Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trust in the Latin American military

The Latin American Public Opinion Project does all sorts of fascinating work. The latest is about trust in the armed forces.

Daniel Montalvo, "Do You Trust Your Armed Forces?" AmericasBarometer Insights n. 27 (2009).

One key finding is that the level of trust has no relation to past repression. In Chile, for example, 65.2 percent trust the military, and 56.5 percent in El Salvador. Instead, it is correlated to economic growth.

I would like to this sort of analysis examined in more depth. Nicaragua and El Salvador rank high, but I would argue it is controversial to attribute that to economic growth. Mauricio Funes was elected in large part because of dissatisfaction with the economy. There is a cluster of countries around 2 percent growth (for 1990-2005), which is not very high. That cluster includes Argentina, which is at the opposite side of the trust spectrum from every other country.

Still, it is interesting that a majority of Latin Americans in every country but two--Paraguay and Argentina--trust their armed forces. It would also be interesting, however, to ask what they trust them to do or not to do. Do they trust them to protect the country from security threats? Do they trust them not to intervene in domestic politics?

But overall, this would be a great start to a more in-depth academic article.


Honduras timetable

La Prensa has a PDF of the final agreement in Honduras. The current timetable:

Oct 30 (yesterday): The agreement goes into effect and Congress formally receives point five regarding whether Mel Zelaya should become president again.

November 2 (Monday): Creation of the Commission of Verification.

By November 5 (Thursday): Installation of a unity government.

There is no timetable for the congressional vote. From the OAS: "Naturally, I am sure the members of Congress will fully realize the importance and political urgency of these matters, and I hope they will act as quickly as possible." Zelaya thinks it will happen within a week or so.

From the Micheletti side: "Zelaya won't be restored."

From Zelaya: "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras."

Members of Congress will have many factors to consider when casting their vote. At the very core of the decision, however, is the question of whether they prefer a November 29 election that is peaceful, or one that is marked by polarization.


Friday, October 30, 2009

The end of the Honduran crisis?

Details remain sketchy, and may not be entirely ironed out. But the New York Times has the following:

“The accord allows a vote in Congress on Zelaya’s possible restitution with the prior approval of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Micheletti said in televised comments late Thursday. “This is a significant concession on the part of our government.” “We are satisfied,” Mr. Zelaya said, according to Reuters. “We are optimistic that my reinstatement is imminent.”

La Prensa reports that the agreement consists of the following points. Other outlets have said the negotiators will meet again today, but it is not clear if the points themselves are not set or if it is just a matter of settling the logistics. Here is a quick translation:

1- La creación de un gobierno de unidad y reconciliación nacional.

The creation of a national reconciliation and unity government.

2- Rechazo a la amnistía delitos políticos, y demoratoria de acciones procesos penales.

Rejection of an amnesty for political crimes, and delay for penal processes.

3- Renunciar a una convocatoria a una Asamblea Nacional Constituyente o a reformar la Constitución en los artículos constitucionales irreformables.

Reject the convocation of a National Constitutional Assembly or reform of the unreformable constitutional articles.

4. Reconocer y apoyar las elecciones generales y el traspaso de Gobierno.

Recognize and support the general elections and the transfer of Government.

5- La transferencia de autoridad sobre las Fuerzas Armadas al Tribunal Supremo Electoral.

Transfer of authority over the Armed Forces to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

6- La creación de una comisión de verificación para hacer cumplir los puntos del acuerdo.

Creation of a commission of verification to ensure compliance with the points of the accord.

7- La formación de una comisión de la verdad para investigar los sucesos antes, durante y después del 28 de junio de 2009.

The formation of a truth commission to investigate the events before, during, and after June 28, 2009.

8- Solicitar a la comunidad internacional la normalización de las relaciones internacionales con nuestro país.

Request from the international community normalization of international relations with our country.

9. Apoyar una propuesta que permite un voto en el Congreso Nacional con una previa opinión de la Corte Suprema de Justicia para retrotraer todo el Poder Ejecutivo previo al 28 de junio.

Support the proposal that permits a vote in the National Congress with previous judgment from the Supreme Court to make the Executive Power retroactive to before June 28.

This is obviously a huge breakthrough. By far the most important element is that both sides are claiming victory. I would really like to know what the U.S. delegation said.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cuban market reforms

Thanks to a student for pointing out this story on Cuban "agros," the capitalist farmers markets. When you allow people profit, they produce more. Since the produce is unavailable elsewhere, prices rise. When prices go up, the government comes in to announce price controls. Then when there are price controls, then sellers get angry and stop bothering (or just resort to the black market). That can make shoppers unhappy as well.

So when the Communist Party served notice that it plans to impose price controls at those agros — ending one of Cuba's few capitalist experiments — angry shoppers fearing yet more shortages turned on state inspectors in an unprecedented public rage.

Police were called to one farmers market this month when customers shouted and chanted at state workers conducting a routine inspection. Two Associated Press reporters were escorted out of the same market Tuesday after their questions about the changes caused another shouting match.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inside the Brazilian embassy

Journalist Esteban Felix is there.

Soldiers bark like dogs, meow like cats and crow like roosters just as my REM cycle gets going and I'm jolted awake almost nightly.

Troops last week blasted us with music from 1:30 a.m. until 7 a.m. The playlist included the grating Spanish ballad "Two-legged Rat," an accordian-laced tirade against an ex-boyfriend made famous by Mexican singer Paquita La del Barrio. Its lyrics begin, "Filthy rat, crawling animal, scum of all life ..." and it got worse from there.

That was a rough night.


Micheletti's last gambles

Roberto Micheletti has said that there is no more reason to talk until after the elections. The United States is sending a high-level delegation (including Tom Shannon) to Honduras to push for a solution, and obviously Micheletti is betting that they will not put sufficient pressure on him to change his mind.

So we are back to square one, really, where the coup government simply sits and waits for the elections. A new Gallup poll shows that 73 percent of Hondurans believe the presidential election will help pave the way for reconciliation. An important question, however, is how they will view those elections if there is more repression, which may well result for the next month.

Micheletti is gambling that a majority of Hondurans have crisis fatigue, and therefore will look to the elections as a solution just to end it in some way. It is not a bad gamble, I suppose, especially given the country's economic problems. But as always, there is just no way to predict the outcome.

Days since the coup: 122
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 32


Monday, October 26, 2009

Elections in Uruguay: blasts from the past

The Uruguayan presidential election will go to a runoff because no candidate received a majority. However, Frente Amplio candidate José Mújica received just under 50% so will be the next president barring an utter collapse.

Much is being made of the fact that Mújica is an aged ex-Tupamaro guerrilla. Of more interest to me, however, is the generational angle and the fact that Luis Alberto Lacalle came in second. He is a former president (1990-1995), following that persistent pattern of Latin American presidents retiring for a while and then trying to come back (for example, right now we have Oscar Arias in Costa Rica and Alan García in Peru). The other candidate was Pedro Bordaberry, son of a former president and dictator.

A runoff between Mújica and Lacalle is a time warp. From a policy perspective, this is not likely to matter much. Either candidate would not change the popular policy direction of current president Vázquez (see Boz's discussion).

Lacalle is like Eduardo Frei in Chile, trying to convince voters why he is still relevant (and he convinced less than a third). And now he will be in a runoff with someone who became a guerrilla when the Cuban revolution was still new.

Not exactly inspiring.

Uruguayans did even more voting related the past, rejecting the repeal of the amnesty. That alone merits more attention than I have time to give it, since (also as in Chile) the dictatorship is now so far in the past but the amnesty remains.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jeane Kirkpatrick and the current crisis in Honduras

I had an email exchange with Russell Bither-Terry, who for a class was looking for links to two articles by Jeane Kirkpatrick, an ultra conservative foreign policy architect of the Reagan administration. [Note: this is not to implicate Russell in the content of my post! He works on hunger issues and you can read his own blog here]

These articles (published in the conservative Commentary magazine) are famous for their highly influential outline of how the U.S. should deal with Latin America, and explicitly argued that dictatorships were fine as long as they were pro-U.S. They are critical works for understanding Reagan-era policies (indeed, no matter which side you come down on).

Rereading them, I was struck by how amazingly (and depressingly) similar they are to the current arguments about how Honduras is a massive security issue. Take Kirkpatrick's "U.S. Security and Latin America," published in 1981 just as (not coincidentally) Reagan was taking office.

Here is the first paragraph, and just substitute "Hugo Chávez" for the Soviets:

While American attention in the past year has been focused on other matters, developments of great potential importance in Central America and the Caribbean have passed almost unnoticed. The deterioration of the U.S. position in the hemisphere has already created serious vulnerabilities where none previously existed, and threatens now to confront this country with the unprecedented need to defend itself against a ring of Soviet bases on and around our southern and eastern borders.

In other words, what happens in Central America could destroy us all. Therefore any talk about democracy must go out the window because it's all a ruse for our enemies.

American policies have not only proved incapable of dealing with the problems of Soviet/Cuban expansion in the area, they have positively contributed to them and to the alienation of major nations, the growth of neutralism, the destabilization of friendly governments, the spread of Cuban influence, and the decline of U.S. power in the region.


U.S. policy, it was assumed, should be based on an understanding of “changed realities” and guided by an enlightened confidence that what was good for the world was good for the United States. Power was to be used to advance moral goals, not strategic or economic ones. Thus sanctions could be employed to punish human-rights violations, but not to aid American business; power could be used “to the full extent permitted by law” to prevent terrorist actions against Cuba, but not to protect U.S. corporations against expropriation. Nor was power to be a factor in designing or implementing economic aid or trade programs except where these were intended to promote human rights, disarmament, and nuclear non-proliferation.

Barack Obama is being excoriated from the right for even talking about "democracy" or other such disgusting moral goals instead of protecting strategic interests in Honduras.

Anastasio Somoza's Nicaragua had the bad luck to become the second demonstration area for the “fresh start” in Latin America. Just because the regime had been so close and so loyal to the U.S., its elimination would, in exactly the same fashion as the Panama Canal Treaties, dramatize the passing of the old era of “hegemony” in Central America and the arrival of anew era of equity and justice.

Poor Somoza! Poor Micheletti! They're the good guys, for Pete's sake. All that human rights abuse is a Communist plot.

And she ends with the idea that there is no point in trying to do much, because Latin Americans are screwed up anyway. No one says that now, but they're thinking it.

It requires thinking more realistically about the politics of Latin America, about the alternatives to existing governments, and about the amounts and kinds of aid and time that would be required to improve the lives and expand the liberties of the people of the area. The choices are frequently unattractive.

So don't bother with democracy, morality, or human rights. They won't happen anyway, so let's do what's best for us. Which is also good for "them," you know. Or at least good enough.


Non-English speaking driver

Incredible. Over the last three years, Dallas police have ticketed 39 individuals for being a "non-English speaking driver." Obviously, these people were terrified of contesting an entirely fictitious infraction, even though they had to pay a $204 fine! Finally, one guy challenged it in court and won.

I am getting tired of repeating this, but the lack of action at the federal level is shifting way too much authority to local law enforcement, which is not equipped to deal with it. At the same time, some people will discriminate no matter what.

h/t ImmigrationProf Blog


Friday, October 23, 2009

Liberals, conservatives, and Honduras

Abraham Lowenthal, a political scientist and long-time observer of U.S.-Latin American relations who is now at the University of Southern California, has a thought-provoking op-ed in the L.A. Times. His argument is that both liberals and conservatives in the United States have made the situation worse in Honduras, and have done so multiple times in the past as well:

What brings Honduras, and Central America more generally, back again and again to center stage in Washington debates on Latin America is not the strategic, security or economic importance of the region to the United States. On the contrary, it is precisely the minimal tangible significance of Central America to the United States in economic, political and military terms that allows U.S. policymakers of conflicting tendencies to indulge in grandstanding in framing policies toward that nearby and vulnerable region.

True enough. Where I disagree, however, is here:

Liberal activists inside and outside the Obama administration jumped at the opportunity to align the U.S. government against the forcible overthrow and deportation of President Manuel Zelaya. Many did so without knowing or caring much about Zelaya's erratic qualities, his interest in trying to prolong his term despite the Honduran constitutional ban on reelection or the considerable sentiment against him in the Honduran legislative and judicial branches.

One argument I've made over these past few months is that it doesn't matter if Zelaya was unpopular. We should not ever go down a slippery slope of justifying a coup just because a president was unpopular.

Overall, though, he has a good point. One reason why this crisis has been so prolonged is that people like Jim DeMint have given the coup government the confidence not to negotiate.

Days since the coup: 117
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 37


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dialogue in Honduras

Nothing says "we are committed to negotiation" like a) blasting pig grunting noises; and b) saying the main sticking point remains non-negotiable. Not to mention possibly illegal restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Days since the coup: 116
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 38


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Political science and immigration

A lot of virtual ink is being spilled about political science as a discipline, particularly its relevance to policy. See Daniel Drezner for a good round-up. This is also a very important issue for political scientists (or anyone else) studying immigration. John Randolph at Feet in 2 Worlds notes a recent conference on undocumented immigration.

Aarti Kohli served in Washington, DC on the staff of the House Immigration Subcommittee ten years ago. Today she’s the director of immigration policy at the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley. Kohli said that a decade ago members of Congress didn’t pay much attention to immigration research.

Now she sees signs of a more receptive attitude on Capitol Hill. She believes the debate over a possible guest worker program has been influenced by research documenting the abuses of the Bracero program of the 1940s through the 1960s that allowed Mexican men to work legally in the U.S. but denied adequate compensation to many.

But Kohli also argues that if academic researchers want their findings to be used by policy-makers they need to make some changes. Her suggestion, “translate the findings into concrete, easy-to-read language.”

What academic research has shown and what members of Congress are interested in “doesn’t always line up,” according to Kohli. But, she says, “its lining up more these days.”

Political science research matters, and will inform the debate over reform that will intensify next year.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hugo Chávez and Michael Moore

Eva Golinger is pretty darned entertaining in her combined denunciation of Michael Moore and lavish praise of Hugo Chávez. For example:

Moore’s declarations against President Chávez are offensive and insulting and a clear sign of his hipocresy and lack of ethic. How many times has we heard President Chávez acclaim Moore’s books and documentaries? And most recently, Chávez announced that Moore’s latest documentary, “Capitalism, a love story”, would premiere here in Venezuela.
If a president allows a film to premiere, then you need to show the proper respect!


Monday, October 19, 2009

MEO's run

Citing a poll from El Mercurio that puts him tied (within the margin of error) with Eduardo Frei in a first round of December's election in large cities, Marco Enríquez-Ominami says he's the only one who can beat Sebastián Piñera in the second.

Robert Funk notes that MEO has been peeling off many young members of the Concertación, who are leaving in part because there is no room for them there. The coalition is stuck in a generational rut (as exemplified by the candidate himself). That gives MEO's campaign some energy but also a lot of inexperience.

He also points out that all three campaigns think they can win, and polls are certainly not proving any of them wrong. Barring something bizarre, no one will win in the first round. The fight for the second will be intense.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quote of the day: Venezuela

“Why not? Who can stop sovereign nations from forming a defensive military alliance and exchanging soldiers and officers and training and materiel and logistics?”

--Hugo Chávez, after criticizing the U.S. and Colombia for exchanging soldiers and officers and training and materiel and logistics.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Honduras: Congress v. Supreme Court

Talks broke down in Honduras, and Monday is now the new new new deadline (the first deadline was sometime back in July, I think, but this time they mean it). Over at Honduras Coup 2009 they have the texts of the Zelaya and Micheletti camps.

It boils down to whether Congress (Zelaya) or the Supreme Court (Micheletti) should make a final determination about Zelaya's status as president.

Meanwhile, James Baker has an op-ed in the Washington Post and shows he is behind the times, choosing only to repeat most of Micheletti's argument without any idea that it a) represents a minority of opinion in Honduras and b) goes contrary to the San José Accord so is unacceptable to Zelaya. Further, he argues for an amnesty, which all sides have rejected, at least up to this point.


Friday, October 16, 2009

The Honduran coup

For a well-written analysis centering on whether Mel Zelaya's removal was a coup, check out Max Cameron's article at The Mark.

What is a coup? I suggest a method for discerning coups, based on the theory that “if it waddles like a duck, flaps like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.” Here are some of the quacks, flaps, and waddles that count as coups:
  1. Arbitrary or illegal termination of the tenure in office of any democratically elected official by any other elected official.
  2. Arbitrary or illegal appointment, removal, or interference in the appointment or deliberations of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies.
  3. Interference by non-elected officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of elected officials.
  4. Use of public office to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal activities of members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society.
  5. Failure to hold elections that meet generally accepted international standards of freedom and fairness.
  6. Violation of the integrity of central institutions, including constitutional checks and balances providing for the separation of powers.
  7. Failure to hold periodic elections or to respect electoral outcomes.
  8. Systematic violation of basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, or respect for minority rights.

The coup in Honduras fulfills conditions 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8; and 5 is imminent. Let’s call a duck a duck.

I would disagree slightly, in that I would argue that a "coup" refers only to the actual removal of democratically elected officials. The conditions occurring after the removal are referring more to authoritarianism than to a coup per se.

Days since the coup: 110
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 44


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thomas Shannon appointment

Liz Harper at Americas Quarterly has an article about the effort by some conservatives to torpedo the nomination of Tom Shannon as ambassador to Brazil. They are distributing talking points that criticize his work at Assistant Secretary of State. These criticisms focus mostly on the fact that he was willing to have dialogue with governments that may be antagonistic, and did not meddle enough to fund opposition to those governments. Interestingly, they also lament the fact that he put the strategic interests of the U.S. ahead of other concerns (particularly with regard to Venezuela).

As she correctly notes, such criticisms fail to grasp causality. U.S. policy in the past helped fuel movements that brought presidents to power who are skeptical of (or outright confrontational with) the U.S. government. Meddling more will certainly make the situation worse. Shannon's pragmatism (or just refraining from personal insults!) helped calm things down. In other words, it was actually diplomacy.

A good relationship with Brazil matters a lot and blocking Shannon is just shooting ourselves in the foot.


More fact finding in Honduras

Peter Roskam is one of the Republican House members who went to Honduras, and he published an op-ed about the trip. As with other coup supporters, he calls Mel Zelaya's forced exile a "tactical error" rather than a violation of the constitution. There are a variety of other common errors, all of which were assuredly reinforced by his "fact" finding.

The most entertaining part of the argument, and he makes it twice for emphasis, is that Honduras is a "counterbalance" and a "necessary check" to Hugo Chávez. That's right, this tiny and underdeveloped country is the absolute key to stability not only in Central America, but in South America as well.

As often happens when I reach such things, I wonder to myself whether they really believe what they're writing or not.

Days since the coup: 109
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 45


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Honduran military and negotiations

Amid calls to boycott the election, the Honduran Minister of Defense indicated that the Honduran people should not have to hear such messages because it will just "confuse" them. Apparently it is difficult for them to figure things out for themselves. The armed forces, he says, will apply "all the weight of the law" for the elections.

Meanwhile, Military Chief Romeo Vásquez made clear that he is alerting the negotiators about anything that according to him creates an undefined "risk."

He also said that he felt the negotiations were close to an end, which I would think is the main reason for all these statements. The military is reminding everyone involved that it is central to any solution. As indeed it was central to creating the problem that now requires a solution.

Days since the coup: 108
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 46


The Forum issue on immigration

The Forum, which is an electronic journal focusing on applied political research, has a special issue on immigration reform that is worth a look.

From the intro:

The immigration issue seems insistently with us in the late 2000s, though immigration policy seems persistently elusive. Seeking an intellectual handle on this disjunction, a cluster of Forum authors focus on immigration politics in its many forms. Daniel Tichenor maps the difficult terrain for policymaking in this realm, while Ben Marquez and John Witte address alternative congressional strategies for making immigration policy. Randall Hansen looks at American policy in comparative perspective, while Peter Schuck raises the possibility of giving the individual states wider latitude to legislate. Peter Skerry argues that observers have misperceived the reality of immigration politics and policy; Jack Citrin and Matthew Wright link notions of American identity with public preferences in this realm;


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Targets in the drug war

You know the "drug war" could actually transform when even Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes about liberalization and a new focus on demand rather than just supply. She interviewed former Secretary of State George Schultz. He even notes approvingly of the report earlier this year from former presidents Zedillo, Gaviria, and Cardoso that made similar recommendations. I am glad to see that report retain some life.

This has a similar flavor to Cuba policy. After years of disastrously failed policies, conservative Republicans begin to shift their positions. The issue can then be framed in terms (particularly security) that appeal to Republicans and thereby made politically palatable. The process is slow, but once some diehard conservatives are on board, change is all but inevitable.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The new new deadline

Throughout the Honduran crisis, Mel Zelaya has periodically issued ultimatums, then ignored them. Nonetheless, it is worth noting the latest ultimatum, which is October 15 (Thursday).

Despite news of "progress" in the talks, there seem to be two key sticking points. The biggie is Zelaya's reinstatement, which for the moment remains a deal breaker in opposite directions for both sides. Nothing new or surprising there.

"If after all of this, they say that there is not going to be reinstatement (of Zelaya), what difference does it make if we made progress on anything else?" Barahona asked.

"Tuesday, we are going to get at that key point in detail. If on October 15 we do not have a deal, the talks will have failed."

The second is amnesty, which Zelaya's side does not want.

The Zelaya camp, Barahona added, opposed amnesty because such a move would mean "amnesia, forgetfulness and forgiveness, and we cannot condone the coup."

What that means for a potential trial for Zelaya is not clear.

For now, we are back into the routine of delay and waiting. The constant protests, however, make it much more difficult for the coup government simply to sit and drag it out.

Days since the coup: 106
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 48


Sunday, October 11, 2009

James Hynes' The Lecturer's Tale

I read James Hynes' The Lecturer's Tale, which is a funny though sometimes truly bizarre novel centering on a fictional high-powered English department in Minnesota. Nelson Humboldt, the protagonist, has his finger severed in an accident just after being fired as an adjunct instructor. When it is reattached he finds he can make people do what he wants. As always happens with such stories, he then generates all sorts of unintended (and sometimes unpleasant) consequences.

Hynes deftly navigates all sorts of academic realities, from internal power struggles to the exploitation of non-tenured faculty. Since virtually all novels about academia are written by people from English departments, it explores the debate over postmodernism and "great works." This leads Hynes into areas like ideology, the nature of gender, relationships, and even the very purpose of universities (on that note, I found the ending very poignant, though the climactic scenes were pretty excessive).

A number of the characters are too over the top, like a Serbian professor who dressed in a different costume every day, from a cowboy to a Cub Scout, or the professor who is always asleep, whether in meetings or at a department party. But overall, even when caricatures, they symbolize the different types of personalities many departments have. And sometimes it's very funny, such as the guy whose job talk made up a movie that Elvis could have made, and since it exemplified the cultural aspects of Elvis so well, it should be regarded as actually existing.*

It left me wishing, though, that a novelist from a different discipline would examine academia, because all disciplines have factions of some sort (the most significant in political science revolves around qualitative versus quantitative methodology) and I am a little tired of reading about the same English ones all the time.

* for non-academics, a job talk is a lecture/talk about your research given during the course of a multi-day interview for a position as professor.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

TV media in Honduras

From France 24: a very interesting piece on the television media in Honduras. The money quote is from the state newscaster who argues that removing Zelaya from the country was actually giving him a privilege.

Days since the coup: 104
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 50


Friday, October 09, 2009

Latest Chile poll numbers

Adimark published its monthly poll on Chilean politics. Michelle Bachelet's approval rating stands at 76%.

At the same time, there is more disapproval than approval for how she is handling education, health, Transantiago, corruption, and crime. This seems strange, but overall Chileans are concerned with the economy, and they like how she and Andrés Velasco have handled it.

Further, 61% disapprove of the way the Chamber of Deputies is working, and 56% disapprove of the Senate.

Lastly, the Concertación has an approval rating of only 28%, versus 52% disapproval. The Alianza is about the same--26% approval and 53% disapproval.

This has been a consistent theme, especially in the last year (and which is analyzed in the book I edited with Silvia Borzutzky). Bachelet retains personal popularity but it does not rub off on anyone else. As Pato Navia points out, she also never groomed any future leaders.

In short, her approval will have little or no impact on the December elections. Chileans like her, but are generally unhappy with their government.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Making the arms race easier

The Chilean government is putting a list together of all its military purchases and wants other Latin American countries to do the same. This way, neighboring countries can see exactly how far behind they are as they try to catch up.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Honduras :a new argument

For anyone who supported the ouster of Mel Zelaya, there are a variety of legal problems, but one is insurmountable. His forced exile was unconstitutional.

ARTICULO 102.- Ningún hondureño podrá ser expatriado ni entregado por las autoridades a un Estado extranjero

No Honduran can be expatriated or handed over by authorities to a foreign state.

That, of course, is exactly what the military did. Roberto Micheletti typically refers to this violation of the constitution as an "error." Oops, sorry about that.

But Senator Jim DeMint now claims he was told the following by the Honduran Supreme Court:

DEMINT: They did it right. The only thing they know that is not specifically according to the Constitution was taking Zelaya...

VAN SUSTEREN: Putting them on the plane and throwing them out of the country.

DEMINT: They said the Constitution allows for exceptional situations, and they felt like he had presented a danger to people because of his ability to use Chavez's money to instill riots.

The coup government is therefore desperate enough to lie to a U.S. senator. There is no constitutional exception to the prohibition of exile.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fact finding in Honduras

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen went to Honduras and then apparently sat and caressed Roberto Micheletti's arm while holding up a copy of the constitution that specifically prohibits forced exile. If you were curious about what exactly happens during a "fact finding trip," then now you know.

Her overall conclusion was that the U.S. will be overrun by drugs if we don't support the coup government immediately. She learned this from classified conversations that she cannot disclose.

Feel free to insert your own caption.


Monday, October 05, 2009

If you can beat 'em, then also join 'em

The IMF wants more money to act as lender of last resort, and Brazil is stepping up:

Brazil, an emerging economy, said on Monday that it will spend 10 billion dollars (6.8 billion euros) on buying IMF bonds to boost the fund's power to help countries through the global crisis.

It was the first time that Brazil, Latin America's economic giant, has lent money to the 186-nation International Monetary Fund.

"We have gone from being debtors to creditors," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said ahead of IMF and World Bank annual meetings which begin Tuesday.

This is yet another example of Lula's concerted effort to elevate Brazil's global presence, hard on the heels of his successful bid for the Olympics.

"This contribution is an expression of Brazil willingness to play a greater role in the fund and support the institution and its objectives," he said.

Brazil paid off its own IMF debt a few years ago, and now will try to use its money as leverage to influence IMF loan policies.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

War of the Pacific (again)

You may recall that Peru has persistently demanded that a change in its maritime border with Chile. In August 2007 the government published a map showing how much more it should get, and then in January 2008 it announced it was taking the case to the International Court of Justice.

Now the Chilean Foreign Minister, Mariano Fernández, went on TV and started criticizing Peru's case. He noted that it would be extremely difficult for Peru to get anything because it had no facts on its side. He also pointed out that Peruvian complaints about Chilean aggression were exaggerated, because Chile had not been in a war since 1885, whereas Peru fought against Ecuador in 1995. I'm not sure what he hoped to accomplish by taking public swipes at Peru on such a delicate topic.

For anyone interested, the ICJ documents can be found here. Peru presented its argument in March 2009 (see here). Chile is not required to present its own case until March 2010.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Cuba and the embargo

Jorge Castañeda has an unusual article in Newsweek. The core of his argument is that Cuba is so incredibly powerful that we need to end the embargo. He concludes:

Havana and Chávez are closely aligned; Zelaya would never have made it to the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital without Cuban logistical aid, and Chávez himself would probably not survive politically or otherwise without the island's security apparatus that permanently surrounds him. But an end to the embargo could begin to split apart Havana and Caracas, and it is probably the only intelligent policy Washington has available to it.

I have to say that I've not heard this argued before. Hugo Chávez would not survive politically without Cuba? Fidel and Raúl orchestrated Mel Zelaya's return? Neither Roberto Micheletti nor Jim DeMint has even gone that far!

On other hand, I support ending the embargo for a number of reasons, so I will try to overlook the odd rationale people might have for agreeing with me.


DeMint: DeGovernment is DeBest

Senator Jim DeMint zipped down quickly to Honduras to meet with everyone who supported the coup, and to get a better idea of why they thought it was such a good idea. He issued the following statement:

"We had a very productive trip, and we will have more to say next week after we have briefed our colleagues in the House and Senate. But for now, I can say that we saw a government working hard to follow the rule of law, uphold its constitution, and to protect democracy for the people of Honduras. We are very encouraged by what we saw and we hope to be able to work with our administration to support the upcoming elections,” said Senator DeMint.

Aside from his clear lack of understanding of what it means to uphold a constitution, the interesting thing is that DeMint is well behind the curve. Dialogue between representatives of Micheletti and Zelaya will begin soon (assuming no one reneges). Fewer and fewer coup supporters see waiting for the elections as a viable strategy. So the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is free to debate what it wants, but Hondurans themselves are driving events.

Days since the coup: 97
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 57


Friday, October 02, 2009

DeMint is DeNied

Jim DeMint's efforts to travel to Honduras were nixed by John Kerry, who as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee can block the funds. Although DeMint tried to frame it as an effort to prevent senators from learning the "truth" about Honduras (and, it should be noted, their planned way of determining the truth was simply to talk to Roberto Micheletti) the real reason is much simpler:

"When Senator DeMint lifts these holds and allows these individuals to receive an up or down vote on the Senate floor, the Committee will approve his travel to Honduras, a country that is in the middle of delicate, political crisis.”

Basic tit for tat. The individuals in question are Arturo Valenzuela and Tom Shannon.

DeMint also released a statement with the false assertion that the Congressional Research Service "directly contradicts President Obama’s snap decision about the legality of then-President Zelaya’s removal from office in June." As I mentioned in a previous post, this is not true. The CRS report is in fact critical of the military and the coup government.

Now, repeat after me. "There is no such CRS report. There is no such CRS report." Instead, there is a Law Library of Congress report that is picked apart here, among other places.

Update: Boz notes that DeMint managed to get a plane from the Pentagon. Now he can find out the truthiness of the crisis.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

DeMint and Honduras

Via The Hill: Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be part of a delegation to Honduras. In fact, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will be doing the same. Maybe the same one.

This is a sign of concern among conservatives that the "wait it out until the elections" strategy is at risk. They feel the need to go and provide a public show of support for the coup government at this critical time. I have to question how much that will ultimately matter. First, Honduran elites know that Republicans are not in the White House and so support from the opposition party can't provide them with much. Second, Honduran elites are also well aware that events on the ground are more important than the views of a few U.S. politicians. The visits will likely be much trumpeted by the pro-coup newspapers, but forgotten not long thereafter.

DeMint wins the quote of the day contest: "Hondurans should be able to choose their own future." As in, "Hondurans should be able to choose their own president and not have him be overthrown in his pajamas."

Days since the coup: 95
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 59


Venezuela and Libya

Hugo Chávez bestowed the Order of the Liberator on Muammar Gaddafi.

“The entire people of Margarita is full of joy with your presence and they pay you homage as prove of our love and affection to Libyan people, to Arab people, African people, to the great Libyan revolution,” Chavez said.


“We are making history. We are facing the imperialism, the bourgeoisie and backwardness, the colonialism of more than 500 years that has assaulted our peoples and that's why the Bolivarian Revolution is full of jubilation with the presence of one of the great leaders of this century,” Chavez said.
No commentary really needed.

Update: Angus (aka Kevin Grier) at Kids Prefer Cheese provides commentary. So to speak.


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