank and file and the generals, a gap that launched Hugo Chávez himself. We don't know what conversations Maduro and the generals have. Given our lack of information, it's equally possible that we wake up tomorrow morning to find Maduro ousted or wake up to find everything just limping along as it was.

I do find it interesting that Maduro is showing how the Lima Group got under his skin. He gave them 48 hours to recognize it or else. He can't really punish them so I don't know what the "else" is, but this shows he cares. Does he care because he feels the military getting edgy or just because he's thin-skinned?


Getting Young People to Vote in Chile

Chile switched from compulsory voting to voluntary in 2011. Claudio Fuentes writes about the support to switch back again. Previously, the vote was required but only if you registered. Younger people therefore stopped registering in the first place. The electorate therefore got older. Now a poll shows support within Congress to make that switch back. That support does not currently seem to be reflected in the general population.

He argues that the current system is worse. Turnout dropped as soon as the system changed. Therefore major decisions are being made by fewer and fewer.

I wrote about this back in 2011. There was hope that young people would start voting once they were registered automatically, but as Claudio points out, that just didn't happen.

His conclusion?

Pero difícilmente las cosas cambiarán. Como resulta altamente impopular retornar al voto obligatorio, ningún sector político se atreverá a plantear esta reforma. El pragmatismo dominará por sobre las convicciones y, mientras tanto, se seguirá vaciando el sistema democrático. Cada vez un menor número de ciudadanos y ciudadanas activos votarán por una élite que gobernará para los muchos.  El gobierno de los pocos, para los pocos y por los pocos será el resultado sub-óptimo de aquella reforma.
The problem here is that young Chileans really don't want to vote. If there is a penalty for not voting, they won't register. If they are automatically registered and it's voluntary, they won't go to the polls. I suppose if you put those together by making registration automatic and the vote required, then they're more likely to participate. When teaching Intro to Comparative Politics, I would often have discussions about whether forcing people to vote when they don't want to is democratic.

So we have to balance the empirical (you do see turnout increase considerably with compulsory voting) with the philosophical (is forced turnout democratic?). You can argue that voluntary voting is more democratic, but if it leads to dominance by only one group, that is clearly less democratic. Meanwhile, compulsory voting may seem less democratic even though it leads to a more democratic outcome (participation by the many rather than the few).


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Taking Aim at CAFTA

As Donald Trump went after NAFTA, I kept wondering why he didn't say much at all about free trade agreements with other Latin America. Now the administration is taking aim at CAFTA-DR. And it's all about China.

“We are very concerned with Nicaragua’s move toward authoritarianism, and El Salvador’s and Dominican Republic’s questionable ties with China,” the official said. “As the United States has made clear, we will not allow our trade agreements, including CAFTA-DR, to become back doors to benefit non-market economies and repressive actors in the region.”
By "questionable" the official means "we told them not to and they did anyway." It's dangerous to view Latin America primarily through a Chinese lens, however. As I've written countless times, the U.S. has to be cognizant of unintended consequences. Punishing Central America at the precise moment you're talking about trying to resolve the immigration issue is counterproductive, to say the least.

Kicking Nicaraguans when they're down will make their lives worse without necessarily hurting the regime enough to prompt any change. In the case of El Salvador, if the economy stagnates then people will come in greater numbers to the United States. One could imagine Nicaraguans eventually doing the same.

Unfortunately, Central America is long accustomed to being a pawn between large powers that don't care about its well-being.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

U.S. and Russia in Latin America

Ted Galen Carpenter writes in The National Interest that the U.S. needs to "enforce" the Monroe Doctrine with regard to Russia. By this he means the U.S. should "stress to Moscow" that it cannot have any "military ties" to Latin American governments, and in return the U.S. will ignore everything Russia does "deep into Eastern Europe."

Washington’s failure to enforce the Monroe Doctrine during the Cold War when the Soviet Union made Cuba into a client state and military outpost has not encouraged respect for that doctrine in the post-Cold War era. The Trump administration needs to adopt a firmer policy toward Moscow’s intrusions into Latin America. At the same time, U.S. leaders must recognize that U.S. policy has been clumsy and provocative toward Russia’s interests in Eastern Europe, especially regarding Ukraine. Washington needs to adopt a new approach that respects Moscow’s implicit version of a Monroe Doctrine.

There are a few problems with this argument.

First, like all such arguments--and there have been plenty--he never defines "enforce" or "stress." I take it this means threatening Russia somehow. That alone could easily precipitate an unnecessary and unwanted crisis. What does the U.S. do if Russia refuses? Back during the Cold War, do you mean nuclear war? It was close for a while.

Second, do we really want a foreign policy that simply says Russian expansion, even invasion of other countries, is perfectly fine? I am no fan of U.S. intervention, but at the same time publicly handing Eastern Europe to Vladimir Putin does not appeal to me.

Third, this is a stretch even for the ever flexible Monroe Doctrine. I can't recall any version of it that forbade selling things to Latin American countries. Remember too that Latin American governments regardless of ideology dislike the Monroe Doctrine. Formally reviving it would be detrimental to U.S. interests.


Monday, January 07, 2019

AMLO's Border Plan

AMLO has plans to stimulate the economies of Mexican border cities as a way to increase incentives for Mexicans to stay in the country. Immediately I thought of unintended consequences.
Under the plan, Mexico is to cut income and corporate taxes to 20 percent from 30 percent in 43 municipalities in the six Mexico states along the 2,000-mile border with the U.S. Half of that border is along the Rio Grande and Texas. 
Mexico, Lopez Obrador said, will also slash to 8 percent the value-added tax in the region and double the minimum wage for border residents to 176.2 pesos a day, the equivalent of $9.06.
If you raise wages only at the border, you can expect Mexicans from other parts of the country to move there. It is especially problematic because the poorer, more rural, more indigenous areas in southern Mexico have traditionally been ignored in favor of the more developed north. NAFTA exacerbated wage inequality, for example. Even more inequality could strain northern cities that are already struggling to deal with all the asylum seekers waiting there.

Further, it's not clear how this would affect the growing number of Central American migrants already there. Presumably they would not be eligible for the new wage unless the definition of "border resident" is loose. It's not clear what AMLO thinks will happen to them, or what he hopes will happen.


Bolsonaro and Ideology

Jair Bolsonaro and his allies use the word "ideology" a lot. For them, it means "things we don't like." The Ministry of Education suggested that scholarships for postgraduate degrees abroad will be scrutinized (and rejected) for ideological content. Of course, imposing such a rule is a decision based solely on ideology.

The funny thing about ideology is that we all like to think everyone else has one except us. We just follow common sense, while everyone else is being manipulated by ideological overlords of some kind. Using the word "ideology" is quite similar to using "terrorist," which very often also just refers to people we don't like.

At the moment, Bolsonaro refers to ideology largely in terms of feminism, which he hates in large part because he wants everyone to accept rigid definitions of gender. As the Minister of Traditional Family Values says, girls will be princesses and boys will be princes. For them, rigid adherence to a particular rule because of religion is not ideology.

What you can be sure of is that behind every reference to ideology is a desire for control. The government will create rules specifically intended to reject all ideas other than the ones it approves of. Do things our way, or else. Professors in particular are in the cross-hairs.


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Options For U.S. Policy in Venezuela

Geoff Ramsey and David Smilde authored a policy brief for the Washington Office on Latin America making recommendations for U.S. policy toward Venezuela. Productive U.S. policy, that is. Not invasion threats, which is the predilection of many Trump advisers. Their recommendations are based on the following assertion, with which I agree:

Today, the only viable path out of the crisis is for actors in both the government and opposition to reach a political accord that restores democratic governance through some kind of credible negotiations process. 
Unsaid here is that any such accord needs to convince the army, which will then pressure Nicolás Maduro.

I will let you read the details but a few things stand out for me. One is the need to clarify sanctions. In particular, it's important to show what sanctions will be eased by what actions. We've seen for decades in Cuba that they're often just used as bludgeons, when they should be bargaining tools. In my opinion this is an important signal to the army.

Also important is more participation from the European Union and the United Nations. Make this as global as possible. The Lima Group is hampered by how many countries don't belong to it, or in Mexico's case still belong but don't sign on. A more global reach, as opposed to one that can easily be viewed as driven by conservative Latin American governments, will also be an important signal to the army.

I hope some within the administration can show the requisite subtlety, though I am not hopeful. What we've seen (publicly at least) is Mike Pompeo talking about Venezuela to conservative allies, including Jair Bolsonaro, who is unhinged. We see periodic announcements of sanctions without any strategy attached to them. We hear wild statements about invasion and coups. In short, we have yet to see evidence of adults in the room.


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