Sunday, January 31, 2010

More immigration tea leaves

Anyone interested in immigration reform is looking for signs of life.  I've already noted how President Obama gave only a lackluster reference in the SOTU.  Now according to Jeffrey Kaye writing at the Huffington Post, a lobbyist who is involved in negotiating a bipartisan bill says they won't even have a first draft until at least March.  I generally agree with Kaye's pessimistic assessment of the situation, but disagree with one point:

One influential senator, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has suggested a more wary piecemeal approach to immigration reform, rather than one big package. Breaking off chunks and dealing separately with the contentious issues of legalization, enforcement, and "future flows" of migrants may seem like a pragmatic short term approach to immigration but is likely to result in once again postponing the issue. And, if it's not going to be dealt with in 2010, it's almost certain to be ignored later on as politicos prepare for the 2012 presidential election year.

This latter point is not true.  Immigration reform was a winning issue in the 2008 presidential elections.  Recall that John McCain was the only pro-reform candidate yet won his party's nomination.  Plus, both parties will once again want to court Latino voters.  I have said many times that there is no Latino bloc and Latinos are not necessarily even in favor of reform.  However, the perception that a "Latino vote" exists has been a motivator for politicians to embrace reform.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Chávez obsession

Recently I poked fun at Roger Noriega, who believes that passing free trade agreements will stop Hugo Chávez from invading Colombia.  Now he is repeating himself: FTAs "send a very clear signal that these are strategic partners that enjoy our unmitigated support, which could back off warmongering by Chavez and other thugs."  This is the same message the Bush administration unsuccessfully pitched toward the end of his second term.

The main problem is that it's nuts.  There is no evidence that FTAs stop conflict with third countries.

Regardless, the Chávez obsession is bizarre.  Along these lines, I recommend Adam Isacson's recent post about how the perception of Chávez as an all-powerful force are unsupported.  But he is a convenient foil, cited as the reason why we must pass X policy.  If we don't, then the bad guys win and our friends will be confused.  Whether or not it makes sense doesn't enter the equation.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Mexico and its emigrants

The Migration Policy Institute published a study on Mexico's efforts to extend the services it offers to its migrants in the United States: "Protection Through Integration: The Mexican Government's Efforts to Aid Migrants in the United States."  It focuses on the Institute of Mexican Abroad (IME), which offers a host of different programs.

Grounded in the belief that a better integrated immigrant benefits the individual migrant, the sending country, and the receiving country, IME’s integration work represents one of the most significant, if overlooked, factors in US immigrant integration policy. Although small in scale, Mexico’s promising activities in the field of integration have the potential to ease their migrants’ transition to life in the United States. In addition to benefiting from programs that help to improve Mexican immigrants’ educational attainment, civic engagement, and financial literacy, the United States stands to gain from integration initiatives that fill gaps in the social welfare system caused by funding shortfalls, lack of experience with migrant populations, eligibility
requirements, or neglect.

Many scholars have argued that large-scale migration, but especially emigration, weakens states because it represents a loss of control.  I have an article forthcoming in International Migration challenging that view, and arguing that programs precisely like those described above demonstrate a renewed (or entirely new) state presence and relevance.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Immigration in the SOTU

President Obama inserted a few sentences on immigration in the State of the Union:

And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system, to secure our borders, and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.


In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America, values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe, values that drive our citizens still.

Better than nothing, surely, but this does not send any sort of signal about it being a priority.  Here is what the White House spokesman had to say in response to a reporter:

Q    On the White House Web site, the Homeland Security Secretary said that there will be a push for comprehensive immigration reform this year.  What's this going to look like?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think one of the things the President will -- has talked about and one of the things you'll hear him mention tomorrow and in the coming days, similar to what I've said on cap and trade, and that is that if -- we've started a process on this and if Congress can put together the way forward, a coalition to get the way forward, then it's something we'll work through.

On the one hand, you could say that of course a congressional coalition must be assembled.  Otherwise nothing would get passed.  On the other, it also suggests that Obama is kicking the ball back to Congress rather than pushing for a coalition himself.

For years, I have been correctly pessimistic about the prospects for immigration reform, so it is becoming knee-jerk.  Someday I hope actually to be wrong.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Resisting in Honduras

Very soon, Honduras will largely drop off the U.S. media radar.  Pepe Lobo will be inaugurated as president today, Mel Zelaya will leave the country for the Dominican Republic, and those responsible for the coup will sit in contented impunity.

So now the country will return to its traditional oligarchic style of governance.  There is a resistance movement, the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) that has called for demonstrations against the inauguration and rejection of the Lobo government.  Its primary challenge, however, is similar to many other social movements that form during a time of crisis.  Very disparate groups come together to deal with a specific problem, and when that problem is resolved (one way or another) they must either find a new purpose or split apart. (There is, for example, a large literature on women's movements during Latin American dictatorships and the challenges they faced in the postauthoritarian era).

The main goal seems to be constitutional reform, though this will be problematic given the movement's non-recognition of the government, with which it will have to work.  Plus, the different groups within the resistance will have to come to agreement on specific goals and strategies, which is no small task.  And, of course, they will face the same issue of the non-reformable parts of the constitution.  There is a good post at Honduras Coup 2009 about the resistance, though I would argue that it is premature to assume continued unity.

Hondurans pushing for substantive change therefore have an enormous amount of work cut out for them and face long odds.  Can the resistance movement gain traction as it moves forward from today?


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Funes will recognize Lobo

Porfirio Lobo will be sworn in tomorrow, and international recognition of his government is obviously a top priority.  President Mauricio Funes has indicated he will start the process of normalizing relations.  From the Salvadoran press:

"Una vez concluida la protesta constitucional e iniciado el período del presidente Lobo, comenzaremos el proceso de normalización de relaciones que se vieron afectadas por el golpe militar", aseveró ayer el mandatario salvadoreño.

That this comes from a center-left government (one that even helped Mel Zelaya get back into Honduras) gives it more importance.  It seems unlikely that very many governments will refuse to recognize Lobo.


Heilemann and Halperin's Game Change

I read John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's Game Change (I won't even bother with the longest and worst subtitle I've seen in a long while), which had received attention in the blogosphere regarding whether political scientists would like it.  I did, though not because I felt it was going to inform me about how people vote or why elections are won.  It was a very fun, light, juicy book, and you can suck down the 400+ pages in short order, but the analysis can be summed up as follows:

Events that change the course of campaigns are game changers.  There are many kinds of game changers, and all of them spark change.

That's really about it, with lots of breathless writing and sweeping metaphors--it offers no new analytical insights into the race.  But the narrative definitely provides a very detailed behind-the-scenes view in the Bob Woodward mold.  It also leaves you (or should leave you) generally scratching your head about why Iowa is so important for launching presidential campaigns.  Hillary Clinton herself was still trying to figure out the rules, and spent $25 (!) million there.  That is just a bizarre way for campaigns to start, though her and Bill's tirades don't leave you feeling too sorry for them.  Neither John nor Elizabeth Edwards ends up looking very good, either.

As I often do when I read such books, I came away with the feeling that the life of a presidential candidate is entirely miserable, and I could not imagine doing it.  Perhaps that is why there are so many affairs, so many f-bombs, so much confusion, and even depression.  And near-vomiting: "Obama, who had a vicious stomach bug, spent much of the lunch trying not to puke on Clinton's shoes" (p. 418).

I lost track of the game changes because there were so many, but it doesn't really matter.  Heilemann and Halperin's view of politics is essentially that of individuals colliding into each other, a sort of chaos theory for politics that remains undeveloped and unexamined.  No matter--just ignore that and enjoy the story about the personalities.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Who's socialist in Latin America?

Gallup has some interesting numbers from Latin America.  Basically, Latin Americans consider themselves much more socialist than capitalist (though having them as dichotomies is problematic) but also approve of U.S. leadership more than Venezuelan leadership.  Paraguayans consider themselves the most socialist, and Mexicans the least.  Uruguayans consider themselves more socialist than Venezuelans do.

Yet even in countries that are supposedly Hugo Chávez satellites, such as Ecuador, 35 percent approve of U.S. leadership, and 33 percent of Venezuelan leadership.  On the flip side, despite all the talk of a rightward tilt, 22 percent of Chileans approve of Venezuelan leadership.  And 35 percent of Venezuelans even approve of U.S. leadership!

So we end up with the unsurprising conclusion that in the aggregate, Latin Americans very often want the state involved in the economy and, like most people in the United States, do not simply want free market capitalism.  But the Venezuelan model does not necessarily appeal to them.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Piñera's inauspicious start

Sebastián Piñera is already facing probes because of his refusal to sell off shares of his companies before the election, as there has been a speculative frenzy:

The rally, which pushed Axxion’s price-to-earnings ratio to 41 through yesterday, almost double that of Chile’s Ipsa stock index, led the exchange to temporarily halt the shares Jan. 19 and the securities regulator to announce an investigation of trading last night.

Overall, last week the Chilean stock exchange asked the company three separate times for explanations.  That's not exactly the sort of news a president-elect wants.  Meanwhile, he talks about shifting control of his holdings to independent foundations, but he doesn't want to allow public access to their records.  The Centro de Investigación e Información Periodística (CIPER--if you are interested in Chilean politics, their blog is very worthwhile for its investigative journalism) is trying to get access to one of them, the Fundación Futuro.

One problem of not being in power is that you get accustomed to doing whatever you want.   But presidents can't without some political consequence, at least not in a democratic setting.  So Piñera will keep getting slapped until he arranges his finances in a transparent manner.  It will be a distraction he doesn't need until he does.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

2010 immigration reform

John McCain, someone who actually wants immigration reform to pass, has become the latest to say that reform will not happen in 2010.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama has not mentioned it in a while.

Obama has been given a pass thus far by reform advocates.  I am not sure how long that will last.  Regardless, a big question is whether they can effectively mobilize to put pressure on the administration to address immigration.  Many people support both immigration and health care reform, so may well be wary of criticizing him for the former while he is still trying to pass the latter.


Friday, January 22, 2010

New Venezuelan newspaper

Eva Golinger's blog notes that the Venezuelan state has created a new English-language newspaper, the Correo del Orinoco.  It makes a big deal about being fair and balanced, so is like a parallel universe Fox News.  It also obsesses on the United States, so is like a parallel universe Roger Noriega.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Piñera's brother

Sebastián Piñera's brother.  Hilarious.


Obama policy and conservatives

If you are interested in the conservative view of what the Obama administration should do in Latin America, then skim over Roger Noriega's article at the American Enterprise Institute.  It won't take you too long, as there are three main elements:

1. Hugo Chávez is evil and is the cause of all problems
2. If we pass an FTA with Colombia, then Venezuela won't invade (I swear I am not making that up)
3. Hugo Chávez is evil and is the cause of all problems


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great quote: Nicaragua

The news media depicted a Nicaragua controlled, a Nicaragua suppressed, and a Nicaragua without freedom.  How strange that this image should be portrayed.  If any one thing precipitated the colossal predicament in which the government of Nicaragua would later find itself, it was an excess of freedom.  For this excess, I take full responsibility.

Anastasio Somoza, Nicaragua Betrayed (Boston: Western Islands Publishers, 1980): pp. 28-29.

Ex-dictator memoirs can be perversely entertaining.  Somoza even borrowed the title from Fulgencio Batista.


Immigration reform in 2010

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) says he does not believe immigration reform will be passed in 2010.

“Realistically, it is going to be hard (to pass the legislation this year), I can tell you now. We have to go back and finish the health care bill. We’ve got to finish the jobs bill. Then, of course, you get the 2010 election. So, I think, 2011 will probably be more realistic. I want it this year but realistically, it will probably be 2011.”

In fact, the shift of the Massachusetts Senate seat from the Democrats to the Republicans is most often mentioned in terms of the health care debate, but is also important for immigration.  Ironically, Ted Kennedy was a major proponent of both health care and immigration reform, and now his seat will be used to torpedo them.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Quote of the day: Chile

"The Concertación has ended."

--Marco Enríquez-Ominami.

There will be so much fodder for political scientists over the following months, and understanding the Concertación is a great example.  Chile's political structures (particularly the binomial system) create incentives for coalition-building, but to what degree will the agency of individual parties (or just individuals) trump those structures?  It is quite obvious that the Concertación's raison d'etre disappeared years ago, but has it, as Sebastián Piñera put it, run out of gas?  If it is dead, then what rises from the ashes, and why?  Back to the three-thirds?  The computers of countless graduate students and professors are whirring in anticipation.

In the press, I suspect that ideological arguments will take precedent.  Everyone will want to argue whether Chile (whatever "Chile" means in such analyses) is more conservative, how it fits into the author's preconceived notions of regional political shifts, etc.  But the underlying structures and internal political realignments will be more interesting.


Sunday, January 17, 2010


Multiple projections show a Sebastián Piñera win.  But we can wait and make sure he's not a Chilean Thomas Dewey.


Chile's runoff election

The English-language press is having some trouble figuring out today's runoff election in Chile.  Pinochet is a factor (such as the kerfuffle about whether Pinochet-era officials should be included in a Piñera cabinet) or isn't.  The country is moving rightward, or isn't.  A win by Sebastián Piñera would mean change, or wouldn't.

Accordingly, my prediction is that Piñera will win by a very slim margin.  Unless he doesn't.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

TPS for Haitians

The Obama administration announced it was granting temporary protected status to Haitians living illegally in the U.S., just as we've done for Central American countries at various times.  I hope, probably in vain, that this situation would prompt more discussion of how to reform our immigration policy in general.  We allow Cubans who reach the U.S. to stay, but deport Haitians.  Further, we deport people to countries unable to deal with them, which only exacerbates political and social conflict, which in turn leads to more emigration.  And on a practical level, TPS keeps getting extended because the conditions in the home country don't change quickly.

Janet Napolitano also offers up this comment:

"At this moment of tragedy in Haiti, it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere, but attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation," Napolitano said.

It is hard to see how leaving a devastated country makes that country worse off, particular when there are currently too few resources to go around.  But the message is clear--don't come to the U.S.  We will help address the current crisis, then we'll ignore you until the next one.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote of the day: Haiti

Most of the time, I poke fun at government spokespeople for the ways in which they manage to say nothing.  So hats off to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, commenting on Pat Robertson:

"It never ceases to amaze, that in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid," Mr Gibbs said.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti's independence

Haiti somehow fought for independence from Napoleon III, who was not yet alive at the time, and the Haitians won only because they made a pact with the devil, which then cursed them forever and is to blame for the earthquake.

As Johnny Carson used to say, I did not know that.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pendergraph's latest 287(g) argument

Sheriff Jim Pendergraph established the 287(g) program in Mecklenburg County, where I live, and since retirement has spent considerable time defending it.  Rather shrilly as well.  Last year I published an op-ed criticizing the program's flaws, and he responded with a letter demonstrating that he was unaware of what even ICE officials thought of the program.

Now he has his own op-ed in the Charlotte Observer.  This time, he demonstrates that he is unaware that roughly 40 percent of immigrants in the country illegally overstayed their visas:

At some point, every illegal alien made a conscious decision to pack food, water and whatever other belongings they wished to carry, sidestep the law, and make a somewhat difficult trek into the United States, many infiltrating into Mecklenburg County.

So, actually no.  That's not true, though it conjures up a more threatening image of poor Mexicans marching to "infiltrate."

But it gets worse.  He ends by arguing that if you do not support 287(g), you are unpatriotic:

Real Americans support this effort to make our country secure. Those who don't need to reassess where their loyalties lie.

There's nothing quite like ill-informed flag-waving xenophobia to start the day.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Argentina and Honduras

Hat tip to Boz about the latest truly offensive O'Grady column, where she is one very small step from saying a military coup would not be such a bad thing in Argentina given its current institutional conflict, using the Honduran case as an analogy.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday's runoff in Chile

Steve Anderson at the English-language The Santiago Times has a good rundown on Sunday's runoff election in Chile.  The latest poll has Sebastián Piñera over Eduardo Frei by 52.9-47.1 percent.  I have yet to hear or read anyone who thinks Frei will win, but [add your choice of "it ain't over 'til it's over" cliché quote here].

The Times will also have a live blogcast of tonight's presidential debate with commentary in English (it starts at 10 p.m.).


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Political science and society

John Sides at The Monkey Cage quotes a review in The Atlantic's politics blog of a new book on the 2008 campaign:

Political scientists aren’t going to like this book, because it portrays politics as it is actually lived by the candidates, their staff and the press, which is to say — a messy, sweaty, ugly, arduous competition between flawed human beings — a universe away from numbers and probabilities and theories.
He then refutes the widely held assumptions about what political scientists care about or like:

Back to Ambinder. If anything, I just find his comment, well, sort of lazy. Can’t we move beyond these stereotypes of academia? I read Ambinder every day, and take his reporting and commentary seriously. I don’t think it’s asking too much of him to look for a little value in political science.

I don't entirely disagree, but it is important to ask ourselves why such views are so prevalent.  Stephen Walt recently wrote about political scientists blogging, and he had one observation that I found very compelling:

It would be good for the IR field if academic scholars were expected to write a few blog posts every now and then, if only for the purpose of self-examination. If the typical academic had to write a blog for two weeks, they might discover they had nothing to say to their fellow citizens, couldn't say it clearly, or that nobody cared. That experience might even lead a few of my fellow academics to scratch their heads and ask if they were investing their research time appropriately, which would be all to the good.

We have a strong tendency to argue that misrepresentation of political science is everyone else's fault.  Instead, we should ask ourselves why that misrepresentation is occurring, and what we can do to correct it.  Otherwise we will end up with more efforts to cut our grant funding or the like.

On the other hand, my impression is that this political science/society divide is more extreme at the national level (e.g. members of Congress, national journalists, etc.).  My department has extensive local contacts (indeed, the chair of the County Board of Commissioners has often taught courses in political science and international studies) and I don't recall any stories about how we were irrelevant or ivory towerish.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mexican and immigration reform in 2010

Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan gave a public example of something U.S. policy makers need to emulate: recognition of how comments by a foreign government often backfire.  He was talking about how immigration reform is not terribly likely in 2010.

Sarukhan also said past pronouncements on the issue by Mexico may have done more harm than good.
"Having spoken about it publicly at times in the past ... has done a great deal of damage to our countrymen and our allies in the United States," he said.

This is the sort of recognition that would benefit everyone.  In general, the U.S. government should keep in mind that inserting itself into policy debates in other countries very often leads to the exact opposite outcome of that desired.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Voting in Chile

Patricio Navia, who had publicly supported MEO, says he will vote for Sebastián Piñera instead of Eduardo Frei.  As Robert Funk notes, this has created a stir within the chattering classes in Chile (and he jokingly calls it "Naviagate").

Most people are not interested in how political scientists will vote.  His reasoning, however, may well be one that Chilean supporters of MEO share.  They wanted change, and believed (rightly or wrongly) that MEO would bring some measure of it.  The Concertación, meanwhile, forced Frei down everyone's throats despite the fact that he was a bland, uninteresting, and status quo candidate.  A vote for Piñera therefore is a punishment vote, sending a message to the Concertación that it cannot continue to take votes for granted, that it needs to start listen to the rank and file.  How many MEO voters are thinking along those lines?

And how ironic that this occurs just as Michelle Bachelet's approval rating hit 81%.  None of her popularity is rubbing off in the slightest.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

2010 Baseball HOF

I don't think I've written anything about the Baseball Hall of Fame since I lobbied for Goose Gossage, who finally made it in 2008.  This year, Andre Dawson made it in, and I find myself annoyed.  His numbers were good, but not legendary.

I wonder if our priorities have been messed up by the steroids era.  We don't want clear superstars like Mark McGwire (and Rafael Palmeiro, who has seriously good numbers, is coming up soon but is also tainted) because they took drugs.  Fair enough, though debatable (check out old posts by economist JC Bradbury for a very interesting take on the actual performance effect of steroids).  But should this mean we accept otherwise "very good" players of the so-called but ill-defined "steroid era" as HOF material?  Other recent outfielder who became HOFers were Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson, and Dawson is not in their league.

Rob Neyer's take on future HOF picks is also worth reading.


Priorities in Mexico

Felipe Calderón says that in 2010 his top two priorities will be creating jobs and reducing poverty.  Crime and violence will be third.  This despite the fact that Mexicans have indicated that crime and violence represent their greatest concern.  Polls have also shown that Mexicans do not think he is doing a great job with crime.

In other words, this is not the greatest new year's resolution.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More negotiations in Honduras

As Pepe Lobo's inauguration looms (in three weeks) in Honduras, the question of international recognition remains. If the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord is followed, then recognition from most countries will be forthcoming. At this point, Roberto Micheletti has consistently ignored calls (including from the Obama administration) to honor the accord.

Craig Kelly is now in Honduras talking to all the players about recognition:

''Kelly assured me that his government does not support Micheletti and is seeking the possibility of the international community recognizing the new government'', Zelaya said, referring to Lobo.

Kelly also talked to Micheletti, almost certainly about resigning, while Lobo himself has also indicated his desire for that outcome.

Meanwhile, RNS at Honduras Coup 2009 notes that the Honduran Congress will likely pass an amnesty bill to let Mel Zelaya out of the Brazilian embassy.

Now it comes down largely to whether domestic elite political pressure will be exerted sufficiently on Micheletti to get him to step down. He clearly feels that doing so suggests he has done something wrong, which he adamantly refuses to accept. He wants to preside over the inauguration.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pots and kettles

You have to love Fidel Castro's latest article in Granma, which as usual wanders all over, from distant memories to the recent Copenhagen meetings. With no apparent sense of irony, he talks about fighting dictatorship and "the ardent flames of our battles for freedom." But it gets even better when he criticizes Barack Obama for a speech that was a "combination of sweetened words seasoned with theatrical gestures" that for Fidel was "boring." Later he talks about how all this is known on "internet web pages," carefully chosen by the Cuban state.


Monday, January 04, 2010

U.S.-Brazilian relations

On the heels of my post yesterday on Brazilian diplomacy, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Susan Kaufman Purcell that claims Brazil cannot be "relied on to deal with political and security problems in Latin America in ways that are also compatible with U.S. interests"

In other words, Brazil is not interested in doing what the U.S. wants. This should not be some sort of shocker. However, Purcell's argument goes even further with unfortunate logic:

Several conclusions can be drawn from Brazil's behavior. First, Brazil wants to prevent the U.S. from expanding its military involvement in South America, which Brazil regards as its sphere of influence. Second, Brazil much prefers working within multilateral institutions, rather than acting unilaterally.

Within these institutions, Brazil seeks to integrate all regional players, achieve consensus and avoid conflict and fragmentation—all worthy goals. But these are procedural, rather than substantive, goals.

It seems that a multilateral approach is antithetical to U.S. interests. Yet those procedures are critical to achieving substantive goals. The alternative is alienating everyone and thereby achieving no goals at all.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Brazil and the Middle East

In November I wrote about how Brazil saw ties with Iran as important for making Brazil a player in the Middle East peace process. Foreign Minister Celso Amorim made that goal even more explicit in a recent interview.

Is Brazil elaborating a strategy to participate in a more efficient way in the conflict of the Middle East, or at least to become a heavyweight player in this question?

We are not going to come up with an entirely new solution to the question of the Middle East. All possible solutions have already been discussed. What is necessary is political desire to implement them. In our case, we would like to contribute to the dialogue. I think that a country like Brazil could do that easily. Due to our history and to the history that Brazil has in this region. Due to the international respect granted to Brazil. We do not want to do this alone, but by joining forces with other developing nations, like South Africa and India, which could have a more positive influence. Confining these talks to the "Quartet" has not generated great results: that is the truth. I therefore believe that a little more representation is necessary in the international community.

Now that Brazil is talking actively to Israel, Iran, and Egypt in particular, the Obama administration would be well-advised to bring Brazil into the equation. We certainly should not overstate the potential effects, but it could inject a fresh perspective into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and also strengthen U.S.-Brazilian relations. Both should be priorities for the administration.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Invading Venezuela

You can't really start a new year properly until you hear Hugo Chávez say that there is a U.S. plot to invade Venezuela, so here you go.

A Venezuelan Foreign Ministry statement listed no examples of such violations, but it accused the United States of using "the colonial territories of Aruba and Curacao in preparation for a military aggression against Venezuela."

Happy new year!


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