Thursday, July 31, 2008

Operation Scheduled Departure

Thanks to another former student, Daniel, who has been working closely with Latino immigrants in Charlotte and is keeping me apprised of the latest federal government plan. First we had virtual fences, not we've got "self-deportation." If you turn yourself in, the government will deport you expeditiously. The government dubs it "Operation Scheduled Departure." What is the incentive to do so, you ask? There is none, which is why no one outside the government, no matter where they stand on the issue, thinks it will work. No one at ICE says whether the voluntary deportation would hurt people in the future if they sought to enter the U.S. legally.

Now we find out that Charlotte is one of the cities the program will be tested in.


Chevron in Ecuador

Thanks to my former student Kelby for alerting me to this Newsweek article on Chevron's efforts to avoid getting hit for a large judgment by a court in Ecuador for environmental damage. Chevron wants the Bush administration to punish Ecuador in response. Execs have approached the U.S. Trade Representative, who apparently is amenable to the idea of removing trade preferences if the Ecuadorian court doesn't back off.

But the juiciest part of the article is the quote from a Chevron lobbyist, which is priceless:

"We can't let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world."

We don't need to look too much further to understand why U.S.-Latin American relations are at an all-time low. We invest, so we're unaccountable. You're small, so you don't have a say in the matter.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Question for Bolivianists

I am doing work on Latin American immigration to the South. Looking at the latest DHS statistics on naturalization, Bolivians do not show up, except for Virginia. In fact, the number of Bolivians becoming naturalized citizens is second only to Salvadorans in Virginia.

Why is that? Obviously, VA includes the DC suburbs, but does that affect Bolivians more than people from other countries? Or is there some particular attraction in VA? Or just chain migration?


Hugo Chavez and the U.S. election

Nikolas Kozloff, who has written a lot about Hugo Chávez, just published a curious article in the latest NACLA Report on the Americas. I say curious because he's always written very approvingly of him, but his main argument here is that Chávez's success in international relations and domestic policy is dependent upon the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Within this framework, even Rafael Correa deals with Chávez strictly in terms of the U.S. election:

At this point small, impoverished nations like Ecuador are no doubt eyeing the upcoming U.S. presidential election. If Obama should win, perhaps the wider region might receive greater economic assistance from Washington. Given this fact, Correa and some of his regional counterparts may believe that it is better to wait rather than precipitously embrace a plan like ALBA.

In other words, Obama takes the wind out of Chávez's sails because Latin American will love him and his policies. A McCain win, on the other hand, might even allow Chávez to improve his party's chances in the Venezuelan elections:

If McCain were to win the upcoming presidential election, Chávez could then turn to the Venezuelan electorate and say: “McCain’s right wing agenda for Latin America is clear. We must now do our utmost to preserve Venezuelan sovereignty from U.S. imperialism.” By cultivating such rhetoric, Chávez might rally the PSUV party faithful just three weeks before regional elections in Venezuela.

Even further, a McCain victory could be the spark for the spread of Chávez's socialist project:

Within such a polarized political climate Chávez might even succeed in passing his constitutional reform, thereby extending presidential term limits. If the reform contains many of the progressive measures of the original proposal, Chávez might regain political momentum throughout South America, consolidate his socialist state, and rekindle some of the political enthusiasm that characterized his movement from 2002 to 2006.

The idea that the U.S. election is the linchpin of Chávez's political future is bizarre. Kozloff views Latin American domestic politics essentially as driven primarily by events in the United States. Venezuelans have a host of different domestic concerns that they will weigh when going to the polls. Who is president of the United States is, in my opinion, will be very low on the list. Despite what is written in the U.S. media, Rafael Correa is no Chávez clone, and so we should not automatically expect him to follow every suggestion Chávez makes, and then attribute deviation to the U.S. presidential election.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Following Cobos

I am really curious to see how the Argentine President-VP spat works out. Julio Cobos returned to Buenos Aires, where he met with fellow "Radicales K," or members (or former members--I'm not sure how many have been expelled) of the Radical Party (UCR) that support the Kirchners. Part of the president's dilemma is that if she pressures Cobos to resign or otherwise freezes him out, she will alienate his fellow Radicales K and perhaps lose cruciail political support.

Matthew Shugart started a discussion on VP independence. He suggests that the rarity of a VP voting against his/her president is due only to a shortage of cases. I disagree, but neither of us has any data. I think we should expect the VP to vote with the president, and that failing to do so would normally incur political costs. The only exceptions would be countries where the president does not get to choose the VP, and so a rival may be elected alongside the president. Obviously in that case the dynamic is quite different.

What we need, then, is a list of all instances in which a Latin American VP cast a tiebreaking vote, and what the outcome was. There is little (perhaps none?) academic work done on vice presidents because, like everyone else, academics don't see the VP as important. Anyone out there want to fill the niche? The title of "Vice President Expert" awaits.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Latinos are not swing voters

The Pew Hispanic Center released the 2008 National Survey of Latinos, which reaffirms the fact that Latinos are not swing voters. Instead, it shows that Latinos are more solidly Democratic than ever. In 1999, 25 percent were Republicans or leaned that way, compared to 26 percent today. Basically no change. Meanwhile, in 1999 58 percent saw themselves as Democratic, versus 65 percent in 2008. There is no swinging going on.

It is entirely possible that in the near future, the Democratic Party will just see the Latino vote as in the bag, and we will hear less about how sought after it is and more about how the constituency is taken for granted. This, of course, has been a common lament for African American voters.


Leonardo Padura Fuentes' Adiós Hemingway

I was in the mood for some fiction, and had heard about Cuban writer Leonardo Padura Fuentes, who writes crime fiction/mysteries. I bought Adiós Hemingway, the first to be translated into English. His main character is detective Mario Conde, a self-proclaimed bibliophile, aspiring writer and former cop. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and definitely will read more of his work.

A caveat, though—if you are not interested in Ernest Hemingway, then the book may not be for you. You don’t have to like Hemingway. In fact, one of the book’s themes is Conde’s ambivalence between his love of Hemingway’s writing and his intense dislike of him as an individual (though ultimately even that hatred is eroded a bit). The plot centers on a body discovered at Hemingway’s Finca Vigía, and goes back and forth between Conde’s investigation and a recreation of 1958, just before Hemingway left Cuba for good and while he is undergoing a severe personal crisis that ultimately led to suicide. I won’t say much about it to avoid spoilers, but one of the main questions is whether the FBI was after Hemingway.

One reason Conde dislikes Hemingway, and distrusts the Cuban fascination with him, is that he was an icon in the country, and lived there off and on for many years, yet knew nothing about it: “more than twenty years living alongside Cubans were not enough for the artist to understand a damned thing about their island” (pp. 46-47). However, he also comes to pity him and, to an extent, even identify with him.


Sunday, July 27, 2008


It was fun yelling that way back when. Never knew his name included "Rich."


The FARC in Europe

Police in Spain arrested a Spanish woman accused of helping the FARC coordinate meetings and funnel money through Europe (primarily Switzerland and Sweden). Her name came out of Raúl Reyes' files. Interestingly, she will be facing Judge Baltasar Garzón, who is famous for going after Augusto Pinochet.

I assume that more information about the FARC's European ties will be forthcoming, and more arrests will be made. However, I am not sure how much having these contacts disrupted will hurt them, since their primary sources of revenue come from within Colombia. Nonetheless, the Colombian government is clearly reaping the benefits of the information from the laptops and flash drives. Now they have this woman's computer and, as Boz pointed out a few days ago, the government seized another FARC member's laptop as well.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Aftermath in Argentina

Vice President Julio Cobos is still hiding out in Mendoza, and through a spokesperson said he approved of Cristina naming Sergio Massa as chief of cabinet. Cobos is expected to come back to BA on Monday.

Meanwhile, a recent poll shows a jump in Cristina's disapproval numbers, from 61.8% in April to 71.8% in July. Approval dropped from 23.6% to 19.7%. Obviously, relations with farmers is a major issue, but in the larger scheme of things she needs to keep her coalition together to avoid more confrontation.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

If you hate it, Chávez funds it

Norman Bailey, who for a short time was the administration's intelligence point man for Venezuela and Cuba, testified before the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Relations. You can see the full text here. He says that Hugo Chávez has funded ETA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Grinch in Whoville. Further, Venezuela currently resembles Nazi Germany and the Panama Canal is at risk because of Chávez. Lastly, there is no reason to expect any Venezuelan election "will be conducted with any greater even-handedness than previous electoral contests in past years." You know, like the ones he lost.

It occurs to me that one thing that will (hopefully) be nice about a new administration is a reduction in the absurd levels of alarmism. Chávez can't be a rival, he has to be Dr. Evil. You don't just want FTAs to be ratified, but the forces of darkness will win if we don't pass them.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Latinos and Charlotte suburbs

I've done work that includes discussion about how the Latino population in southern cities (focusing on Charlotte) is moving directly to the suburbs, which are closer to where the jobs are. There are also many anecdotal indicators, especially at supermarkets, which have expanded Mexican food sections and advertisements at the door for wiring money.

It became even more apparent when a few days ago I found a bilingual flier on the door of my house.

Typically, Latinos in Charlotte live in apartments, of which there are many in University City (where I live--since it obviously encompasses the university, I assume we have more apartments per capita than elsewhere, but I do not know that for certain). Without reading too much into one ad, it seems Western Union believes more Spanish-speakers are living in homes (whether owned or rented). Indeed, in Charlotte the number of Latinos who own versus rent is increasing every year.

But it also demonstrates that companies like Western Union are hurting from the leveling off of remittances, caused in large part by the economic slowdown, but also by more enforcement. They need to drum up more business, and so are expanding their advertising campaign. Most remittance research has been done on the effects they have on the country to which they're being sent, but it would be interesting also to consider how U.S. businesses have begun to rely on the fees they charge. The remittance slowdown ripples out everywhere.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The FARC: we're gonna win

In the past few months, not much has gone the FARC's way. They screw up a hostage release, get duped about a release, Hugo Chávez tells them to demobilize, even Fidel Castro tells them their tactics are going too far, and millions of Colombians march against them.

But the FARC just released a statement telling the world they will fight on. It is a long, rambling statement. Basically, there is still much kidnapping work to be done and the fight can only be successful with more drug trafficking perseverance. They always treat their enemies like slaves with "dignity." And they assure the Colombian people that they will never submit and will fight until everyone deserts until the end.


Monday, July 21, 2008

The gift that keeps on giving

A few weeks ago I mentioned the immense amount of money being spent on the border fence, and the many laws being circumvented to build it. But, of course, the end result will make us all better off, right? According to the Department of Homeland Security, the answer is no if you happen to live on the border:

The U.S.-Mexico border fence will make life harder on some South Texas farmers, damage valuable wildlife habitat, impair views and generally become an obstacle to border life, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged in an environmental study of the fence's impact.

I love the smell of steel and barbed wire in the morning. It smells like victory.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who needs reality TV when you have this?

Julio Cobos is in Mendoza, you know, just a normal family vacation, and he isn't sure when he plans to get back to BA. He says he's thinking of calling the president in a few days. Cristina finally referred to him, but wouldn't say his name, referring to him only as "mi compañero de fórmula." She's talking a lot about loyalty, but what will the Kirchners do with the disloyal?


Saturday, July 19, 2008

A baseball first

Has any player ever posted pictures of his own shoulder surgery before? Now Curt Schilling has on his blog. TMI? You decide.


Julio Cobos: elephant in the room

President Fernández gathered together more than 100 members of Congress to take stock about the recent political setback. Although VP Julio Cobos created the problem, his "no" vote was never mentioned. I have yet to hear her mention his name or refer to him at all.

Cobos, meanwhile, says he wants to meet with her and that "here there don't have to be winners and losers, here we can all be strengthened by the experience." This sounded amazingly Oprah-like for the vice president of a large country. His overall message was that they needed to have a nice big group hug and move on.


Friday, July 18, 2008

The VP's role

President Fernández gave a speech in which she did not mention anyone by name, but used words like "betrayed" and "defection." No sign yet of how she intends to respond politically.

I was struck by Julio Cobos' words, as he said, "No one pressures me. I function on the basis of my own convictions. They have to understand that within the government there are dissident voices."

Acting upon your convictions is lauded in politics (if not by those who do not share those convictions!). You "speak your mind" and "let the cards fall where they may." Certainly, Cobos is getting a tremendous amount of attention.

But for a vice president? Should a VP actively work against his/her own president? Cobos says he will not resign, which makes little sense to me. He cast his own equivalent of a no confidence vote, so I can't think of any reason why he would wish to remain in Fernández's government. The message of staying is that as VP it is his job to derail the president whenever he has the legislative chance. That is not the job description any president would accept.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

On VPs and tie breakers

Vice presidents are famously unimportant. John Nance Garner, who served as vice president under FDR, once said that the office wasn’t “worth a pitcher of warm piss.” Generally, the veep’s job is to remain alive and break ties in the Senate. It is simply assumed, of course, that the tie breaking vote will be cast in the manner the president wishes.

This is true in Latin America as well (at least in those countries that have veeps). What a shock, then, to see Argentine VP Julio Cobos vote against his own president in a tie breaker for a bill on agricultural export taxes:

``This is the hardest day of my life,'' Cobos said on the Senate floor after about 18 hours of debate, his voice wavering and his hands quivering. ``Let history judge me, I ask for forgiveness if I'm wrong.''

Given the major protests the Fernández government has faced, this is huge. Her approval ratings already hover around 20 percent, and she needed a win. Instead, she loses the vote and looks weak. If you cannot control your own VP, then what does that say about leadership?

As far as I’ve seen, she has yet to issue a statement. Cobos says that “the president will understand me.” We’ll see about that.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Betancourt honors

President Bachelet said she was going to nominate Ingrid Betancourt for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now she is given France's Legion of Honor. I hate to sound petty, especially with regard to someone who spent years under captivity in horrific conditions. But I keep thinking about the fact that you're supposed to do something to win major prizes. The other liberated prisoners aren't being given prizes, at least not that I am aware of, yet they are equally deserving because they did equally as much as Betancourt to earn them.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Misunderstanding Colombia (and everywhere else)

Pity the pundits in the United States, who insist on misunderstanding Latin America. Case in point: Colombia. Charles Krauthammer, for example, lambastes the "soft power" of diplomacy and lauds Alvaro Uribe for sticking only to hard military power:

Both in Europe and America, the sophisticates worship at the altar of "soft power" -- the use of diplomatic and moral resources to achieve one's ends.

What this reveals is a stubborn Bushesque insistence on a black and white vision of the world, one that is sadly widespread in the U.S. You see, today El Tiempo reports that Uribe is trying to open up dialogue with the FARC to establish some sort of negotiated demobilization. In other words, soft power. Uribe's policy is to use both.

In May President Bush gave a speech to the Knesset, which included:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before.

Fortunately, Bush is roundly ignored. Negotiations--soft power--can sometimes achieve your goals in ways that military operations alone cannot. In some circumstances, far fewer than the Bush administration thinks, military power is required. But mocking negotiations in the Colombian case ignores reality.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Quote quiz

Who recently said the following?

"Equality is not egalitarianism."


"we have to be conscious that each increase in salary that is approved or price that is subsidized adhere to economic reality."


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey

I read Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey and put it on the side bar. It is this year’s choice by UNC Charlotte for first year students. I got sucked immediately into the book. Nazario focuses on motherhood, not only the reasons why mothers leave their children to come to the U.S., but also the effects of separation. Enrique is a young Honduran who wants to find his mother in North Carolina I was especially struck by the argument she makes at the outset, which shows this is not a typical migrant story: (hence the UNC Charlotte selection).

For Latina mothers coming to the United States, my hope is that they will understand the full consequences of leaving their children behind and make better-informed decisions. For in the end, these separations almost always end badly (p. xxv).

This sort of beginning-to-end travel story reminded me of Eugene Nelson’s Bracero, a fairly obscure novel I stumbled across and greatly enjoyed, which depicted the travails of an indigenous man in Mexico trying to become a bracero in the 1950s. It has the same sense of a trail of tragedy.

The first 100 pages focus on Honduras, Guatemala and Chiapas, especially the truly mind blowing corruption and violence that characterizes the immigrant trip up into Mexico. And yet there are moments of kindness, especially in Veracruz, where people who live near the tracks—of course very poor themselves—throw gifts up onto the trains for the migrants:

A stooped woman, María Luisa Mora Martín, more than a hundred years old, who was reduced to eating the bark of her plantain tree during the Mexican Revolution, forces her knotted hands to fill bags with tortillas, beans, and salsa so her daughter, Soledad Vásquez, seventy, can run down a rocky slope and heave them onto a train (p. 105).

Then Enrique’s journey continues, including dealing with his own girlfriend and childm and the book pulls no punches. In particular, Nazario examines the negative repercussions of migration. The “promised land” is a very rough place, full of fear, drug and alcohol abuse, low wages, and uncertainty. But the book really zeroes in on motherhood. This is, really, a story about the choices mothers make (and the ending shows even more clearly what she thinks about it).

Very good book. Check it out.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Riding on the metro

I've been on the Santiago metro many times. Never seen this, though.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning to be an Assistant Professor

An article in Inside Higher Ed cites a study showing that a majority of Assistant Professors don’t feel well prepared for many aspects of their new jobs. They feel much more confident after five years of on the job training. I’ve mentioned this general topic before, as I think graduate schools need to provide classes and/or seminars on what is required of professors.

The American Political Science Association has a new book on writing and publishing, which are obviously critical skills, but the profession requires much more. You start your job and suddenly have a host of responsibility you are unfamiliar with. As the editor of an academic journal, more than once I’ve been asked by prospective reviewers exactly how to go about writing their review. I am happy to do so--I was similarly not taught how to do so, and only started picking it up after reading reviews of my own submissions. But that sort of skill should be taught in Ph.D. programs.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Uribe and a third term yet again

The latest poll shows that 77% of Colombians support allowing Alvaro Uribe to run for a third term. This is up 11 points since April. When placed against possible contenders—including Ingrid Betancourt--he cleans up.

Both Matthew Shugart and Steven Taylor have expressed skepticism, arguing that he wouldn’t get the necessary support in the legislature. I won’t be convinced until Uribe comes out and says that he is officially not going to try. There are certainly ambitious Colombian politicians, but would they want to stand up to such a high riding president?


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cuba and Budweiser

The European company InBev is trying to take over Anheuser-Busch. AB is filing suit to stop it. I cannot claim any knowledge of exactly how such attemped takeovers work, but I found the following interesting:

The suit also questions InBev's claim that it would make Anheuser's hometown of St. Louis the North American headquarters for the combined company, since InBev has a business in Cuba which cannot be managed from the United States.


Oesterle said takeover targets are rarely successful in blocking buyouts through these types of lawsuits, in part because prospective buyers are usually able to cure the alleged misstatements by issuing new disclosures, if necessary.

He said Anheuser's concerns about InBev's Cuban business could likely be dismissed by InBev through a restructuring so the Cuban operation does not report to the U.S. entity, or by perhaps divesting it.

He said more litigation may follow.

Add this to yet another bizarre consequence of the embargo.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Blog Bunker

I completely forgot to mention yesterday that I was on The Blog Bunker, a talk radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. It was a lot of fun, with good questions about Latin America. They just interview bloggers on the topics they normally blog about. If they contact you, I definitely recommend it.


Repeat after me: Latinos are not swing voters

Yesterday Ruben Navarrette, Jr. wrote his commentary for CNN about how Latinos are swing voters. The Latino population is fascinating politically for many reasons, but I have to keep repeating that they are not swing voters. In other words, there is no evidence to suggest that any change of vote will be different from the rest of the population. Once again I will quote from Leal et al (2008):

Some pundits, journalists, and political consultants may repeat the myth for professional reasons. It would produce much more interest, as well as create suspense, if a substantial share of the Latino electorate was said to frequently switch its support for political parties and candidates. Such a portrayal would help generate more demand for those who provide interpretation of, commentary about, and outreach to the Latino electorate (p. 313).

If anyone sees empirical studies to the contrary (as opposed to just punditry), let me know.


Monday, July 07, 2008

The fence

Paying way too much for substandard products is often associated with the Soviet Union and contributed to that thing called its downfall. Now we learn that the government contracts with Boeing to build a border fence have exceeded $1 billion. This fence does not work (for fun, google "border fence problems" and see what pops up) and, of course, the government is also circumventing a wide range of laws that would block it.

New definition of "recession resistant": "any company claiming to keep Latin Americans out of the United States."


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Another hostage

Before we get too excited about the FARC falling apart, we should note that they just kidnapped a Canadian citizen.


Bolivian international relations

Apropos yesterday's post about how McCain wants a better relationship with Bolivia, Miguel at Mabblog analyzes some possible contradictions within the current U.S. effort at improving relations, while Miguel at Pronto* gives an overview of Evo Morales' approach to international relations.

The question for either the Bush or a possible McCain administration is finding major points of agreement, especially given Morales' opposition to U.S. drug policy and the heavy emphasis on free trade and a minimal role for the state in the economy. What will be the foundation for future cooperation?


Saturday, July 05, 2008

McCain and Latin America

From the Washington Post: apparently John McCain's foreign policy aides are unaware that there is considerable U.S.-Brazilian cooperation. But they also say he would try to work more closely with Evo Morales. Exactly how that would work is unclear. Also unclear is whether every other "left-wing" government in Latin America will be considered non-democratic.

Scheunemann did point out two areas where McCain would differ from Bush, saying that he would work to engage "democratic left-wing governments" in Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, and that "in a McCain administration, the most senior foreign policy national security officials, starting with the president, going on to the secretaries of state and defense and down, would have Latin America at the centerpiece of their portfolios, rather than an afterthought."

The latter point is interesting, but Bush appointees like Negroponte and Reich also had Latin American portfolios, so that is not automatically a positive sign.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Obama in NC

On this July 4, it seems fitting to focus on elections in the U.S. The Charlotte Observer has an article discussing Obama's chances in North Carolina. Democratic strategists say that a Democratic candidate must win at least 40% of the white vote, in addition to the vast majority of the black vote, to win the state.

Obama has shown interest in NC, and his campaign will push hard to get people registered. In the days leading up to the primary, we received 3-4 robocalls exhorting people to register. The key point, though, is that getting more African Americans to the polls still isn't enough--a candidate needs to really cut into that white vote. In 2004, Kerry received 27% of the white vote.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Some thoughts on the Betancourt rescue

What a really amazing story. The highest profile hostage in the world freed without anyone harmed or even a shot fired, and the highest profile guerrilla group in the world tricked, fooled, and humiliated. How quickly before this becomes a movie? Some thoughts:

--Ingrid Betancourt says she still wants to run for president. There is no bigger name recognition. She goes straight to front runner status.

--Uribe has still not come out and ruled out trying for more years in office. This is the sort of success that could potentially get him the support he needs. Hopefully he won't, but he is in a position of political strength that is the envy of presidents everywhere.

--This could well prompt more members of the FARC to desert. If you have to sacrifice everything for a cause, it must be demoralizing to see it rudderless and clueless. It will be tempting to get out while the getting is good.

--The organizers of the protest march in March against the FARC want to have another one.

--Lastly, the Venezuelan Information Office blog says it all would've happened sooner if Chávez had been involved. I haven't heard anything from Chávez himself. In reference to Chávez and Correa, Betancourt said she admires "what Chavez and Correa have done for all of us, but it is key that they support our democracy. In the same way they were elected in a democracy, they have to give the Colombians a chance to solve our problems by ourselves."


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt

I don't have any commentary, maybe tomorrow. But watch the video. Powerful stuff.


McCain in Latin America: does it matter?

John McCain is in Colombia and will go next to Mexico, and the media is trying to figure out what effect the trip will have on his presidential chances. Boz has a variety of links (thus absolving me of having to list them). My own feeling is that the trip won’t matter. Let’s take a look at the various audiences he hopes to reach.

Latinos: this trip is intended to show he cares about Latin America. Latino voters, however, are going to vote on other issues like everyone else, e.g. the economy.

Latinos in Florida: Adam Isacson focuses on this, but I am not convinced. The argument is that people who fled Cuba or Venezuela will be more likely to vote McCain as a result of this trip. Yet we’ve seen that the CANF actually liked Obama’s message more than McCain’s. Going to Colombia and emphasizing his support for Uribe may please some, but won’t change anyone’s mind or make them more likely to vote.

Those who see Obama as naïve in foreign affairs: McCain wants to show how he stands up for “our friends” in the hemisphere. No matter what you think of this argument, with regard to foreign policy most voters care about Iraq, but will pay little attention to how we deal with Uribe.

Those who see opposition to FTAs as bad policy: he wants to emphasize the positive aspects of free trade, both with NAFTA and the proposed Colombia FTA, which then deepens his bona fides with free traders in both parties. This could have an effect with Democrats, but I see it mostly at the margins. The other side of the coin is that it could backfire, since in a weak economy people are more skeptical of free trade.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The end of the Bush presidency and U.S.-Latin American relations

I was invited to write an opinion piece for e-IR, a website run by students from Oxford, Leicester, and LSE. The essay is entitled, "U.S. Policy Toward Latin America: Is Mild the New Bold?"

I took as a point of departure my post on the Obama proposals for U.S. policy, and tried to tease out a bit more the implications of the reactions to them.


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