Thursday, May 31, 2007

Colombia and Bolivia

Here are two stories that contradict popular perceptions about economies in Latin America, albeit for different reasons.

The first is a Business Week story on Colombia (thanks to Mike, my resident gung-ho capitalist) which pokes fun at the stereotypes people in the U.S. have about the country. For example, the reporter’s taxi driver in the U.S. quoted Scarface when he learned where he was going. An anecdotal sign that conditions in Colombia have improved is that the famous “bulletproof tailor” has seen his business decline drastically. The story is a bit breathless (always beware of references to economic “miracles”) but at least a reminder that Colombia isn’t simply a black hole. I assume it was published to help push Congress to approve a free trade agreement.

The second, via MABBlog, the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom has a discussion of Bolivia that you wouldn’t expect. It rates Bolivia relatively low (25th out of 29 in the region) but that is mostly for corruption, which obviously predates the current government. For all the wild talk about Evo Morales, crazed leftists, etc. here was what a conservative think tank has to say about the investment climate he is presiding over:

Bolivia rates highly in fiscal freedom and solidly in freedom from government and monetary freedom. A very low income tax rate and moderately low corporate tax rate give it an enviable fiscal freedom score. Its freedom from government rating is also relatively positive despite a large amount of government spending. Inflation is not high, although prices are unstable and the government imposes de facto price controls on most utilities.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Latin America blogs

If anyone is interested in more blogs related to Latin America, I would like to point out two from graduate students. Russ at Rulablog is a Political Science graduate student at Chapel Hill (so of course he gets my immediate approval) and Ben at Latinoamérica is starting an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the Institute for the Study of the Americas.

I really like the ways in which blogging connects professors, students (both grad and undergrad) and interested members of the general public, in a number of different countries.


RCTV aftermath

My last post on the RCTV case generated more comments in a single post than I think I’ve ever had, and there is a lot of food for thought. Today’s Associated Press story shows how confused the situation is.

--"I recommend (Globovision) take a tranquilizer, that they slow down, because if not, I'm going to slow them down," Chavez said in a speech.
I don’t know how to interpret this other than a demand for self-censorship and threat of retaliation if the demand isn’t met.

--Information Minister Willian Lara on Monday accused Globovision of encouraging an attempt on Chavez's life by broadcasting the chorus of a salsa tune — "Have faith, this doesn't end here" — along with footage of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.
I haven’t seen the clip, but it definitely sounds fishy. This does not constitute a justification for censorship, but it seems irresponsible given all the tension.

--While Chavez made his speech Tuesday, thousands of students and opposition supporters marched to the offices of the Organization of American States, where they urged the body to take a stand chanting, "This is a dictatorship!"
If thousands of people spontaneously march in opposition to the government and are free to do so, then you’re not talking about a dictatorship.

--"RCTV was rubbish. Its programming was horrible, banal. Not even (the opposition) watched it," said Elena Pereira, an English professor at a state-funded university. "They want a reason to overthrow the government."
Everything I’ve seen says the opposite—many people loved it. Maybe it was rubbish, but people like rubbish.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mexico spying

The LA Times has a disturbing article about how the U.S. government is funding a program to enhance Mexico’s domestic spying capabilities. President Calderón is currently pushing for a constitutional change to allow the government to eavesdrop without getting approval from a judge.

Even worse:

The modernization program is described in U.S. government documents, including the contract specifications, reviewed by The Times.

They suggest that Washington could have access to information derived from the surveillance. Officials of both governments declined to comment on that possibility.

But the contract specifications say the system is designed to allow both governments to "disseminate timely and accurate, actionable information to each country's respective federal, state, local, private and international partners."

The U.S. government can then use that information any way it wants, because the 4th amendment to the constitution won’t apply if the surveillance is carried out in a foreign country by a foreign government.


Monday, May 28, 2007


RCTV in Venezuela has closed and the debate rages. Both sides argue vehemently while pretty much ignoring or sidestepping contrary evidence. I wish I could sell self-righteousness because I would make a bundle. Would that be consistent with 21st Century Socialism?

Some points to think about:

This is a straightforward “freedom of the press” issue
--No. Even Chávez critics agree the station openly supported the overthrow of an elected president, so let’s drop that façade. It is therefore different and not just the closure of a station because it criticizes the government. However, Chávez clearly hopes to intimidate his critics and this move will lead to more self-censorship, at least on TV.

RCTV would’ve automatically survived in the U.S. or other places with more freedom of the press
--No. Give me a break. However, it wouldn’t have been shut down simply on the whims of the president (though unfortunately with the Patriot Act I guess anything is possible). Accountability is absent here—an appeal was heard by the Supreme Court, but it has already been packed by Chávez loyalists. The appeal is in fact continuing, but the court did not accept the argument that RCTV should remain on the air in the meantime.

There is no freedom of the press in Venezuela.
--No. There is strident print press which criticizes Chávez all the time. However, TV is getting softer and softer.

The outcry about RCTV is a U.S. effort to destabilize Venezuela. Chávez recently claimed this would include the infiltration of Colombian paramilitaries.
--This one is plain nutty.

According to the Venezuelan government, this is just a “regulatory” matter and has nothing to do with politics. As Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S. says, “While the decision has been distorted to make it seem like Venezuela’s government is closing a television station, this is simply a regulatory matter.”
--Oh, good, I had thought they were actually closing a station and it had something to do with the 2002 coup. Thanks for clearing that up.


Sunday, May 27, 2007


Former Argentine President Carlos Menem gave an interview, looking very snazzy in a checked suit. Remember, Menem bowed out of the presidential race in 2003 against Kirchner instead of going through a runoff, which he would’ve lost. Some highlights:

  • Kirchner will end up “in jail or in the psycho ward”
  • His advice to Kirchner is to “be a man of principles, of ideas, and of convictions” (given it is Menem saying this, I won’t even bother with a sarcastic response)
  • Hillary Clinton is “one of the ten best lawyers in the United States
  • And, in the TMI category, when asked if he takes Viagra: “Everyone takes Viagra now…I function very well”


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some thoughts on immigration debate

I followed the immigration debate this week, but I have to admit that gradually I started tuning it out. There is only so much hysteria I can take, not to mention contradictory arguments (e.g. it will hurt Asians! It’ll help Asians!). What bothers me the most is that opponents—whether they come from the left or the right—generally offer no alternatives and often do not recognize that in a democracy you have no choice but to negotiate with people whose views are very different from your own.

If you think the bill has merit but some problems, then suggest specific ways it can be improved, accompanied by a an explanation of how you’d get the votes for those changes. If you think the bill should be killed, then suggest specific ways that a new bill could be constructed and how you’d get the votes.

The worst outcome is no bill and no concrete suggestions (vague pronouncements like “secure the border” are not valid suggestions). We’ll get more hot air and uninformed yelling for another year while people suffer further discrimination and die in greater numbers.

Maybe I’m just cranky and need some more coffee.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Latin American baseball

Jonathan at Global Baseball discusses baseball in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Beware that the latter includes a photo of shirtless, beer-drinking backpackers. (Note to self: drinking beer and painting your chest can count as field research).

Coincidentally, La Profesora just went to a baseball game in Mexico, and includes video. Between innings entertainment looks like a combination of Milwaukee’s sausage race and Hooters.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Temporary workers and Mexico

The NYT has a great story about how corruption in Mexico colors the current H2A (temporary agricultural worker) program. Recruiters charge around $600 and a union organizer was killed in Monterrey for trying to eliminate the graft. Since the H2A program involves fewer than 40,000 workers annually, the potential increase to hundreds of thousands poses a real challenge to Mexican institutions. I haven’t seen anything in the current proposal that provides assistance to Mexico (not to mention Central America and the Caribbean) to coordinate and organize such a large number of workers, which will be a constant process.

Incidentally, the problems of corruption and mistreatment of migrant workers in Mexico are highlighted really well in the novel Bracero by Eugene Nelson. It's been long out of print but definitely deserves new life.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Threats and bluffs

A close ally of President Uribe has said that if the U.S. does not pass a free trade agreement, then Colombia will withdraw from Plan Colombia and possibly move closer to Canada and the European Union. Uribe himself said he would not accept being treated like a pariah, and "take that message back to your Congress” (i.e. “put that in your pipe and smoke it!”).

This brings to mind Hugo Chávez’s multiple threats to stop exporting oil to the U.S. Other countries don’t have the refining capacity for Venezuela’s heavy crude, so he cannot carry out that threat, at least not for years. He has announced plans to sell off U.S. refineries and build new ones across Latin America, but then again he announces all kinds of plans.

In short, neither Uribe nor Chávez can currently afford to take the actions they’re discussing (though global demand for oil gives Chávez the better chance). On the other hand, they are examples of a new assertiveness in Latin America, even with U.S. allies like Colombia. The gaping void that characterizes U.S. policy toward Latin America is fostering greater efforts to pull away, even if it can’t be achieved quickly.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The immigration debate got nasty very quickly

This is John McCain making fun of Mitt Romney on immigration:

"In the case of Gov. Romney, you know, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes, because it's changed in less than a year from his position before," McCain said. "And maybe his solution will be to get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn. I don't know."

Meanwhile, the bill is being torpedoed from all directions. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) called it "pure unadulterated amnesty." Aside from whether it should be labeled amnesty or not, his comment did make me wonder what "adulterated amnesty" would mean. And, of course, there are lots and lots of references to "Americans" and what they want, each Senator claiming to have divined their collective desires. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) argued, and I am not making this up, that the bill would make us just like Kuwait.


Bachelet's speech

Boz has links to President Bachelet’s speech yesterday. The two points she had were that Chile’s surplus should be aimed at social spending, and so she announced a large spending increase ($750 million) and that political debate needs to be toned down. The right, of course, immediately criticized the spending, while members of the Concertación gave what seemed like fairly lukewarm praise. From Sergio Bitar (PPD):

La Presidenta no lo ha pasado bien este tiempo. Acá hay un camino, hay que ayudarla y apoyarla por el bien de Chile. Es nuestra obligación, como presidentes de partido, mostrarle unidad al país.

In other words, we ought to support the president because we need to show unity, not because we think she has good plans or is doing a good job. But let’s wait and see what the country thinks once some new poll numbers are out.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Economic development in Mexico and immigration reform

I had wondered whether the bill addressed economic development in Latin America, and in fact it does so for Mexico in Section 645. It is framed, however, in terms of “economic freedom,” as in “Strengthened economic freedom in Mexico can be a major influence in mitigating illegal immigration.” Study after study, however, have shown that neoliberal reforms and NAFTA have increased illegal immigration.

The suggested solution is a bit puzzling. It calls for coordination between universities in the U.S. and in Mexico “to provide state-level coordination of rural poverty programs in Mexico.” I am not sure, but I guess this is an effort to avoid coordinating with the Mexican government at any level. But since universities have no authority over poverty programs, how can they do any coordinating?

Finally, if I understand it correctly, one of the last lines is pretty galling:

LIMITATIONS- Grant funds awarded under this section may not be used for activities, responsibilities, or related costs incurred by entities in Mexico.

So, we have this program to fight poverty in Mexico. We do not want the Mexican government involved, and we won’t pay a dime to any Mexican entity that gets involved.


Text of the Senate immigration proposal

Here is the text of S. 1348. It is 790 pages. It's interesting that no one has given it a sponsor-based nickname, though its official name is "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.


Coca cultivation in Peru

Via Plan Colombia and Beyond: the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a statement that coca cultivation in Peru increased 17% from 2005 to 2006. After mentioning how evil cocaleros are, it ends with the following statement:

The Alternative Development program offered assistance to farmers who accepted programmed eradication. This direct link between alternative development and programmed eradication has proven to be a major success and model for subsequent alternative development project implementation.

Exactly what examples of “major success” do we have? If there are successes, then everyone has been very good at hiding them. The press release chooses not to mention that people in the U.S. keep taking cocaine in large quantities. It’s just easier to blame the Peruvians.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bachelet numbers

The day before her second State of the Union speech, La Tercera released a poll with the following bad news for President Bachelet:

  • 39% of people in Santiago (which is over 1/3 of the total population, and the part affected by Transantiago) think she is moving the country in the right direction
  • 54% of people in the regions think so
  • 53% of the entire country does not like the direction the government in general is taking
  • 33% of the country currently supports the government in general
  • Her overall approval rating is 40%


Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Senate proposal and "amnesty"

Those opposed to the Senate immigration proposal use the word “amnesty” endlessly and pejoratively. We are letting lawbreakers off the hook, the argument goes. Since amnesties are a prominent public policy issue in Latin America, I just grabbed the textbook I use in my Latin American politics class for a basic definition: “accused persons are legally forgiven by the government and are thereby made immune from prosecution” (Charles Blake, Politics in Latin America, p. 449).

In Latin America, this refers most prominently to members of the military who committed crimes (or were alleged to have committed crimes) in times of dictatorial rule but who are not put on trial after the return of elected civilian governments. The goal of this concession is to appease the military in the context of a transition from authoritarian rule, or in the Chilean case the idea was (and is) not to overturn the amnesty the military had already given itself. [I won’t even get into whether this strategy is effective, desirable, etc.. for the purposes of this post!]

In statements and interviews, President Bush and others say the Senate proposal (and others like it) does not constitute an amnesty because there is no automatic path to citizenship. In other words, formerly illegal immigrants will be paying their debt to society by paying a fine, leaving the country to apply for a visa, etc. John Kyl (R-AZ) refers to it as “parole” and not amnesty.

Since the immigrant will not be deported, which would follow from current law, opponents call it an amnesty. This is not illogical: in the Latin American case military officers are also immune from current law—they, like immigrants in this case, are treated as a group separate from everyone else.

Unlike those officers, however, immigrants have to pay a fine and do other things that follow from that admission of having violated immigration law. They are not deported or jailed, but neither are they simply immediately “legally forgiven” or “immune from prosecution.” For this reason, I would argue that this is not amnesty, but rather a reduction of the consequences.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Reporting immigration reform

Just a few short hours after the Senate’s immigration plan was announced, the Associated Press is already screwing up the facts. This article is a heart wrenching account of the Mexicans who have been waiting patiently for a temporary worker visa, and now are deeply disappointed about the current legislation. The reporter, who was in Monterrey, apparently told them there was no temporary worker program, and then got quotes as they expressed disbelief. Based on those quotes, she seems even to have told them the only way to work in the U.S. was to try and become a citizen. Check out this first dramatic sentence:

The U.S. Congress' immigration plan frustrated millions of poor and uneducated migrant hopefuls in Mexico who have been holding tight to President Bush's promise that they could one day apply for temporary visas to get a glimpse of the American dream.

The outrage! The problem? The reporter was wrong, as the legislation includes a large temporary worker program. I hope she had fun crushing their dreams and stoking their anger for her big scoop.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Immigration proposal in the senate

A deal has been reached in the Senate. It appears to be along the lines of what had been reported yesterday. The goal is to have debate and a vote before Memorial Day. I want to see the actual text of the bill (and I will post a link once they have it--apparently it is 380 pages) but here are some of the details that have been announced:

  • those who crossed into the U.S. illegally before January 1 could get a visa to remain here legally; within 8 years the head of household would need to return to the country of origin to apply for legal permanent residence
  • 400,000 slots for temporary workers, on 2 year contract renewable 3 times, but with no avenue for citizenship, and the person would have to leave the country each time to renew
  • a point system to determine who should be granted green cards (they did grant points for people who performed low-skilled but high demand jobs)
  • reduction of the number of family members who can come
  • there will be security triggers before any of this happens
Give the Senate credit. I was certainly dubious that even a workable proposal would be constructed. Let the debate begin.


Raúl Castro must have super powers

It seems the Pentagon has been asking that U.S. officers be allowed to talk to their Cuban counterparts, but keeps getting denied. The logic of the Bush administration seems to be that if you know nothing about another country, the best option is to avoid any contact that might provide you information. It is nicer, I guess, just to make up your own.

But the stated reason for the denial? It seems that Raúl Castro has super powers, because he gives his military intelligence officers abilities beyond mortal men. If even the most hardened members of the U.S. military gets near one of them, they go limp and spill their guts:

But further contacts between the U.S. and Cuban military have long been resisted by the U.S. government in part because of fears that Cuban intelligence officers would take advantage of U.S. military officers, said Roger Noriega.

Noriega, who until 2005 was assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, said at the conference he had ``killed that idea more than once.''


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hugo Chávez debate

I recently received the Winter 2007 issue of the Latin American Studies Association Forum, which is available online. It includes five short articles on Venezuela, from strong support to criticism. They're worth a look, as they provide reasoned, non-vitriolic analyses about Chávez's domestic programs (and how to measure their impact) and why people love him or hate him.


Points and triggers

The latest Republican debate saw most candidates happy not to contradict the restrictionist messages of Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter. Ironically, though, the candidates are constantly invoking Ronald Reagan’s name on various issues, even though in 1986 Reagan signed IRCA into law, which legalized undocumented immigrants and now is derided.

Meanwhile, in the real world there was real debate in the Senate. Harry Reid has postponed the vote again, this time until Monday. From the NYT:

The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a probationary ''Z visa'' and -- after paying fees and fines of up to $5,000 and returning to their home countries -- ultimately try for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. The process couldn't begin until border security improvements and a high-tech worker identification program were completed.

A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called ''triggers'' had been activated. And all but the highest-skilled temporary workers would have to return home after work stints of two or three years, with barely any opportunity to apply for permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens.

Only 10,000 green cards annually would be available for guest workers, and they would be awarded on a so-called ''points system'' that favors higher-skilled and better-educated immigrants.

There would also be strict limits on bringing your family to the U.S. once you became a U.S. citizen. One problem is that recent proposals seem to offer a view of the world as we wish it to be, and not as it is. We want to pretend that we don’t really need unskilled labor. We prefer wealthier people who bring money, education, and technical expertise with them, but we really want to ignore the guy who is laying our carpet. Even if we let that guy become a citizen, we want to pretend that he doesn’t need to have his family with him. Only wealthy people really need their families, right? After all, wealthier people have more points.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The pope in Brazil

Although the pope’s visit to Brazil was intended to stem the religious shift away from Catholicism (in Brazil and in Latin America more generally) it has simply highlighted why that shift is taking place. Before he was chosen, many in the developing world had hoped the new pope would be one of them (a front runner was in fact Brazilian) but instead got another aged white European.

Since his visit began, he made clear that he disliked just about everything he saw. Boz has the alphabetical list: “abortion, authoritarianism, capitalism, contraception, divorce, "ethical relativism", gay marriage, hedonism, indigenous religions, liberation theology, Marxism and Pentecostalism (along with Catholics who are too much like Pentecostals).” Add to that the media and popular culture in general.

He did canonize a Brazilian saint, in what Experimentador reasonably labels “Papal clientelism,” but that excitement wears off quickly. I could imagine a Latin American pope eventually restoring some energy to Latin American Catholicism. Having an 80 year old German give lectures about how horrible everything is in the country and region, however, is not likely to excite and invigorate people.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Mexican rodeo hubbub

I can think of a number of reasons why I might be concerned if someone living near me wanted special use permits to hold some sort of rodeo: noise, traffic and litter come to mind. But if that event has a Latino theme, then suddenly the issue shifts and broader suspicion takes hold. Such is the case in eastern Union County, southeast of Charlotte.

A farmer (with the improbable name of “Pinky”) sees profit with the growth of the Latino—particularly Mexican—population: “It would be a Mexican-inspired rodeo of sorts, with Mexican music and dancing, a petting zoo, and possibly horse racing.” One opponent filmed the open house he held to show how his plans would bring destruction and mayhem. At the Board of Adjustments meeting, she showed the video, and when it focused in on a sign in Spanish, she said, “I don’t know what that says.” I suppose she thought it might say, “For Al Qaeda sign up here,” but instead it was an advertisement to buy sandwiches. There were also menacing children being pushed in strollers by their parents.

This story is akin to restaurants accepting pesos, the Latin American-themed mall, and any number of other projects popping up around the country. Capitalism is bringing change, in a way that makes some people uncomfortable. Some see scary sandwich signs while others see dollar signs.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Via Freakonomics Blog: a study showing that college students rate their mother as the most important and influential person in their lives. 40% said their mother was that important. Only 25% said dad was. We dads try, but I guess we’re just not moms.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Disagreement and delay over an as yet unreleased proposal

Harry Reid has pushed the deadline for debate on immigration legislation a bit, to Wednesday. He received a letter from Senators McCain and Specter (ImmigrationProf Blog has a PDF) asking for more time, and informal warnings that if he pushed forward with last year’s McCain-Kennedy bill, that Republicans would filibuster it. Yes, that’s right, many (like McCain himself) would filibuster the exact same bill they voted for (and in his case, co-sponsored!) last year.

Apparently there are closed door meetings (the media calls them “secret,” which makes it sound like they have dead drops, codes, and safe houses—imagine Ted Kennedy doing all that) going on, with senators on both sides and Michael Chertoff representing the White House. I wonder, though, if this is happening, why Reid has so many ants in his pants. If there is in fact some possibility of coming up with a proposal, then give them a few more days.

All this drama, of course, is just to introduce a proposal. Then the real circus will begin.


Friday, May 11, 2007

The chances for immigration reform

The Senate debate over reform has stalled so badly that Harry Reid is now just reintroducing McCain-Kennedy, this time without McCain around. McCain’s presidential run means he is kowtowing to what he perceives to be the desires of the Republican base (though in fact it is far from clear that the base really is restrictionist—there have been some interesting stories about the evangelical community favoring reform).

Within a few short months, a remarkable transformation has taken place. When the Democrats gained their congressional majorities, everyone fell over themselves to assert that immigration reform could finally occur. Now, “Senate Republicans, even those who helped craft last year's bill, say the political environment has shifted decisively against that measure and toward a tougher approach.”

One change is that President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act and then came out with an unrealistic reform proposal, thus signaling to Republicans that it was fine not to compromise much. Another change is the introduction of immigration into high profile stories like the Virginia Tech murders and the Fort Dix plot. Get “tough” on immigration, the argument goes, and those events would not have occurred—with fewer immigrants (and, given the tone of current proposals, without families of immigrants) we’d be so much happier. Lastly, even this early the Republican race has soured real debate. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter are one trick ponies and live to restrict immigration, so even mainstream candidates seem to feel they have to do the same.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Padre fan with an attitude

This is my daughter Julia. She hasn't said so, but I think she's pretty upset that in the big match-up yesterday between Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, the Padres' bullpen couldn't hold the lead.

Update: It might also be time to dump David Wells.


Negroponte's visit

In a previous post, I said I’d like to be a fly on the wall when Negroponte and President Correa met. Turns out I would’ve been one really bored fly, and that’s for the better. It was a proper, polite, and seemingly dull exchange of views, and as such barely makes the radar of the U.S. media. They agreed on the need to extend the ATPDEA. Correa laid out his opposition to issues like a Ecuador-U.S. free trade agreement, and in response Negroponte listened and did no sermonizing.

Oh wait, this is that thing, what’s it called? Yeah, diplomacy. After all these years I’d forgotten.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Finding AMLO

Bit by bit, I’ve been putting labels on old posts so that I can have a full list to put on the blog. It reminded me how big the story about López Obrador was last summer, which then made me wonder what he’s been up to.

The answer is that he’s on the road. He was recently in Oaxaca, espousing anti-corruption to the PRD. He is also giving TV addresses and helping to make films about Mexican poverty.

I’m not sure how well his “presidente legítimo” shtick goes over with anyone but his supporters. Regardless, his grassroots approach is heartening for the continuing development of the imperfect process of Mexican democratization. The “massive disruption” approach clearly didn’t work. If I had to bet, I’d say he’s dead politically as a candidate. But as I wrote last year, maybe he can be the Mexican Nixon. This is similar to what Nixon did after losing the gubernatorial election in 1962—he laid low and campaigned tirelessly for his party, waiting for his comeback chance.

AMLO’s post-election actions facilitated a better legislative relationship between the PAN and the PRI, and now Calderón is popular (as Boz notes, he currently has 65% approval), so the PRD has taken a political hit. When Nixon went into the political wilderness, Kennedy and the Democratic Party were also riding high. He waited patiently and obviously the political context changed drastically.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Negroponte in Ecuador

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when Rafael Correa and John Negroponte chat on Wednesday. Negroponte is also going to Colombia, Panama, and Peru. According to the State Department press release, “Deputy Secretary Negroponte will also highlight the President's commitment to advance the cause of social justice in the Western Hemisphere.” The ironies and contradictions of this claim, especially when transmitted by John Negroponte, are too many to mention.

Nonetheless, I don’t care so much why he’s going, or what he’ll claim. More important is that the U.S. government is willing to visit a country whose president has been very critical and who has enacted policies (most notably the end of the Manta air base lease) that the Bush administration doesn’t like. Even just the appearance of engagement is an improvement (at this point, the bar is pretty low).

I do wish, though, that the government would send someone other than Negroponte.


Monday, May 07, 2007

El Salvador

Via Tim’s El Salvador Blog: The Salvadoran government is about to start its first census since 1992. All current population estimates are based on projections from that 15 year old census.

This could have important connotations for understanding Salvadoran immigration. Although there will be a question about immigration in the census, the news story does not indicate whether the government will try to count the number of Salvadorans living abroad, especially in the U.S. Authorities are assuming, however, that they will count fewer people than projections would have expected. Most estimates I’ve seen are that 25-30% of the Salvadoran population lives in the U.S.

The movement of people back and forth between the two countries is extensive, so all the more important to get some solid numbers. For years, the U.S. government has deported Salvadorans by flying them back. I’ve heard unofficially that there is now a planeload every day after the immigration crackdowns of the past year. In fact, the right commonly threatens that the U.S. will deport more people (which would then decrease remittance income) if the FMLN wins the presidency. It is a powerful scare tactic.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jason Sokol's There Goes My Everything

Check out Jason Sokol’s There Goes my Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975, which I put on the sidebar. The book can wander a bit at times, but provides some interesting insights into the contradictions, evolutions, and struggles within white communities during that era. I liked the fact that it made me view a widely debated topic in a slightly different light.

Take, for example, poor whites in New Orleans. Wealthier whites announced they would not accept integrated schools, and would pull their kids out and put them in private schools. There were some white families who crossed vicious picket lines to take their children to school because they did not have the luxury of paying private tuition (it should be noted that some—though not all--of them would have done so had they possessed the means). Doing so also took an enormous toll of them, even physically.

Of course, racial problems persist here in the South (though these days when you look especially at immigration issues, I don’t think they’re necessarily much worse than anywhere else) but another theme is how desegregation occurred much quicker than most people thought. Some whites barely changed their views, but many others quickly adjusted, even though a few years earlier most people thought Jim Crow would last forever because it was so embedded legally and culturally. They had been taught not to question it.

The book ends with a discussion, already raised by civil rights leaders 40+ years ago, that segregation is a fundamentally white problem. Achieving change required white southerners to internalize that it was simply unacceptable to claim that racial discrimination was consistent with democracy, and to argue that African Americans preferred the status quo (Sokol does a nice job of showing how whites would say “their” blacks were perfectly happy). Accepting these things also could even entail a certain catharsis: “The civil rights movement was about breaking down physical and legal barriers, but it also allowed white southerners to reimagine their lives and worlds” (p. 321).

Along those lines, I would’ve liked to see a more detailed discussion about how all this related to the white southerner president who did so much for the civil rights movement. I am waiting (and will have to keep waiting for years, I think) for Robert Caro’s new installment of his compelling biographies of Lyndon Johnson (I loved Master of the Senate).


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mayo and Adidas

Via LatinoPundit: Adidas has a line of Cinco de Mayo gear, including shoes (for about $70) once again proving that people will buy any junk that is offered them. Fidel never showed up for May Day, but wears Adidas in just about every photo that’s been released. Somebody needs to hook him up with a Cinco de Mayo track top to give him some variety.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Our global race for brains

The immigration legislation clock is ticking away. Harry Reid has set May 14 (just one week from Monday) as the day for debate to begin, and the Senate has yet to come up with a bill.

I had argued in the past, as had many people, that President Bush needed to get more actively involved if he really wanted reform to get passed. What perhaps should’ve been more obvious is that when President Bush gets involved in something, it tends to get worse. In this case, the White House foray into immigration reform seems to have made consensus more difficult, as its proposal only wants to let in people with money. He also does not want your family to come if you are an unskilled worker. Temporary workers could only do so if they had a certain (unspecified) amount of money.

Leading these efforts in the Senate is John Cornyn, who doesn’t want more family members because they do not contribute to, and I am not making this up, “our global race for brains.” If only that race also applied to our elected officials.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fujimori in Santiago

Former Peruvian President Fujimori is denying that he plans to seek asylum at the Japanese Embassy. Rumors got going when he moved into an apartment closer to the embassy. A Chilean judge is expected to make a decision about him this month, so it is not implausible that in case of an order for extradition to Peru he’d rush to the embassy.

The reporter got the story when Fujimori was at the store.

"They say that today I was close to the (Japanese) embassy, but I wasn't," said Fujimori, who spoke to Reuters in his car after emerging from a shopping mall in Santiago. "I was doing my shopping in the supermarket."

It seems so strange. If you go to the mall in Santiago, or maybe even at stores around the Japanese Embassy (which is in Providencia) you may see Alberto Fujimori. This is a former president, responsible for dissolving the legislature, blackmailing the opposition, embezzling money, human rights abuses, etc., etc. But you may see him in the frozen foods aisle.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The effect of immigration rallies

Something has been nagging me the past few days, as I’ve been reading about the immigration marches. Marc Cooper writes that last year the rallies “shook the political establishment.” An Op-Ed in the LA Times says they represented “a kick to the political cojones.” At yesterday’s rallies there were such signs as “The Sleeping Giant Woke Up Forever.” There are many such examples.

I am sympathetic to many of their demands, but as I read about how monumental the rallies were, it just seemed so much like wishful thinking. In the past year, nothing has been shaken up, or the shaking has been negative, as with the Hazleton case and other local efforts targeting undocumented immigrants. The most notable change was that the main restrictionist voices were Republican, and they lost their congressional majorities. That result, however, had almost nothing to do with immigration at all.

The organizing itself, however, is positive. At the very least, it could constitute a nascent political movement, but currently it does not seem coherent enough to influence policy very much. There’s a good Op-Ed in the Chicago Sun-Times about how the movement lacks a leader, has failed to build on momentum, shows disagreement on tactics, and can’t agree on how to approach legislation like STRIVE. The rallies are certainly positive, but I don’t think they are affecting much yet. I’d like to see studies about the ways in which policy makers changed their views as a result of them.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bank of the South: vamos a ver

Celebrating May Day, Hugo Chávez announced that Venezuela is severing ties with the World Bank and IMF. President Correa of Ecuador has also said he will cut ties to the IMF, and Daniel Ortega is aiming for the same.

The question is whether the proposed “Bank of the South” can get off the ground and become an alternative to those institutions. In March, the foreigner ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Venezuela put together the structure, with plans for a first loan (to Bolivia) later in the year. Brazil has expressed interest but has not yet committed.

Obviously, we’ll just have to see how it works in practice. Can it generate enough capital to replace U.S.-dominated institutions? Will more countries sign on? Will it be multilateral, or primarily a Venezuelan affair? Would it loan to countries with governments opposed to Chávez? Can it do any worse than the IMF?


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