Monday, June 30, 2008

McCain and the "c" word

Comprehensive, that is (get your minds out of the gutter!). For all the self-labeled "straight talk," McCain is doing pretty much what you would expect of a presidential candidate. During the primaries, he distanced himself from his own legislation (especially because it has the word "Kennedy" in it) and started talking about enforcement while consciously avoiding "comprehensive." Comprehensive reform refers to enforcement as part of an overall package that includes some means of facilitating and legalizing migration to and from Latin America.

Now, with the nomination in hand (simply awaiting the convention coronation) he has moved back toward the center and says that comprehensive reform would be his "first priority." After having changed his position, he then argued that Obama couldn't be trusted.

It is a delicate balancing act. His position might anger restrictionist Republican voters, who seem to make up a significant amount of the base. However, obviously he possibly stands to pick up a lot of centrists, perhaps people who voted for Hillary Clinton but aren't enamored of Obama. And, of course, he hopes to pick up Latino votes. Regardless, this is the opposite of straight talk.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ideology and popularity

Adam Isacson links to a report by a Mexican polling firm, which discusses the approval ratings of presidents across the region. It's been a rough year, as on average approval has dropped 10 points. Here is the list:

  1. 84% Álvaro Uribe, Colombia (3/08)
  2. 61% Felipe Calderón, Mexico (5/08)
  3. 55% Antonio Saca, El Salvador (5/08)
  4. 55% Evo Morales, Bolivia (5/08)
  5. 55% Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil (3/08)
  6. 54% Hugo Chávez, Venezuela (4/08)
  7. 53% Rafael Correa, Ecuador (6/08)
  8. 51% Martín Torrijos, Panama (4/08)
  9. 49% Álvaro Colom, Guatemala (3/08)
  10. 45% Tabaré Vázquez, Uruguay (3/08)
  11. 44% Oscar Arias, Costa Rica (4/08)
  12. 44% Michelle Bachelet, Chile (6/08)
  13. 38% Manuel Zelaya, Honduras (2/08)
  14. 34% Stephen Harper, Canada (3/08)
  15. 32% Alan García, Peru (6/08)
  16. 30% George W. Bush, United States (6/08)
  17. 26% Cristina Fernández, Argentina (5/08)
  18. 21% Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua (2/08)
  19. 5% Nicanor Duarte, Paraguay (3/08)
Despite all the elections of left-leaning presidents, the top three are actually conservative. Nonetheless, a majority (5 of 8) of those over 50% are on the left. Further, of the bottom three, two are on the left. It seems, then, that there is currently no clear link between ideology and popularity.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Uribe needs a vacation

President Uribe's advisors say he does not plan for the referendum to extend his current term, which ends in 2010. It seems mostly to be about being angry at the Supreme Court, which is calling into question the legitimacy of the 2006 election. This raises a host of new questions.

--Yesterday I speculated that this was a back door to another term, or at least partial term. If this is definitely not true, why doesn't Uribe himself say so? That would dampen much of the speculation.

--If this goes through, would congressional elections also be repeated? This is what the president of the Congress suggests

--Does such a referendum have a legal basis?

--Even if it does, is it worth all the money, hassle, and confusion?

--Finally, why does he make such a declaration at midnight? He needs a vacation.


Friday, June 27, 2008


Alvaro Uribe wants a new election. We all knew that. Now he's figured out a possible way to do it.

"I am going to convene Congress so that it can produce as swiftly as possible legislation on a referendum, that would call the people to repeat the 2006 presidential election," Mr Uribe said in a nationally broadcast radio and television address.

The decision relates to former Congresswoman Yidis Medina, who says she changed her vote to reform the constitution in exchange for jobs for her supporters.

Details remain scant, but I take this to represent a way for Uribe to get re-elected once more without having to reform the constitution yet again. El Tiempo has a similar take. Uribe says he wants to “repeat” the 2006 election, but we can’t go back in time two years, so it would seem that this election would “replace” the last one, and give him a few extra years in office.

It’s absolutely Putinesque. He needs Congress to go along, of course, so it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is.

See Boz as well.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Booing the home team

I have not been blogging much about baseball, and especially not about the Padres, whose season has been miserable (with the exception of some bright spots like Adrian Gonzalez). Suddenly, however, there has been a lot of chatter about the booing that ensued after Trevor Hoffman gave up back to back dingers on Tuesday.

The Sacrifice Bunt notes all the players' reactions, and comes down hard on Bud Black for blaming the entire city. Left Coast Bias says we need to respect Trevor for everything he's done for us in the past. An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune asks, "Think Philly or Boston fans would sit by and watch their baseball team play .410 ball and not boo?"

I wouldn't boo Trevor Hoffman, but I do think a crappy team needs to have a thicker skin. Fans that boo in Philadelphia are "colorful" and players expect it, while fans that boo in San Diego are called whiners, and players can't handle it.

It does raise an interesting question. Do fans owe anything to players? I've really enjoyed watching Trevor Hoffman over the years and have a reservoir of good will, so don't feel like booing even if he has a bad outing. Yet I don't feel that I am somehow required not to do so.



I am going to experiment with Goodreads, which I stumbled upon as I lurked around Prof. Marvin King’s blog Black Political Analysis (yes, I sometimes lurk around other political science blogs). I put the link on the side bar.

It is like Facebook or other similar sites, except it is focused on books. You can see what I am reading, what I am thinking of reading, and what I’ve read—for me, it’s a fun way to keep track of books, and to write snippet reviews. You then make “friends” and see what they’re reading. I am, sad to say, completely friendless at this point.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chinese socialism and Cuba

Fidel met with a Chinese official, where he emphasized the "importance of the concept of socialism with Chinese characteristics." Does that mean he wants to open a Hooters? Maybe it means he's got a hankering for Dunkin' Donuts. Or Taco Bell. Writing his Granma column gets tiring, so he might just want a latte.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Revista de Ciencia Política

I would encourage everyone to check out the latest issue of the Chilean journal Revista de Ciencia Política. It is the "Anuario Política de América Latina" so the articles focus on each country, analyzing politics in 2007. The articles (with full text) are in Spanish, but abstracts are also in English. In general, I really like RCP and check it out regularly.


Another brick in the wall

The Supreme Court refused to hear a case (which I mentioned here) challenging the constitutionality of waiving dozens of laws in order to build a border fence. Fourteen members of Congress supported the petition.

I loved the response from the Department of Homeland Security:

Chertoff told Congress that the DHS would be unable to meet its goal "if we were to engage in each of the individual regulatory elements" that the statutes required.

In other words, "if we have to abide by the law, we can't do it the way we want."


Monday, June 23, 2008

Chilean presidential candidates

Michelle Bachelet pushed through a new education bill, and it turns out that José Miguel Insulza had to call a few members of the legislature to twist arms. They wanted Ricardo Lagos to do the same, but somehow he was unable because he was on his way to Canada. I couldn’t help wonder if this news tidbit was an intentional boost for the former and slap on the latter, especially since Bachelet is not happy at being blamed for things like Transantiago that started under Lagos’ watch, and Lagos has not stepped up to accept any responsibility.

Both are contenders to be the Concertación’s next presidential candidate (the election is in 2009). Pato Navia argues here that the position is Lagos’ to lose. He’s popular, sufficiently leftist for the left, and sufficiently moderate for moderates. Pato also discusses former president Frei, who is also in the mix, but questions whether he can generate enough enthusiasm.

Lastly, there is Soledad Alvear, who bowed out in favor of Bachelet the last time around. A question that comes up when I am talking with other Chileanists is whether being a woman will hurt her, since the current president is a woman and not very popular. I think this is a strong possibility, but have not seen polls.

I would just say that it is a sad state of affairs that two of the contenders are former presidents. However, I understand the strategic calculation. Bachelet was a new face, and her administration is not going well, so the official reaction is to circle the wagons and advance a familiar figure. But where is the rejuvenation of the Concertación?


Sunday, June 22, 2008


The FARC has released a video to show that one of the politicians they kidnapped is still alive and to repeat demands of a safe haven and a prisoner exchange. What struck me is that the situation has changed so drastically, yet the FARC sticks stubbornly to its tried-and-true tactics. Uribe has said he won't negotiate, and with recent military victories very likely won't except for some exceptional circumstance. But further, Hugo Chávez has also told the FARC that its tactics are actually beneficial to the United States government, so they should lay down their arms and participate in the political system.

In short, it's very hard to see this video as accomplishing anything except to confirm the FARC's image as a band of thugs.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cementing a relationship Part 3

After all the debate about nationalization in Venezuela, I decided to keep up with the cement industry because there was so much confusion surrounding it. Here’s the last installment from May.

Hugo Chávez wanted to decree that the cement companies negotiate a takeover (with the state holding a 60% stake) within 60 days or face expropriation. He requested that the Supreme Court rule on the question of whether the decree would constitute an organic law. Article 302 of the constitution stipulates that only organic law brings industries of national interest into the possession of the state. Here is the relevant part of the constitution:

El Estado se reserva, mediante la ley orgánica respectiva, y por razones de conveniencia nacional, la actividad petrolera y otras industrias, explotaciones, servicios y bienes de interés público y de carácter estratégico. El Estado promoverá la manufactura nacional de materias primas provenientes de la explotación de los recursos naturales no renovables, con el fin de asimilar, crear e innovar tecnologías, generar empleo y crecimiento económico, y crear riqueza y bienestar para el pueblo.

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor a few days ago. Soon thereafter, the decree was officially printed in the Gaceta Oficial and the 60 day clock started ticking.

There is no explanation for why this happened now, though the most logical conclusion is that the cement companies are fighting it tooth and nail and therefore are trying to find weaknesses in the government's legal foundation. Chávez is getting tired of waiting, so the decree polishes up his legal case and speeds up the process.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Victor Hinojosa's Domestic Politics and International Narcotics Control

I read Victor Hinojosa’s Domestic Politics and International Narcotics Control: U.S. Relations with Mexico and Colombia, 1989-2000. I put it on the side bar but it is currently only in hardback at over $100 a pop, so you’ll need to get to the library (with any luck it will be released in paperback).

The central question is why the U.S. treated Colombia and Mexico differently with regard to drug certification. Conceptually, it draws on Robert Putnam and others who have written about “two-level games,” i.e. the ways in which domestic politics and international politics intersect. Based on the academic literature, he comes up with four sets of hypotheses, based on electoral tests (whether a president is facing elections), presidential popularity, executive-legislative relations, and the reputation of the Colombian president. He then studies 24 different U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Colombia negotiations to test these hypotheses.

Through the course of that analysis, hypothesis after hypothesis is discarded. For example, presidential approval ratings don’t matter much. Presidents Clinton and Zedillo followed certain policies regardless of their numbers, which varied over their presidencies. The reputation of the Colombian president did matter, at least in terms of how Ernesto Samper was treated. Hinojosa argues that he did at least as much or more to fight drug trafficking (especially in the way the U.S. wanted) than someone like César Gaviria, but was treated poorly nonetheless because of his reputation as someone who had been tied to drug cartels. The U.S. president’s relationship with Congress did seem to matter with regard to Colombia, but not to Mexico, likely because of geography. There are far fewer costs involved with punishing Colombia because it does not share a border, and members of Congress are aware of that.

It may sound odd to praise a book that finds so many hypotheses not working. But the conclusions force us to go beyond the simple idea of “intermestic” policy making, referring to domestic influences on foreign policy.* At least with regard to drugs, when viewed from a comparative perspective, there are few clear patterns.

The narrative is well done, and provides a good sense of how the drug trade and its effects increased U.S. interest in Colombia and pushed funding ever upwards. My only complaint is that it is a rather brief book—each case could’ve easily been expanded a bit.

* For a very good book examining intermestic policies, check out Russell Crandall’s Driven by Drugs: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Glass half overflowing

The UN reports that coca cultivation has increased in Bolivia (5%), Colombia (27%) and Peru (5%). The U.S. government, however, retorts that this is a really good sign. Why? Follow the twisted path of drug policy logic.

John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, argues that if coca production goes up, it means farmers are planting more because the Colombian government’s eradication efforts are so successful. More pressure means more planting.

This is the same John Walters who, in 2003, said that the decrease of coca cultivation in Colombia represented a “turning point.”

John Walters in 2008: “The cocaine industry is under stress,'' said John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. ``It can't produce at the same level.''

John Walters in 2003: “We are seeing evidence of stress in the Colombian cocaine industry. Some farmers are abandoning coca cultivation in major coca growing areas.”

The lesson here should be obvious to anyone, and it’s wonderful news. No matter what we do, or how coca cultivation rises and falls, we’re winning the drug war!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Late excuses

Professors have heard every imaginable excuse from students about why something is being turned in late. Choice offers up an editorial about how professors are guilty of the same when asked to do book reviews.

That every one of these excuse makers (er, reviewers) has been the recipient of myriad student excuses over the years is not lost on us, and we are confident that, in offering up their own excuses, they are pleased to be on the delivering end of the deed. We applaud them all and ask that they get the review to us as soon as they can.

h/t The Little Professor


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You know U.S.-Latin American relations are bad when...

...a president-elect (in this case Fernando Lugo of Paraguay) feels compelled to say that there is no "axis of evil" in Latin America. Any presidential trip that includes Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela must have a diabolical plan to threaten the United States behind it.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Jorge Castañeda's Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants

Jorge Castañeda’s Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants is a very good analysis of the current immigration debate, and is particularly interesting since he has been participating in the academic side of the debate for years and so is conversant with the literature, but also of course was Foreign Minister right after George W. Bush was elected and through 9/11, so was a participant at a critical moment.

Naturally, a good part of the book takes aim at the absurdities of U.S. immigration policy, especially the so often repeated notion that this is simply a matter of law.

The laws that have alternately authorized and prohibited immigration, or the rules that have always allowed and encouraged it? How do the Lou Dobbses of the world want young Mexicans, whose ancestors, over four or five generations, have been migrating in one fashion or another to the United States, to understand and abide by what has largely been an American fiction, i.e., that the United States, being a nation of laws, has always dealt with this issue respecting the laws? (37-38).

Toward the end of the book he also outlines the Mexican government’s stance on immigration. It can be summed up as follows: if the U.S. is willing to enact comprehensive reform—including a temporary worker program—then the Mexican government is (or at least has been--of course he no longer speaks for the Mexican government) willing to take on the responsibility of helping to coordinate it. Thus far, that has been the job of Mexican states, and the federal government has not been involved. The government would also work to stop people from leaving, as long as it knew that there was a reasonable way to cross legally. These changes would constitute a major shift in Mexican immigration policy.

However, as long as the U.S. refuses to pass such reform, the Mexican government will continue to protect its own citizens as best it can. He writes that the Mexican government’s decision to issue IDs (matrículas) to Mexicans in the U.S. was consciously intended to promote legalization, making it easier for Mexicans to open bank accounts, rent apartments, buy homes, etc. in the United States. The book’s title refers to the fact that U.S. policy has sharply curtailed circularity, so that more and more Mexicans are choosing to stay, legally or illegally, and so the Mexican government plans to work for the benefit of its expats.

He appreciates President Bush’s general attitude toward immigration, and sees him as someone who genuinely cared about the issue, but that he just would not take advantage of available opportunities for reform:

He allowed his right wing to dominate the agenda, and…he will be remembered in Mexico, and by many Latinos, as “el president del muro”: the man who tried to
build the wall (164-165).

Unfortunately, this will likely be true.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Uribe and a third term Part 3

The rumors of whether Alvaro Uribe will seek a third term are constantly swirling (see parts 1 and 2). Now Luis Carlos Villegas, the head of an important industrial group, who greatly admires Uribe, says he should not try to run again. Even though believes Uribe is the best president Colombia has ever had, he argues that staying in power would be "dangerous" for the country.

This is the sort of voice that will be necessary to convince Uribe to step aside, a political ally reminding Uribe that he is not indispensable, that staying in power too long is bad for the country, and that democracies require, as he puts it, "renovación."

But will he listen?


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cuba policy

In March I noted that George Will didn't know much about Cuba. Now we find out that Dick Cheney gets his information about Cuba from George Will.


How the fence doesn't work

Marc Cooper has a great article in LA Weekly about continued and successful efforts to get across the U.S.-Mexico border. For example:

What was remarkable is that we ran into this particular group barely a two-minute drive from the just-constructed, 15-foot-high multimillion-dollar fence that is a showcase of the Bush administration’s vaunted Secure Border Initiative. The same wall that both parties in Congress have recently embraced as the answer to stemming illegal immigration. Moreover, the group we found — right off the main road leading from the official U.S. port of entry at Sasabe — was but a few clicks away from one of the nine highly touted prototype electronic-surveillance towers that the U.S. government paid the Boeing Company $20 million to build along a 28-mile run of the border.

In other words, the small group of migrants we spoke to had not only just jumped the newest section of the government’s physical fence, they had also dodged the high-tech “virtual fence,” loaded with the latest gadgets and software.

“We got over the fence with a rope,” said the migrant who had flagged us down. “It took about two minutes and we were over.”


Friday, June 13, 2008

Mortgage quiz

From today’s Charlotte Observer.

--Who buys only a home they can afford?

--Who is extremely conscientious about making the mortgage payment each month?

--Who buys a home to live in as opposed to trying to flip it quickly for a profit?

--Who forecloses at a lower rate than the rest of the population?

The answer: undocumented immigrants.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


President Bush signed an executive order forcing all companies doing business with the federal government to check their employees through E-Verify.

The policy, which initially applies to new hires, eventually could affect millions of federal contract workers nationwide whose jobs range from serving cafeteria food to launching NASA spacecraft.


The FBI’s system of doing background check on immigrants cannot handle the strain.

The FBI system for performing background checks on immigrants has become so overloaded since the Sept. 11 attacks that thousands of legal immigrants are waiting years to get into the United States or obtain citizenship, according to findings from an internal investigation released Monday.

The Justice Department's inspector general concluded that the FBI's National Name Check Program is working with outdated technology, and that poorly trained personnel and overworked supervisors are falling far behind. As of March, there was a backlog of 327,000 requests for names to be validated, some of which had been pending for up to three years.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For all you Charlotte readers out there

Tomorrow evening (Wed, June 11) I will be at the Latin American Coalition as part of its film series to show the film "Missing." I will give an intro to the movie, and there will be a short discussion afterward as well. It starts at 6:30, and is located at:

4949 Albemarle Road
Charlotte, NC 28205


Monday, June 09, 2008

Chavez and the FARC

Hugo Chávez has called for the FARC to release all its hostages and lay down its arms.

"You in the FARC should know something," Chávez said in the broadcast of his Sunday television program, during which he also called on the rebels to release dozens of hostages, including three American military contractors. "You have become an excuse for the empire to threaten all of us," he said, using his term for the United States.

I should first point out that Chávez’s reasoning is wrong, because the U.S. is not terribly concerned with the FARC except insofar as it is involved in the drug trade. Even if the FARC gives up its war, the U.S. will still be heavily involved in Colombia, possibly even with a base. However, if this provides some measure of political cover, then great.

So what are the possible reasons for his statement? Here are some ideas, and of course they are not mutually exclusive:

--he thought in the past that the FARC was at least strong enough to continue forcing a stalemate, and now believes it will eventually lose

--he wants to put himself in the eventual position of helping to negotiate a peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government

--his stated position about the FARC (i.e. ideological brotherhood) was costing him too much in approval terms, especially domestically

--the information on the FARC laptops is damaging and so he wants to preempt further revelations

--the links between Venezuelans and the FARC (e.g. see Boz’s discussion and links on the latest news about an alleged National Guard member) are making his government look weak and corrupt

--he wants to send a positive signal to the next president of the U.S., especially if it is Obama


Sunday, June 08, 2008

More on Venezuela's intelligence law

Even before I had to chance to see the text of the new intelligence law, Hugo Chávez says it will be rewritten. As I wrote before, it is a terrible idea to write an intelligence law in secret and then decree it. It was a political misstep for Chávez, as he should have known it would not simply be accepted.*

Chávez has thus named a new commission to “correct” the law, though the news release did not indicate who would be on it. Will the “correction” be similarly decreed?

This episode highlights problems with lawmaking by decree. On the one hand, it’s good that Chávez had the sense to back off in the face of criticism. On the other hand, this is not how laws should be made in a democracy, with the executive concocting something in private and then presenting it fait accompli, only to scrap it if there is protest.

* As a side note, recent reform of intelligence services in some other Latin American countries has indeed been largely ignored by the public. The degree of political polarization in Venezuela, however, makes it different.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

King Tiger 5K

We ran the King Tiger 5K this morning, and nowadays with three kids we both have to push a jogger stroller (one double and one single). It was a nice, relatively flat course, and we both won our respective baby jogger divisions. It is not officially summer yet, but it is really hot.


Friday, June 06, 2008

More for Bachelet to deal with

The Bachelet administration negotiated the end to a trucker’s strike, accepting the demand for an elimination of diesel taxes. Some truckers, however, reject the government’s plan to cut the taxes only 80% in 2008, and then eliminate them entirely in 2009, and claim they will continue unless the government cuts them 100% immediately. The strike was starting to have a major impact, including the inability to get food onto supermarket shelves and oxygen into hospitals. The government had already announced a $1 billion subsidy to address rising fuel costs.

No doubt Bachelet was looking at how the prolonged farmer’s strike has been hurting the Fernández government next door, not to mention at her own very shaky approval numbers. She desperately needed to look decisive, because with previous strikes (especially students) she was roundly criticized for dithering around.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

For Cuban Missile Crisis buffs

The National Security Archive is releasing some of the primary documents used for a new book on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I must say I am not sure if I am ready for another book on the topic, but you never know. Newly declassified documents often provide interesting insight and good reading. The main tidbit is that the Soviet Union planned to destroy Guantánamo with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles if the U.S. invaded Cuba.

Fidel has a lot of time on his hands, so I think he should do a review in his Granma column.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

U.S. policy: waiting for disease and death

A WSJ editorial trumpets that Colombia helps prove that only a military solution successfully combats “terror” by noting the deaths of FARC leaders. Now, there is certainly no doubt that military operations are having an important and significant impact. The problem is assuming they are the sole impact.

What I’m getting at here is that the U.S. relies much more on good old Mother Nature than we like to admit. Tirofijo was really old and died of a heart attack. A demobilized member of the FARC says that Mono Jojoy has a serious problem with diabetes (more specifically, “jodido por el diabetes”). Fidel Castro famously has diverticulitis, and Raúl is marching his way toward octogenarianhood.

At the very least, we should ponder why, despite military and other solutions, some of our proclaimed enemies are simply dying of old age. Adam Isacson has brought up this point as well. Tirofijo’s death isn’t a victory in any conventional sense of the word—he was getting old and lived in the jungle. And eventually, unless you’re Strom Thurmond, you die.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Venezuelan intelligence

Hugo Chávez used decree power to revamp Venezuela’s intelligence services. I published an article not long ago about the military and intelligence reform in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, noting the military autonomy that remains. Nonetheless, for all three cases there was at least extensive debate, and decree power was not utilized. Intelligence reform should be as public as possible.

I want to see the text of the law itself, but I haven’t been able to find it. It is Decree 6.067 and was published in the Gaceta Oficial number 38.940. At the moment, however, the website for the Gaceta Oficial is not working.

As I was poking around, I came across the main site for Venezuela’s military intelligence—the Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar. I have to say it is creepy for a military intelligence site to have multiple links where citizens are encouraged to provide anonymous “denuncias.”


Monday, June 02, 2008

Thomas O'Brien's Making the Americas

If you want a well-researched and highly readable history of U.S.-Latin American Relations, check out Thomas F. O’Brien’s Making the Americas: The United States and Latin America from the Age of Revolutions to the Era of Globalization. It is history, so the 1990s and beyond are covered only in the last of ten chapters, but the contemporary relevance of the historical analysis is always very apparent. I've put it on my "Good Books" sidebar.

“The central argument of this work is that over the past two centuries the people of the United States have envisioned themselves on a global mission of reform” (p. 4). From the beginning, U.S. policy makers, bankers, investors, travel writers, professors, philanthropists, tourists, soldiers, evangelists, etc. came to the idea that Latin America could be “fixed” with superior North American solutions. Although the specific nature of that mission has changed over time and according to the individual or group involved, for many the essence remains intact. You don’t know what you’re doing, so listen to us. The problem, though, is not so much with the “offer” of help, but rather the deaf ear turned to the Latin American voices offering criticism and/or their own solutions. The mission of the United States has all too often been entirely one-sided.

One particularly compelling theme, which is laid out in even more detail in Ricardo Salvatore’s Imágenes de un imperio, is the way in which U.S. companies created consumer demand in Latin America where before it had not existed, or only to a limited degree. Coca Cola, GE, Ford et al became part of the overall mission to civilize and “Westernize” Latin America. These products could make you more like U.S. consumers and therefore “better.” As he points out, Coca Cola even successfully paid to have a main character in a Brazilian soap opera drink only Coke. The book has many such examples, both historical and contemporary.

Of course, U.S. policy is still littered with references to how U.S. solutions will work best, and any substantive change to that policy will at the very least require acknowledging the fact that many Latin Americans do not agree and instead have their own solutions.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ecuador and Colombia

Ecuador’s case against Colombia’s drug fumigation has begun at the International Court of Justice (I first mentioned it here). In addition to the charges of sovereignty violation, Ecuador argues that Colombia will not even reveal what the chemical mix actually is. The Colombian ambassador rather testily replied that there was no “secret mix” and that such accusations should be directed only at the ICJ, and not discussed publicly. (It is worth noting that the Colombian government used the exact same "media leak" strategy with the FARC laptops, so this response is disingenuous to say the least).

It’s hard to see Ecuador losing this case, especially since its demands are very moderate (i.e. stop spraying our territory and compensate people who have been harmed by it). With any luck, it will also foster greater discussion about the effects of aerial fumigation to fight coca production. The U.S. government loves the strategy, because it is low cost and you can easily point to how many hectares have been sprayed as a way to measure “success.” People being sprayed have a slightly different view.

On a related issue, Rafael Correa said a month ago that he would declassify documents showing that Alvaro Uribe was lying about his government’s links to the FARC. I haven’t heard anything more about that.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP