Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween on campus

Thanks to all the students at Sanford Hall (a UNC Charlotte dorm) for the very cool Halloween set up. Every year, students in a number of dorms host trick or treating for children, so last night the kids went around various floors, knocking on doors and getting an enormous amount of candy.


How do we evaluate border arrests?

The Border Patrol announced that the number of arrests made on the U.S.-Mexico border is down 8% from last year, citing better enforcement. Incidentally, this was reported now—one week before the election—instead of January, which is when it is normally released.

Analyzing the number of arrests is tricky, and in general it’s a pretty blunt instrument. For example, the number of arrests may be down since last year, but it is still up from 2003. In addition, as the article itself notes, yearly arrests are like a roller coaster, going up and down in ways that are not necessarily predictable, or that may be responding to short-term shocks (like 9/11).

In addition, arrests overall mask what is happening in specific border areas. Earlier in 2006, there were reports that arrests were increasing in New Mexico as well as in San Diego. What is particularly striking is that these increases are attributed to more enforcement in Arizona, and widespread reports of people dying in the Arizona desert. However, the original increase in Arizona and other more dangerous areas had been attributed to better enforcement in California in the past (on this, see Massey et al.).

In short, immigrants often respond to short-term stimuli, but clearly the enforcement in California has not deterred anyone from crossing there. Maybe this current dip in arrests is due to more workplace enforcement and the use of the National Guard, but the truth is that we really have almost no idea, and we also can’t predict how the numbers will change in the near future.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Fidel is back (again)

I finally got around to checking out the new photos of Fidel, looking pretty fit and wearing a snazzy Adidas track suit. As he says, he’s just recuperating and doing nothing more than just trying to be “useful.”

Hago todo lo posible por apoyar a los compañeros, ser útil, y me siento satisfecho.

He would also like everyone to know that he is not, in fact, deceased.

Something that struck me about his new track suit is that “F. Castro” is stitched on the front. I can’t figure out why that’s necessary. Is there anyone—in Cuba or elsewhere—that doesn’t know who he is? Or maybe he’s had problems with Raúl taking his clothes, so Raúl gets his own with “R. Castro.”


Sunday, October 29, 2006

A novel by Subcomandante Marcos

Via Marc Cooper: Subcomandante Marcos has teamed up with a famous Mexican mystery writer (Paco Ignacio Taibo II) on a new crime fiction novel entitled, The Uncomfortable Dead. Writing popular fiction doesn't seem particularly revolutionary, but the idea is to provide a glimpse into the Zapatista's key issues. From Amazon:

Taibo's striking collaboration with the charismatic leftist leader known as Subcomandante Marcos is a curious animal, laying forth planks in the Zapatistas' platform for the rights of indigenous peoples against globalization and privatization with subversive, comic panache.


Voting machines and Chávez

This story in the NYT is just too bizarre. The company that makes voting machines for 17 states and DC has been taken over by a Venezuelan firm. Now the U.S. is trying to figure out whether it has any ties to the Venezuelan government.

So would the machines be rigged to vote for Noam Chomsky?


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Count Fidel

Hugo Chávez reports that Fidel Castro is doing better, and is up and around. But the way he did so immediately made me wonder whether Castro has turned into a vampire, touring the countryside, but only at night. Now that would be a great rumor.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Friday that Cuban leader Fidel Castro is up and about again, taking trips at night into the countryside as he recovers from surgery.

"He is walking around already and goes out at night to tour the countryside, towns and cities. I'm soon going to go see you, Fidel," Chavez said during a speech to cacao producers in Venezuela Friday.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Getting that UN Security Council seat

Via Ideas al Vuelo. There is nothing new regarding the Venezuela-Guatemala hubbub, but a recent article in Journal of Political Economy shows how the U.S. makes sure that countries on the UN Security Council get more money. That money increases when the country’s vote is especially valuable.


Goodbye Bruce Bochy

Via Ducksnorts: The San Jose Mercury News reports that Bruce Bochy has signed with the Giants. ESPN says he has agreed "in principle." This is painful. You just go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s to see the shuffle of managers and horrible records (including 101 losses in 1993). Bochy has consistently won with minimal talent for years now. He often takes heat for on the field decisions (who to pinch hit, whether to keep a pitcher in, etc.) but I think he gets the most out of his players. He was longtime Padre, spending the last 24 years with the team, including the big 1984 season, which is when I first really paid attention to him. Over the years I've become a big fan.

And he's going to the Giants. The only team I like less than the Giants is the Dodgers. (I wonder how he'll deal with Bonds).

Adios, Boch, and unfortunately I have to say that I hope you lose many games.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

And the beat goes on

Negotiations today seem not to have yielded any consensus candidate for the UN. Both Venezuela and Guatemala are officially willing to withdraw, but for whom? After the Bolivia candidacy was clearly going nowhere, Venezuela offered up the Dominican Republic, but just as with Bolivia, it wasn't really discussed:

In Washington, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, said Maduro had offered to propose his nation as an alternate candidate for the seat. But diplomats said this did not arise at the talks.

If this is true, then Venezuela's suggestions have now been shot down twice, from some combination of resistance to Chávez and the U.S. twisting arms.

Now there is a five day pause, and if by Tuesday there is no new candidate, then voting resumes.


Up to 41 rounds

We’re up to 41 rounds, and the AP report and others on the voting don’t mention how in the last round, both the Dominican Republic and Chile received votes (from themselves?). It looks like no voting is scheduled for today.

According to Ecuador’s UN Ambassador (who chairs the Latin America and Caribbean group):

He held talks with the Guatemalan and Venezuelan ambassadors "in a very good atmosphere," and he said negotiations will continue Thursday with the foreign ministers of both countries.

"My expectation is that we are going to have - perhaps not tomorrow because these are very difficult things - but that we are going to have an agreement," Cordovez said.

I think John Bolton is loving this. Venezuela won’t get the seat, Guatemala has already said it won’t accept Bolivia, which is Chávez’s second choice, and UN ambassadors (including Latin Americans) are getting annoyed at all the time this is taking. Since Venezuela has the fewest votes yet refuses to back down, it will get most of the blame for every day that a solution is not reached.

One solution that hasn’t been mentioned is to allow each country to take the seat for a year. Apparently that happened in 1960, when Poland and Turkey deadlocked for 52 rounds before reaching that compromise. At 41 rounds, this is now the third longest in UN history.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The end in sight

Another day of deadlock at the UN, where at least they waited until the afternoon to vote, thus wasting much less time. Current count is 36 rounds, with barely changing results (the last was 109-72).

But Venezuela and Guatemala have both agreed in principle to withdraw, and will meet tomorrow to find another country to support. I still figure Costa Rica is the most likely choice, with Uruguay second. It's hard to imagine the Bolivian bid going anywhere.


Will Venezuela withdraw?

More signs of Venezuela’s willingness to withdraw—its ambassador says the country is “exploring ways out.” Also see Ka’s discussion in comments to a previous post, where the Venezuelan government expressed the need for some vague conditions before it would withdraw, like having “dialogue” (conversaciones).

I had lost track, but there have been 35 rounds, and the UN is scheduled to begin again today. I get the impression that Chávez really wants out now, as the current situation works against him. Meanwhile, Evo Morales says it could be a candidate in place of Venezuela, but I would have to think that is a nonstarter.

The article quotes some Latin Americanists about the effect of this entire saga, and I must say I disagree with them. Similar to statements by President Chávez, the gist is that simply blocking the U.S. choice is a victory.

“This is like a boxing match. You have a heavyweight in the form of the U.S., you have a junior weight in the form of Venezuela, and the fact that Venezuela has lasted this long speaks tremendously to the kind of influence that they were able to generate,” said Miguel Tinker Salas, a Latin American studies professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.


“I think Chavez has achieved a lot to put Venezuela in a position of significant global leadership,” said Dan Hellinger, a political scientist at Webster University in St. Louis.

I don’t think these arguments work well. Chávez’s goal was to win, not simply to block the U.S. choice, and he spent a considerable amount of money to do so. His speech to the UN clearly hurt him, and I just don’t see that all this adds up to “significant global leadership.” With the secret vote, each government was able to vote its conscience, but did not flock to him. With anti-U.S. sentiment so strong right now, and with President Bush so incredibly unpopular abroad, for Chávez this represents a failure to establish himself as the voice of less developed countries.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The latest U.S.-Latin America conspiracy theory

The latest, and strangest, rumor flying around is that President Bush has bought a very large plot of land in Paraguay. Just google "bush paraguay" and see for yourself. Adam Isacson has a list of all the recent U.S.-Paraguay connections, including a recent visit by Jenna Bush.

The rumor was picked and really spread by Prensa Latina, which is Cuban and therefore highly biased (as is anything about Cuba coming from the U.S. government). It credits an Argentine online publication, Misiones On Line, for the original story. The spread of bizarre information via the internet is really interesting:

Las informaciones sobre el tema son escuetas dado que ninguna fuente oficial quiso confirmarla, empero, una fuente oficiosa confirmó a NEIKE que efectivamente el jefe de Estado norteamericano compró las tierras y su hija Jenna recorrerá el campo durante la visita que está realizando a Paraguay desde el pasado fin de semana.

The conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this one. Maybe he is planning to flee the U.S. because otherwise he'll tried for war crimes (as if Paraguay would protect him better than the United States?). Maybe it is a plan to invade Bolivia. Maybe the U.S. has run out of space in New Mexico to communicate with aliens, and so is looking elsewhere? (OK, I just made that one up, but I like it).


Illegal immigrants in each district

Via ImmigrationProf Blog: A new study estimating the number of illegal immigrants per congressional district. Its key findings:

In 2005, undocumented immigrants accounted for about 10 percent or more of the total population in only 27 (or roughly 6 percent) of the 435 congressional districts.

Conversely, undocumented immigrants comprised about 5 percent or less of the population in more than half (or 232) of all congressional districts in 2005.

Between 2000 and 2005, the undocumented population of 107 districts doubled, although most of these districts had relatively few undocumented immigrants to begin with.

More strikingly, 39 districts experienced either a decline or no change in their undocumented population between 2000 and 2005. Many of these districts had been major destinations for new arrivals in the past, but are becoming less so as immigrants move to other parts of the country.

There’s not much analysis, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Even though there may be only 27 districts where illegal immigrants comprise 10% of more of the population, there are many where the percentage growth has been quite high.

I see that in my own district, illegal immigrants are 3.6% of the total population, and the total number has doubled since 2000. My representative is Sue Myrick, a Republican who is running almost entirely on this issue. Unfortunately, she is also considered a shoo-in to win handily over Bill Glass.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Venezuela: saving face

When you're losing politically, sometimes the best strategy is to declare victory and move on. Hugo Chávez is showing some signs of this, by asserting that the UN vote really showed the United States a thing or two.

"We have taught the empire a lesson," Chavez told thousands of supporters in Valencia, an industrial city about 65 miles west of Caracas. Even if "Venezuela isn't able to enter the Security Council, we've done damage to the empire. That was our objective."

To my knowledge, this is the first time he's discussed possibly losing. Voting is scheduled to resume on Wed., so it is entirely possible we'll have a new candidate by then. Chávez stands to lose more than Guatemala if the voting goes on and on.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fainaru and Sánchez's The Duke of Havana

I just read The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream, by Steve Fainaru and Ray Sánchez. I enjoyed it immensely, and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in baseball and Cuba. It's now on my sidebar list.

It tells the story of Orlando “El Duque” Hernández, who defected from Cuba in late 1997, and who was a huge baseball star there. His brother, Liván, had defected the previous year, which created a stampede mentality as Cuba players sought to get out and sign huge deals with major league teams in the U.S. An almost hyperactive would-be agent followed the Cuban teams all over the place, trying to convince players to defect.

Ultimately, the Cuban government banished El Duque from all official levels of play, saying his association with such people (and with his brother) made him a bad example for revolutionary baseball—he was forced to play sandlot games. It was this that sparked the chain of events that would eventually bring him to the New York Yankees and the 1998 World Series (unfortunately, against the Padres). It’s a remarkable story.

Throughout, the book is highly critical of Cuban politics, especially the combination of total power and arbitrariness. With no explanation, your livelihood is taken away. Once you are labeled as a counter-revolutionary, then you are largely shunned and you have to struggle even harder to make ends meet. At the same time, however, it also highlights the shaky promise of major league baseball, and capitalism in general. Once spirited out of Cuba, the players would try out (Costa Rica was a popular destination—the players needed to establish residency in another country in order to be free agents). If they didn’t cut the mustard, then they were tossed aside, to the vagaries of a capitalist system they did not understand. If they weren’t good enough, then immediately no one cared whether they starved or not.

El Duque himself admitted that he did not defect because of dissatisfaction with life in Cuba—in fact, everyone discusses being poor, but this does not lead to a desire to leave their homes and families. El Duque’s family was very ambivalent about following him to the U.S. Instead, he left because he had been banned from baseball—if the Cuban government hadn’t gone that far, he might have stayed. The book ends with a discussion between several Cuban émigrés, and some of them wondered whether they would’ve been better off in Cuba.


Venezuela: Hub of Terrorism?

My student Alejandro sent me an interesting story from El Tiempo, which discussed a new report from the Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives to the effect that Venezuela is a terrorist threat because it is funneling terrorists up through the U.S.-Mexico border.

No matter what you think of Venezuela, I think we can all agree that if you make an allegation of that magnitude, then you need to provide some serious evidence. Or, well, maybe not. The burden of proof these days seems pretty minimal.

Here is the full text of the report, which argues, “[A]ccording to senior U.S. military and intelligence officials, Venezuela is emerging as a potential hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, providing assistance to Islamic radicals from the Middle East and other terrorists.” Venezuela has reportedly provided government IDs “to people who should not be getting them.”

What are the sources for these particular accusations, and the general idea that Venezuela is becoming a terrorist state?

--a 2003 article in U.S. News and World Report
--a 2003 article in the Financial Times
--a 2006 article in the Washington Times
--one anonymous interview

And that’s it.

In July, the State Department announced that Venezuela was “not cooperating fully” in the “war on terror,” and coined the “terrorist hub” phrase. It is based mostly on Chávez’s relationship with Iran, and that he questioned the validity of the UN resolutions on counterterrorism.

Cozying up to Iran, blundering around the UN, talking about pursuing a relationship with North Korea, are all examples of how Chávez seems inept and politically tone deaf (both domestically and internationally) with regard to foreign policy. But it is a very big leap to take that to the level of terrorist state.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Baseball and UNC Charlotte

We are not known as a baseball powerhouse, but Mets pitcher John Maine was a star here just a few years ago. What I didn't know is that one of the NLCS umpires, Field Culbreth, also played baseball here and graduated in 1986.

Even ESPN radio announcer Dave Campbell joked about it on a recent flight from New York to St. Louis, at one point asking Culbreth if there was a "little conflict of interest."

"Are you kidding?," Culbreth said. "When I was at UNC Charlotte, he wasn't even born yet."


More on Venezuela

Andres Oppenheimer asks whether Hugo Chávez has peaked, a question everyone is asking. There is one point in particular that I find compelling—whether Chávez can recover depends in part on the Bush administration. Will it try to beat him when he’s down, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? A juicy comparison to Hitler to give him a little boost?

[I must say I find his argument about Castro dying and Cuba becoming a quasi Venezuelan protectorate to be totally uncompelling and alarmist].

Meanwhile, later this morning the UN voting will begin yet again, as Venezuela adamantly refused to withdraw. Not a fun time to be a UN delegate.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No voting today

There won't be any voting today, in an effort to give Latin American delegates time to figure out a solution to the impasse. Venezuela says it would withdraw if the U.S. stopped pressuring countries to vote for Guatemala, but it is unclear how that would work in practice. The Guatemalan Foreign Minister said that Venezuela should withdraw because it is so far behind, but opened the door to both countries stepping back:

"We believe that the General Assembly should not be held hostage to the position of one country," Rosenthal said. "So there are limits of how far we're gong to try to carry this out, although I have to say that it isn't us that is holding the General Assembly hostage."

I think the further Venezuela pushes this, the more Chávez's image suffers.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Round 22 in the UN

After 22 rounds not much has changed. In number 22, it was Guatemala 102, Venezuela 77, and a whopping 12 abstentions (perhaps out of sheer exhaustion?). This is possibly just like AMLO's protest, where a principled stand has been taken (i.e. seeking the UN seat to counter U.S. hegemony) and so an exit strategy must allow for a save of face.

Clearly, neither country will win, and both know that.


Vote for Weeks

Vote for my Mom. The only caveat is that you have to live in the east county of San Diego.


UN voting resumes

Round 11: Guatemala 107, Venezuela 76, and 8 abstentions. Incidentally, all this can be viewed live at the UN website. They are now moving directly to a new round.

(Update at 1:30 p.m.) Round 14: 108 to 76. From Reuters:

Latin American nations were trying to convene a meeting later in the day in an effort to break the impasse but Venezuela was resisting a withdrawal of its nomination, diplomats said.

Hugo Chávez has to be seriously annoyed. Venezuela drew even at one point yesterday, but now the vote totals are barely changing.

(Update at 2:30 p.m.) Round 16: 108 to 76. Same thing.

I'd put Costa Rica as the front runner for the consensus candidate. South America is already represented by Peru, so there would be regional balance. In addition, Costa Rica is viewed as politically independent from the United States.


Can AMLO pull a Nixon?

This may be it for AMLO. He lost the election, lost support for the Mexico City protests, and now his favored candidate (for whom he campaigned) lost the governor's race in his home state, Tabasco. With 96% of the vote counted, he was 10 points down.

Óscar Luis Rodríguez, a longtime member of Mr. López Obrador’s party in Tabasco, put it more bluntly. “Andrés Manuel has lost credibility,” he told the daily newspaper El Sol. “He has lost respect. Here Andrés Manuel was born, and here he has been buried.”

There is also a good quote from Ricardo’s blog:

“Andrés Manuel López Obrador es como los elefantes. Se vino a morir a su tierra"

"Andrés Manuel López Obrador is like the elephants, he came to die on his own land"

Fernando Moreno Peña, from the PRI, as quoted by El Universal

At the very least, he’ll have to pull off a Nixon. After losing the presidential and then the CA gubernatorial elections, he famously told the press, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” And he was elected president six years later.


Monday, October 16, 2006

UN vote update

From MSNBC: Guatemala received 109 votes, 15 short of the necessary 2/3. Venezuela received 76, which is certainly less than it had been claiming. So there will be a second round.

Updating the update: In two subsequent rounds, Guatemala received 114 and then 116, while Venezuela went from 74 to 70.

Round 4: Guatemala 110, Venezuela 75. So the votes are not continuing to move in Guatemala's direction anymore.

Round 7: Now moving in Venezuela's direction. Guatemala 93, Venezuela 93, Mexico 1.

Round 10: Guatemala 110, Venezuela 77, 4 abstentions. Back to round 4 numbers!


UN vote

Today is the UN General Assembly's vote on the nonpermanent members of the Security Council. The vote begins at 10 am. Chile officially announced its intention to abstain, adding it to Peru and perhaps others as countries that don't want to be in the middle of a U.S.-Venezuela dispute.

There is little chance that either Venezuela or Guatemala will receive the necessary 2/3, though I will be very interested to see how many each gets. I'm sure Venezuela will require multiple rounds of voting before it would contemplate stepping aside for a new consensus candidate.

We just have to wait and see.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Baseball and comedy

Via Knuckle Curve: very funny segment from Conan O'Brien as he goes to the reenactment of a Civil War-era baseball game.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tasting Coca Sek

About 10 months after I wrote about it, I get tons of hits on my post about Coca Sek, the Colombian drink made from coca leaves. Now, finally, news from someone who has tried it--Adam Isacson at Plan Colombia and Beyond.

How to describe the taste? If you grew up in a temperate climate, did you ever jump into a pile of newly raked autumn leaves, only to get a bunch of dead, dried leaves in your mouth? The taste is sort of reminiscent of that, only with lots of added sugar.

Obviously, you would need a better ad campaign than that. So why would anyone drink it?

Not only did it keep me awake, it also made it a bit easier to string words together in Spanish.
If given a drug test, however, right now I would produce a big, huge "positive."

So don't start looking on the shelves of your local mini-mart or in campus vending machines just yet...


Paul Blustein's And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)

I read Paul Blustein’s And the Money Kept Rolling in (and Out) which is about the Argentine economic collapse. A former student, John Hyatt, had really liked it and I thought I would take a look. I enjoyed it, and it’s a quick read, a good way to get an overview of the Argentine implosion.

The book was billed as a critique of the IMF and, to a lesser extent, the Bush administration for the failure to address the situation adequately. Normally, such critiques center on the IMF’s penchant for forcing structural adjustment policies on developing countries. Blustein actually goes the opposite direction, and argues that the IMF should have pulled the plug on loans much earlier than it did, and should have been more insistent that Argentine policy makers abandon the dollar peg (aka “convertibility”) whereby one peso was worth exactly one dollar, and the government guaranteed that anyone with pesos could convert them to dollars at any time.

This conclusion left me a bit unsatisfied. The IMF has been justly criticized for its disastrous policies of the 1980s, when it paid too much attention to economic orthodoxy and almost none to the human cost associated with it. The fact that it granted several emergency loans to Argentina as a way to help Argentine policy makers fix their own problem doesn’t seem quite as sinful to me as he portrays. Obviously, things went very, very wrong, but even Blustein admits that many in the IMF simply wanted to make sure that whatever happened, the decision would be Argentina’s.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Hugo Chávez on love

You can always count on Hugo Chávez to come up with something new. Now he is the Barry White of Latin America, doing it all for love. He just wants a big national hug.

Newspaper ads by President Hugo Chávez's campaign include a solemn ''message of love'' for the Venezuelan people that reads: ``I have always done everything for love.''


In a speech on Thursday, Chávez reiterated that his political movement is about love. ''That love, what it has done is grow all these years,'' he said.


''There is still much to do. I need more time. I need your vote. Your vote for love,'' the Chávez ad concludes.

All these years in Political Science, we've focused on issues like power, ideology, institutions, etc. It never occurred to us that it's all just about love.


Venezuelan oil

Apropos our discussion in class on Venezuela, my student Sara asked me about Venezuelan oil. This got me thinking—way back in February, Hugo Chávez threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. Although he’s been talking oil deals with China and Iran, he hasn’t said any more about that, or at least not that I’ve seen. There was much talk about reducing our dependence on Venezuelan oil, but I wonder whether that has indeed happened. I'd even wager that the same people who decry Chávez's speech to the UN then unknowingly pull into Citgo and fill 'er up.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

The embargo

Yesterday in my Latin American Politics class, my student Michael asked about the tightening of sanctions against Cuba, and I had to admit I hadn’t seen the news. The government has created a new task force to crack down more on violations of sanctions, such as traveling to Cuba. What an utter and complete waste.

Acosta acknowledged that the agencies already work together on embargo enforcement. He said it was "an appropriate time to make it clear to the community that we seek to enforce this law aggressively."

The “appropriate time" seems to be when Republicans fear the upcoming election results, and want to be sure they shore up the anti-Castro Cuban American vote.

The rules, Acosta said, are meant to speed up a transition to democracy in Cuba.

I see. Does it matter that such rules have not achieved that goal now in over 40 years? I would love to hear precisely how the embargo will ever do anything except hurt Cubans and bolster Castro.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The UN vote

From the Miami Herald: another discussion of the UN race. Even more useful than the article is a link to a Security Council document, which is worth a look if you want to know how the voting works. Combined, the article and link yield the following:

--the voting is secret. I had been reading that in the media, but never with a specific reference. It is rule 92 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly.

--“informal” count puts Venezuela at 100 votes and Guatemala at 90. Last month, Guatemala claimed to have 110. These counts seem pretty meaningless, especially given the secret vote.

--Peru plans to abstain. In June, President García had said he could vote for Venezuela. He is currently in DC, however, and may be finding that the ire of the United States is not worth it at the moment, as he tries to get a free trade agreement set.

--this could take months. I had the image of delegates staying up until all hours, vote after vote, like the Vatican. I hadn’t known that the 1979 case, where Cuba and Colombia were deadlocked, and Mexico entered as a compromise choice, lasted over three months.

--consensus possibilities being floated are Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Panama.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The border fence

The Washington Post has a very interesting article about building a border fence. In particular, the small amount of fence that was built in San Diego had massive cost overruns and environmental disputes, and never even was completed. Further:

The fence in San Diego forced illegal traffic into the deserts to the east, leading thousands of migrants to their death. In response, the Border Patrol shifted thousands of agents to Arizona to deal with the flow. But many of those agents came from the San Diego and El Centro sectors. So once again, the number of crossers in San Diego and El Centro is increasing even though the two sectors are the most heavily fenced in the nation.

Skeptics include the head of the Border Patrol’s union, the Marine Corps, the Texas Border Sheriff’s Association, the City of El Paso, and many native Americans. As one sheriff in Texas put it:

"A few years ago, they installed cameras and said the cameras would solve things," he said. "Those cameras can pick up a tick on a cow's back. But when half the monitors are all busted like they are now, they don't work."

His prediction for how illegal immigrants would deal with the wall: "They will get ladders made out of mesquite and climb it."

What a policy success. Let's put something in place that even law enforcement thinks is a bad idea.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Columbus Day

There is no class today or tomorrow because of “Fall Break” here at UNC Charlotte. This coincides with Columbus Day, though I do not know if that coincidence is coincidental, so to speak, or not. I’ve worked all day and have been very productive, so the day off has been great.

At the same time, I much prefer thinking I got the time off to celebrate autumn rather than Columbus. When you really get down to it, there isn’t much to applaud. He had no idea where he was going, misnamed the people he found, happily brought some back as slaves, and was usually vicious when in charge of others. As is quite obvious, he didn’t discover anything. Check out Charles Mann’s book 1491 for an analysis of how complex native civilizations were.

This is one of those holidays that should be phased out or just renamed.


One word to describe the Padres' NLDS experience


Or maybe "Pujols."


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Who's a terrorist?

Especially in my Intro to Comparative Politics class, we spend some time trying to figure out what “terrorist” means. The NYT has a good profile of Luis Posada Carriles, who is implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane, in addition to a wide variety of other violent activities. Is bombing an airliner terrorist? Most people would probably agree that it is, yet the U.S. government (not only the Bush administration, but previous governments as well) does not want to call Posada a terrorist, because he was attacking a country we had labeled an enemy.

The sister of one of the victims sums it up:

“It feels like a double standard,” Ms. Nenninger, who was born in Guyana but has since become an American citizen, said in a telephone interview from New York. “He should be treated like bin Laden. If this were a plane full of Americans, it would have been a different story.”

Also, the National Security Archive has some declassified documents about the case. It's very sordid.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Venezuela's arms purchases

A student of mine, Alejandro, asked me about all the recent Venezuelan arms acquisitions. In particular, he wanted to know whether there was a threat that they could eventually get into the hands of groups in neighboring countries, especially in Colombia. I think the answer is yes.

I blogged about the big Venezuelan purchase of Russian guns and helicopters in July. In the meantime, the U.S. has charged that other Latin American countries are becoming concerned about the arms build-up. Hugo Chávez rejected that idea, calling on Colombian president Uribe to say something if he had such a concern. Despite sometimes open tension between the two, Uribe simply said that Colombia had good relations with Venezuela, wisely choosing not to stick himself in between the U.S. and Venezuela (earning Chávez’s thanks in the process).

Any country will be concerned if a neighbor buys large amounts of weapons and even discusses opening a factory to manufacture more. In terms of regional harmony, there is nothing to good to say about arms purchases. Really, there is almost nothing good to say about arms purchases in general, especially in Latin America where external threats are few and far between.

The main question is why Chávez is buying them. I don’t think he has territorial conquest in mind, and although his government has repressive tendencies, I don’t think he is amassing weapons to use against his own people. He does want to be viewed as a regional and global leader, so a beefed up military may contribute to that (he hoped to be at the forefront of a regional force).

But I’d be willing to bet that to some degree (how much is difficult to tell) he is genuinely concerned about the U.S. attempting to overthrow him, and also wants to play that up to garner more popular sympathy. The Bush administration has done just enough to give that very impression, which then feeds right into Chávez’s paranoia. If the U.S. were friendly, would Chávez buy those arms anyway? There is, of course, no way of knowing, but I do think our short-sighted foreign policy is contributing.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Immigration in Charlotte

I was one of several people to give a talk last night at the Levine Museum of the New South downtown about immigration to Charlotte. I was disappointed to see no press coverage in the Charlotte Observer, because the program really focused on breaking stereotypes (there was Spanish language press there, so hopefully it gets some attention in the Latino community). In fact, one of the audience members asked how we can get this sort of information out to the general public, when all we hear about is the negative side. I could only answer that we keep doing events, writing newspaper articles, going on radio, etc. until it begins to sink in.

The evening ended with the personal stories of three immigrants who had come to Alan Gordon (the moderator and head of the mayor’s immigration commission, who is also an immigration lawyer) for help. They were from Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, and El Salvador. Everyone was riveted with their stories, which included death threats, relatives being killed, and illegal crossing over the U.S.-Mexico border (all are now U.S. citizens).

What I found so poignant was the fact that all three professed great love of the United States and pride in being a citizen. The pride, however, was based not on stomping on other countries, being the strongest, or other sources of “patriotism” that unfortunately we see so much, but rather it was far more simple. The pride came from a deep love of opportunity, liberty, and hope. Sometimes talking about such values seems trite, but coming from recent immigrants it was really powerful. It made me wish more native U.S. citizens could understand patriotism in those terms rather than as a projection of U.S. power abroad.

Instead, we get people like a Republican developer in South Carolina who is running for Congress, using illegal immigration as his key issue. It’s now reported that he works as hard as other developers to get as many illegal immigrant workers as possible, by not forcing his contractors to verify the status of their workers. Sometimes the hypocrisy is tough to stomach.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Immigration law

President Bush signed the Homeland Security bill, which includes the border fence. The Mexican government (both outgoing Fox and incoming Calderón) have been highly critical, and Fox’s spokesman even correctly pointed out the fact that the bill doesn’t include sufficient funds to build it.

I’m giving a talk on immigration at the Levine Museum of the New South tonight for the start of a new exhibit on Latino immigrants. Another speaker will be Alan Gordon, head of the mayor’s Immigration Study Commission. The bill just signed is a perfect example of how the federal government has totally abdicated responsibility, leaving local leaders to scramble as they figure out how to deal with illegal immigration, which the current system (regardless of enforcement measures) actively encourages.

In that same bill there is $20 million to celebrate success in Iraq and Afghanistan, with national festivities. I suppose if you’re earmarking money for a celebration that won’t happen, you might as well include a fence that won’t work.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rumsfeld in Nicaragua

Amazingly, Donald Rumsfeld went to Nicaragua yet managed not to say anything either about Daniel Ortega or Hugo Chávez (with the exception of being critical of arms purchases). Chávez was clearly hoping to bait him, with public declarations that Rumsfeld was a “dog of war,” “little dog,” or “Mr. Dog.”

I have never been referred to as “Mr. Dog,” but I have to say my first reaction would be to laugh rather than to feel insulted. Maybe it’s just me.

Let’s see if this policy of silence holds out—for the most part, members of the Bush administration blurt something out every week or so. Chávez loves it when U.S. officials call him names, and plays it up for weeks, spending time to come up with his own nicknames in response. I have not heard Ortega talk about the U.S., but if someone likes Rumsfeld talks about him, you can bet he will use it to his advantage.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nicaragua canal

At the meeting of defense ministers in Managua, Nicaraguan President Bolanos pitched the idea of a Nicaraguan canal, which would cost $18 billion. It’s hard to see this happening, but it immediately called to mind the era when Nicaragua almost became the canal site. I talk about this in my U.S.-Latin American relations class, especially since you can draw lines from those events to the Sandinista government of the 1980s.

At the turn of the last century, the U.S. government was trying to decide on a canal site, and was taking a good look at Nicaragua. In 1901, under the guidance of a government appointed commission, the U.S. purchased exclusive rights to build (for $5 million). A French company in Panama wanted to sell its rights, so lobbied hard to switch that recommendation to Panama (surely greasing the wheels as they did).

More problematic was that the Nicaraguan president, José Santos Zelaya, resisted U.S. demands for things like full judicial control over the canal zone. Ultimately, Theodore Roosevelt was set on Panama. The U.S. would not forget Zelaya’s intransigence, and were further angered when he arrested and executed two U.S. citizens plotting against his government. Through pressure from the U.S., Zelaya was forced out of office, and soon U.S. marines would arrive to occupy the country off and on until 1933, at which time they would help install Somoza as head of the National Guard. Those marines were also the source of nationalist resentment, the symbol of which was Augusto Sandino, whose name would be used by the guerrillas who would overthrow the younger Somoza in 1979.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Winning the division

Yesterday the Padres won ugly (with Trevor almost blowing it) but ugly or not, we won the division. In fact, over the past ten years the Padres have won the division more times (four) than any other team.

We’re playing the Cardinals at home, starting tomorrow. Fortunately our home record improved a lot over the past few months, after a horrible start. This is a rematch, as last year the Cardinals swept us. This year, however, everything is up for grabs. The Cardinals have been falling apart, the Mets have not looked good and lost Pedro Martinez, and we’ve dominated the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Padres are playing pretty well and have no major injuries.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Change in ICC policy

I find very little to feel good about in the recently passed defense bill. One small provision, however, does mark a change in U.S. policy toward Latin America. The U.S. will no longer punish countries that don’t sign waivers for the International Criminal Court by denying them military training. I’ve blogged about this before. Apparently there are still some punishments in place, such as denying financing for defense purposes and some USAID programs. It remains to be seen whether Latin American leaders resent those measures as much.

This does not mean I feel great about U.S. military training. In fact, a few years ago I published an article critical of it. But this policy was worse, because democratically elected Latin American leaders viewed it (correctly) as blackmail. As such, it was a prime example of clueless policy making that created unnecessary tension. This particular policy was especially ridiculous because the U.S. military (specifically Southcom) opposed it, even though it was intended to protect soldiers.


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