Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The U.S.-Mexican drug war

Andrew Selee, David Shirk, and Eric Olson pen an op-ed in the Miami Herald entitled "Five Myths About Mexico's Drug War."  I would be annoyed with the headline (which is something newspapers--not authors--generate).  Given the fact that the demand for drugs is overwhelmingly in the United States, this is hardly "Mexico's" drug war.  I've seen other similar headlines, and they provide American readers with a false sense that the violence is unrelated to the U.S.

Regardless, the five myths are worth noting:

1. Mexico is descending into widespread and indiscriminate violence

So Mexico is not a failing state.

2. The Mexican government lacks the resources to fight the cartels

It is more a matter of strategy than of money.

3. Endemic corruption allows the cartels to flourish

Their point is that there does exist a concerted effort to combat corruption.

4. Drug violence is a Mexican problem, not a U.S. one

Unfortunately contradicted by the headline.

5. Mexican drug violence is spilling over into the United States

This one rings less true.  There is a tremendous amount of violence in the U.S. related to drugs transshipped through Mexico, even if it is not as open and extreme as many recent cases in Mexico (such as beheadings).

Read more...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Immigration reform logic

Lindsay Graham and Chuck Schumer were on Meet the Press on Sunday and talked about immigration.  Schumer provides an example of how not to sell immigration reform:

MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, is immigration reform dead then?

SEN. SCHUMER: I don't think so. First, let's look at how desperately we need it. Fifteen thousand people cross our border illegally every day. Most of them take jobs from Americans. And yet, at the same time, there are certain people we need in this economy to help us grow, and we can't get them--engineers, doctors, farm workers. So the system is broken--it lets the wrong people in, excludes the wrong people--and so we need to fix it. 

This is both inaccurate and unhelpful.  "Most" illegal crossers do not take jobs away from Americans.  But if Schumer believes they do, then it is not useful to say we "desperately" need them to take away those jobs.  Overall, he seems to think the U.S. economy needs only a tiny fraction of the workforce that is attracted to it, which ignores demography and common sense.  Which "wrong people" does he think are being let in?

In short, if Schumer is the point man for immigration reform, then it is in trouble.

Read more...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Media bilingualism and immigration reform

Matthew Yglesias points to how Lindsey Graham spreads a different message about immigration depending on whether he is talking to English or Spanish language media:  "In English, Graham is threatening to blow up any hope of an immigration deal over the health care bill. In Spanish, not so much."

This is not new, and really deserves more analytical attention (or at least I am not aware of any empirical studies focusing on it).  I noted the issue during the presidential campaign, but I'd love to see an analysis of precisely how politicians fine tune their messages in the two languages and how much those messages may in fact contradict each other.  Do the two parties approach this issue in the same way?  Does one or the other diverge more in terms of their bilingual messages?  I would imagine that Republicans would diverge more, because their constituencies are much more divided on immigration.  Plus, the most rabid anti-immigrant constituency is not likely ever to know that a pro-immigration message was expressed in Spanish.

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Adios Minutemen

I am still trying to make sense of this.  The infamous Minuteman group has dissolved itself.  Why?  Because it sent out a call for wackos with big guns, and then was alarmed at all the wackos with big guns who responded.

On March 16, Mercer sent out an e-mail urging members to come to the border “locked, loaded and ready” and urged people to bring “long arms.” She proposed changing the group’s rules to allow members to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers instead of just reporting the activity to the Border Patrol.

“We will forcefully engage, detain, and defend our lives and country from the criminals who trample over our culture and laws,” she wrote in the March 16 e-mail.

Mercer said she received a more feverish response than she expected — 350 personal e-mails she said — and decided the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps couldn’t shoulder the responsibility and liability of what could occur, she said.

People are ready to come lock and loaded and that’s not what we are all about,” Mercer said. “It only takes one bad apple to destroy everything we’ve done for the last eight years.”

With luck, this is a sign of some semblance of change since 2005, when the group formed amidst a frenzy of xenophobia.  Even an extremist group begins to realize how extremist it is, albeit in a bizarrely contradictory fashion.

Read more...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Martha Raddatz's The Long Road Home

Martha Raddatz's The Long Road Home (2008) is a heartbreaking and anger-inducing book.  It is about the attack on U.S. troops in Sadr City on April 4, 2004 as well as its effects on the families involved back in the United States.  The overall story is familiar to anyone who followed the worst parts of what we might call the denial period (or perhaps "Mission Accomplished" period) of the invasion.  The troops viewed Iraq largely as a humanitarian mission, and their civilian superiors were careful to cultivate that.  But suddenly they were massively fired upon, and the results were tragic.

Probably the most egregious example is the lack of tanks or armored Humvees.  General Peter Chiarelli is confronted by a wounded soldier wanting to know why they didn't have tanks--Chiarelli knew that he had begged for them (and had been rebuked for publicly saying hundreds of thousands of troops would be necessary), but that the Pentagon "had thought the war was winding down; sending all the First Cavalry Division's tanks, they reasoned, would give the wrong message to the Iraqis--the message that the Americans were there as occupiers" (p. 287).  Of course, we were there as occupiers even if we wanted to pretend otherwise.  But that denial meant many soldiers went out to fight in the equivalent of pickup trucks, and were easy targets for snipers.  They also had no idea of the Mahdi Army's tactics, which included marching with children in the front as shields--they did not know how to effectively respond.

That denial also meant the aid station was overwhelmed: "The aid station wasn't set up for surgery--it lacked the equipment and had no blood supply, which made even removing a bullet a perilous procedure" (p. 162).  The scenes of carnage and death are moving, and frustrating.

The book really focuses on the people, leaving judgment to the reader, though I think it is very hard to write about this and not feel indignation.  As it happens, Cindy Sheehan's son was killed that day, and so you can see how this sort of event could radically transform someone.  Casey Sheehan was in the back of one of those unarmored trucks and had been in battle only a few minutes when he was shot and killed instantly.  It is no pleasant thing to read about exactly how families are notified.

It is bad enough to have an invasion and occupation, yet even worse when it's done ineptly, which just means more people die.  The road home is indeed long.

Read more...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Food and immigration

Both Russell Bither-Terry and Laura McKenna write about problems with school lunches.  Last year I proposed my own solution--eat more like recent Latino immigrants, because they're far healthier than everyone else.

Read more...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Great taste, less democratic

Voting in an atmosphere of less violence and more participation sounds good.  But not necessarily.  Colombia's Misión de Observación Electoral argues that in the western Valle department these elements demonstrate the strength of narcotraffickers.  There was a huge surge of registered voters, and they voted for the Partido de Integración Nacional (PIN), which is the new party tied to former members of Congress jailed for connections to paramilitaries.  The MOE's conclusion is that the campaigns are largely being funded by narcotraffickers and that at least in Valle the results are illegitimate.

Laura Carlsen notes similar problems, particularly vote buying and the strength of paramilitary groups:

There is a certain fetishism of the ballot box when it comes to defining democracy. In Colombia, huge numbers of citizens don’t vote because the candidates provoke nausea or indifference, can’t vote because either the government erased their names from the roster or paramilitary forces have ordered them to stay home, or only vote as a matter of survival or intimidation.

As Steven Taylor has noted in his book, Colombia is an electoral democracy but not a liberal one.  What the MOE's report shows is that we need to be careful even about how to measure "progress."  Sometimes a lack of violence just means that everyone is too intimidated to resist at all.

Read more...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shifting the drug war

I'm not really sure what to do with all this sanity after the U.S. and Mexico had high-level meetings to discuss dealing with drug trafficking violence:

Responding to a growing sense that Mexico's military-led fight against drug traffickers is not gaining ground, the United States and Mexico set their counternarcotics strategy on a new course on Tuesday by refocusing their efforts on strengthening civilian law enforcement institutions and rebuilding communities crippled by poverty and crime. 

Wait a minute.  We put in a policy, see that it is not functioning well, so then we change it rather than keep it going for a decade while saying it works just fine?  Something must be wrong here.

Under the new strategy, officials said, American and Mexican agencies would work together to refocus border enforcement efforts away from building a better wall to creating systems that would allow goods and people to be screened before they reach the crossing points. The plan would also provide support for Mexican programs intended to strengthen communities where socioeconomic hardships force many young people into crime. 

Less military, more focus on the socio-economic conditions that help fuel poverty?  That's crazy talk.  A comprehensive approach that centers on communities?  No way.

If I'm not careful I might actually get optimistic.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Immigration reform and enforcement

Daniel Griswold, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What Congress and the President Need to Do to Make it Work," Albany Government Law Review 3, 1 (2010).

This article is part of a special issue examining immigration from a variety of different angles.  It does not really break any new ground, but provides a very nice overview, particularly from a demographic perspective.  Further, it reiterates some key points that I wish were more widely known.  Probably the best book laying it all out is Massey, Durand, and Malone's Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration (2002).

The United States’ enforcement-only efforts have failed to stem the flow of illegal immigration, but they have yielded three perverse and unintended consequences.

First, enforcement efforts in urban areas have diverted the inflow to more remote desert regions where the rate of interception has actually dropped. Because of more sophisticated smuggling operations through these more remote regions, an individual attempting to sneak into the country is actually more likely to succeed today than when border enforcement was more lax in the early 1990s.

Second, immigrants entering the country illegally are more likely to die in the attempt. The death rate of migrants crossing the border with Mexico tripled during the 1990s.  In recent years, 300 to 400 people have died horrible deaths along the border from heat stroke and dehydration.  The death toll during the past decade has reached 3,500.  Unclaimed and unnamed bodies have accumulated in morgues and makeshift refrigerator trucks along the border.

Finally, illegal immigrants entering the country today stay longer than before the United States began more aggressive enforcement at the border. Because the United States’ enforcement-only efforts have raised the cost and risk of crossing the border, those who successfully enter are more inclined to stay. As a result, the average length of stay for a Mexican entering the United States has doubled, from 2.6 years in the 1980s to more than five years currently.

The United States’ current policy has perversely interrupted what had been an established circular pattern of migration from Mexico to the United States. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, during a time of relatively relaxed border enforcement, an estimated 80% of Mexicans who entered the United States illegally eventually returned to Mexico.

Read more...

Monday, March 22, 2010

On to immigration reform

Advocates of immigration reform marched on Washington, and President Obama appeared in a video to show his support.  Now that health care reform has passed, there are two broad possibilities:

1.  In anticipation of mid-term elections, Obama backs off and allows Democrats to focus on re-election.

2.  He builds on the victory by seeking to go 2-for-2, with a newly found label as the president who goes beyond just talk and can get very big things done (see Steven Taylor for a good discussion of possible outcomes, though not related specifically to immigration).

Option #1 is most definitely conventional wisdom, and by far the safe bet.  But Option #2 is not yet off the table.

Read more...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resistance and change in Honduras

There is an interesting article in The Nation (by Dana Frank, a History professor at UC Santa Cruz) about the continued resistance to the government, and its degree of organization and commitment.  It echoes many of the sentiments at Honduras Culture and Politics.

I am not conversant enough with the social movement literature, and what I would really like to see is an analysis putting Honduras into comparative perspective.  Having a lot of angry people with a common purpose trying to fight against the powers that be (evidence of which is overwhelming in Honduras) is not enough.  I keep thinking of AMLO in that regard.  And Honduras in 2010 is even more tightly controlled than Mexico in 2006.  Perhaps a similar example would be Guatemala in 1944, though in that case reform came as a result of a favorable presidential election, not people fighting against the president.

In a broader contemporary context, presidential elections have also been critical.  But in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, to name a few, resentment and anger have been harnessed by a charismatic leader who eventually overwhelmed the establishment.  There is (currently) no such person in Honduras.

So what is the appropriate comparison for Honduras?

Read more...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Undocumented immigrants and community college

Some more sanity on the immigration front.  North Carolina's community colleges will once again admit undocumented immigrants, who had been temporarily barred.  They have to pay out-of-state tuition (roughly $7,700 a year) and must be bumped if a class is full and a legal resident wants in.  As I've reiterated over and over, including in an op-ed, this means the state makes a profit.  So it is just sad to hear knuckle-headed remarks like the following:

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton cast the only "no" vote among board members, as he did in September.

"It is simply not the right time to place greater demands on our community colleges," Dalton said in a prepared statement.

Read more...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mo' money in Mexico?

A Washington Post editorial argues that funding for the Mérida Initiative with Mexico is getting too low.  It makes a direct connection between the violence in Ciudad Juárez and the failure to deliver Blackhawk helicopters.  It acknowledges that the Obama and Calderón administrations are putting together a new strategy aimed more at civil society, judicial reform, and other non-military priorities, and also acknowledges that U.S. pressure for militarization is not taken too well in Mexico.  But we should do it anyway.  Why?  Because more money will, apparently, get more results.

I am still trying to figure out how more helicopters will do much in Juárez, as the WP seems to confuse it with the jungles of Colombia.  Take this article in the Wall Street Journal, published the very same day as the editorial:

The gangland-style murders of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in this border city have confirmed for many people what residents here already knew: President Felipe Calderón's strategy of sending in the troops to corral drug gangs has failed.

And for good measure add this:

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, while praising Mr. Calderón's antidrug efforts, said this week the military deployment "hasn't helped."

The army was sent because the government felt overwhelmed, but planning did not go much beyond merely acting as a show of force.  Fortunately, the Mexican government is recognizing this:

The president's top aides tacitly acknowledge that the army strategy hasn't worked. Officials say they will try two new approaches: a greater focus on intelligence work, and an effort to create jobs, build schools, open parks and counsel drug addicts.

The bottom line is that we need to resist the drum beat for militarization, not only for human rights reasons or mission creep, but because in many contexts the army is not the right tool.  In the Mexican case, the purely militarized solution is not working, so we can move on to more diverse strategies that, incidentally, are also much cheaper.

The mere amount of dollars is not central.  Realistic planning is.

Read more...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All in all it was all just bricks in the wall

Finally, a hint of sanity:

The Obama administration will halt new work on a "virtual fence" on the U.S.-Mexican border, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday, diverting $50 million in planned economic stimulus funds for the project to other purposes.

Napolitano said the freeze on work beyond two pilot projects in Arizona was pending a broader reassessment. But the move signals a likely death knell for a troubled five-year plan to drape a chain of tower-mounted sensors and other surveillance gear across most of the 2,000-mile southern border. 

Obviously, high-tech border enforcement sounds great and therefore is politically popular.  How any reasonable person believed this would work as advertised is entirely beyond me.  As for the money ($3.4 billion so far), you have to love this:

SBInet is the federal government's third attempt to secure the border with technology. Between 1998 and 2005, it spent $429 million on earlier surveillance initiatives that were so unreliable that only 1 percent of alarms led to arrests. 

The money is just hair-raising.  The main barrier to illegal immigration is our recession while the fences--real or imagined virtual--should be viewed as a waste because they achieve very few real results. I almost had a heart attack when I read that Dick Armey agrees with me:

"Ronald Reagan said 'tear down this wall.' Tom Tancredo said, 'Build this wall,' " said Armey, referring to the Colorado Republican's support for a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. "America is not a nation that builds walls."

Read more...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Valech Report

Does the Piñera administration have a problem with talking about torture?  The Valech Report, which details torture during the dictatorship, has suddenly disappeared from the government's website.  You can go to the page of the Valech Commission, but the report has vanished.  Let's hope it comes back so no one can pretend it doesn't exist.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Relations with Colombia

Two ways of addressing diplomatic relations with Colombia:

Ecuador: Relations can be normalized "without forgetting the past, but not being tied to it, learning from it to confront the future."

Venezuela: "We must await the outcome of presidential elections in Colombia and await the arrival of a new president to go forward. All that can be done today is to focus on creating conditions for the time."

Read more...

David Lida's First Stop in the New World

I read David Lida's First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, The Capital of the 21st Century (2008), which is well worth your time if you have any interest in Mexico.  Lida is a journalist who has lived in Mexico City for quite a few years.  This is not an academic book, but rather a knowledgeable romp through all aspects of the city, from the rich to the poor, good and bad cuisine, crime and safety, high and low art, and of course to politics.  It is like a good non-fiction accompaniment to Paco Ignacio Taibo II (who inexplicably is not mentioned in terms of fiction focusing on Mexico City).

What comes out is a city whose inhabitants are constantly innovating, adapting, and persevering.  It is the ultimate in rational choice theory, such as this commentary on voting:

Most chilangos negotiate their loyalty on a rational basis, measuring where they perceive their greatest interests lie.  In Mexico City, no one votes at the point of a pistol.  You may show up at a rally because someone will give you a sandwich, but that is not a guarantee of your vote if someone else will give you two (p. 318).

The book has many chapters but not much structure, which might just be appropriate because the city itself has millions of people and almost no structure.  Lida provides a sampling of just about everything, so you can even read different chapters that interest you more.

Read more...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Colombia elections

Low turnout, parties associated with criminals, and voter intimidation in the countryside.  Those are legislative elections, Colombia-style.

Steven Taylor is there as an election observer, so check out his commentary and photos.

Read more...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The military in Chile, self-promotion edition

I'm quoted in this New York Times article by Larry Rohter on the Chilean military and the earthquake.

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Just get in line!

But you'll be a lot older when you get to the front--the backlog of immigration hearings is now at 228,421.  On average, these cases have been waiting 439 days.

But Republicans say that if Democrats try to pass health care reform with reconciliation (i.e. a simple majority) then they will make sure immigration fails.

So get ready to wait even longer.

Read more...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just a wee human rights problem

The State Department Human Rights Reports make for interesting reading.  The report on Colombia pulls no punches, though it has a funny beginning.  There were "instances in which elements of the security forces acted in violation of state policy."  You know, not much, just some instances.  And then they provide the list, which sounds basically like North Korea:

The following societal problems and governmental human rights abuses were reported during the year: unlawful and extrajudicial killings; insubordinate military collaboration with new illegal armed groups and paramilitary members who refused to demobilize; forced disappearances; overcrowded and insecure prisons; torture and mistreatment of detainees; arbitrary arrest; a high number of pretrial detainees, some of whom were held with convicted prisoners; impunity and an inefficient judiciary subject to intimidation; illegal surveillance of civilian groups, political opponents, and government agencies; harassment and intimidation of journalists; unhygienic conditions at settlements for displaced persons, with limited access to health care, education, or employment; corruption; harassment of human rights groups and activists, including unfounded prosecutions; violence against women, including rape; child abuse and child prostitution; trafficking in women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation; some societal discrimination against women, indigenous persons, and minorities; and illegal child labor.

The FTA, which had little chance this year already, just got even harder.

Read more...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The big day in Chile

Sebastián Piñera becomes President of Chile today.  Don't expect many drastic changes, but the ideological change of tone is evident from the touchy-feely talk from Alvaro Uribe, as they are now BFF.

There are many immediate issues at stake, most notably rebuilding from the earthquake.  But over the longer term, the biggest question is how the Concertación responds to losing.  The binomial system creates a disincentive to fall apart completely because coalitions fare better, but there is plenty of finger pointing and already one member (Jaime Ravinet as Minister of Defense) went over to the dark side.  John Carey and Peter Siavelis have argued that giving appointments to losers in legislative elections provided the glue that holds the coalition together.*  Now the Concertación has no posts to give.

And it all means that there will be plenty for political scientists to write about.

*John M. Carey and Peter M. Siavelis, "Insurance for Good Losers and the Survival of Chile's Concertación," Latin American Politics & Society 47, 2 (2005): 1-22.

Read more...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dictatorships and laws

So if you went on a hunger strike in the past because you did not respect the laws of a dictatorship, should you now say we ought to ignore hunger strikes and respect the laws of a dictatorship?  Lula apparently believes so.  He has even taken positive actions as president because of hunger strikes in Brazil, so clearly he sees the strategy as legitimate.

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Bachelet's numbers

Adimark offers up the last approval numbers for Michelle Bachelet, taken after the earthquake.  She is at a mindbogglingly high 84% despite all the criticisms levied at her (note, importantly, that the hardest hit areas could not be reached because phones were out).  75% approve of her handling of the earthquake.  Robert Funk appropriately writes a goodbye in El Mostrador to the Teflon Presidenta.  She is the Teflonest of the Teflons.  Even Ronald Reagan, for whom the term was coined, never got over 68 percent approval in his entire presidency.

I find it particularly odd that 75% also approve of the navy's response, even though it has been harshly criticized for not taking tsunami warnings seriously enough.  Further, 57% believe Sebastián Piñera will create one million new jobs.  Chileans are feeling optimistic, though I have to wonder whether all these numbers will be the same in another month or two.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Honduran politics

Porfirio Lobo is mad that Mel Zelaya says bad things about Honduran politics.  I guess his complaint would go something like this:

Our military overthrew a democratically elected government, then the police killed a bunch of people, a coup government then did its best to bankrupt the country, the Congress faked a resignation letter, everybody lied about being willing to negotiate, the Supreme Court allowed violations of the constitution, and we all made a mockery of both horizontal and vertical accountability to make sure everyone stays poor.  So why would Zelaya say bad things about us?  As Robert Micheletti said last year, we're all just happy people!

Read more...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Immigration policy and Latino votes

This op-ed in the Washington Post echoes conventional wisdom about Latino voters and immigration reform:

But if there is no serious progress on the issue, many disillusioned Latinos will stay home in November. Others will decide that because Democrats can't deliver on immigration reform, they might as well vote Republican on the values issues.

I have seen this (or a variation on it) repeated many times, but always without evidence.  Is it true?  It might be, but no one ever examines its assumptions, which are the following:

First, Latinos form a voting bloc regardless of their background.

Second, Latinos vote primarily in terms of immigration policy.

Third, Latinos vote secondarily in terms of social policy.

Fourth, if Democrats do not address immigration policy, then Latinos will not vote for them because they are uninterested in the other issues Democrats champion.

It is obviously not likely that all of these assumptions hold.  So, again, will (at least some, but how many?) Latino voters be upset enough at the failure of immigration reform that they stay home?  Perhaps, but we need better arguments.  I complained about this a long time ago, but apparently my message is not reaching everyone.

Read more...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Is Francisco Franco dead?

I always thought that Francisco Franco was still dead, but not according to Hugo Chávez, who sees him lurking behind accusations of connections to ETA.


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Saturday, March 06, 2010

More immigration tea leaves

From the Chicago Tribune: President Obama is still talking about getting an immigration reform bill going before the midterm elections.

Obama took up the issue privately with his staff Monday in a bid to advance a bill through Congress before lawmakers become too distracted by approaching midterm elections.

In the session, Obama and members of his Domestic Policy Council outlined ways to resuscitate the effort in a White House meeting with two senators -- Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- who have spent months trying to craft a bill.

As for timing:

Among proponents, there is a consensus that a proposal must move by April or early May to have a realistic chance of passing this year. If that deadline slips, Congress' focus is likely to shift to the November elections, making it impossible to take up major legislation.

I hope this is true, but I have grown cynical enough to wonder whether Obama knows this will not happen this year, and simply wants to send a message to supporters that he is trying so that they won't punish the Democratic Party in November.

Read more...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Remittances and Brazil

The IADB reports that remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean are stabilizing.  This is good news for the U.S. economy, because it means jobs are now available again.

Remittances had dropped drastically last year, led by a 34% drop to Brazil.  That drop was also due to the fact that the Brazilian economy did well last year, to the point that the government is concerned it is growing too fast.  In that sense, the drop in remittances is entirely positive and hopefully they don't increase again--it is always better to generate your own jobs than simply to export your labor.

Read more...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Democracy and Immigrants in Ecuador

Diana M. Orcés, "Democratic Values and Public Opinion Toward Immigrants: The Case of Ecuador."  Latin American Politics & Society 51, 4 (Winter 2009): 131-155.

Abstract (gated):

Scholars of support for democracy traditionally have been concerned with its causes, with the assumption that higher citizen support for democratic values will enhance democracy's chances of survival in a country. Beyond this fundamental proposition, however, the consequences of varying levels of support for democratic values remain largely unexplored. This article examines the relationship between support for democratic values and views toward immigration in Latin America, a region that is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the movement of people across borders. Through an analysis of Ecuadorian attitudes toward Colombian immigrants, this study finds strong evidence for the argument that support for democratic values has potential benefits not only for democratic sustainability in the region, but also for the reduction of social conflict and distrust that can stem from increasing immigration in a volatile economic context.

Very interesting article using LAPOP public opinion data. The general idea is that values associated with democracy (particularly tolerance) go along with tolerance of immigrants.  More authoritarian values decrease that tolerance.  She correctly notes:

As immigration has become an important part of host societies in developed countries and lately in the developing world (e.g., Peruvians in Chile), it is crucial to understand the dynamics of how preexisting attitudes toward democracy might help prepare citizens to react to a dramatic increase in immigration in a more tolerant and democratic manner (147).

One question I have, though, is whether attitudes vary according to the type of immigrant.  Mexicans in the U.S. or Peruvians in Chile are seeking jobs, whereas Colombians in Ecuador are predominantly refugees (or we could even look at Salvadorans coming to the U.S. in the 1980s).  Is there a reservoir of goodwill for such migrants?  Or do levels of political tolerance not differentiate  between the two?

Read more...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Piñera and growth

Hillary Clinton was in Chile, and included a press conference with Sebastián Piñera.  One reporter asked a good question:

We’d like to know how you plan to pay for the reconstruction efforts, which are going to be considerable, what you estimate they’re going to cost. And also, how does this affect your economic plan of 6 percent growth and 200,000 jobs created in your first year in office?

The earthquake provides Piñera with the cover necessary to back off that claim (he said there would have to be an "amendment" to his plan) which is good for him because it was never going to happen in the first place.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The U.S. and (inaudible) Argentina

Hillary Clinton met with Cristina Fernández in BA.  The press wanted to know all about the Falklands/Malvinas, and the upshot is really just that the U.S. will "encourage" both Britain and Argentina to engage in dialogue.  For some reason, though, Fernández's word were hard to pick up, so the word "inaudible" keeps appearing.  It's like Mad Libs, and especially funny if you insert obscenities.

And we also reasserted the historic commitment, the (inaudible) commitment of Argentina to fight against terrorism. As I always say, the U.S. and Argentina are the only two countries in all the (inaudible) that have suffered more than (inaudible). Therefore, both countries have a very strong commitment in this regard and we have reasserted such commitment. And we have also addressed our future participation in the meeting in Washington (inaudible).

And we’ve also talked about the problems of our region. At the end of the meeting, I also thanked her for making public those documents related to the dictatorship in Argentina. And we also requested the U.S. to (inaudible) the issue between Great Britain and (inaudible), so that we can sit down at the table and discuss sovereignty over (inaudible) Malvinas, taking into the interests of the inhabitants of the islands, as stated in the different resolutions adopted by (inaudible) from 1975 (inaudible).

And I (inaudible) to Madam Secretary. It’s been a very pleasant, very respectful (inaudible). She was a senator in – with the state of New York. I visited her in her office. And then we met at the Democratic Convention (inaudible). And on this occasion too, it’s been a very warm and friendly meeting.

Read more...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Clinton's trip to Latin America

Hillary Clinton is now off to Latin America, and is adding Argentina to the itinerary--it is good to include a country with a government that has been critical (she had planned to meet Cristina Kirchner, but not in Argentina--she also added Fernando Lugo).  In the NYT, Riordan Roett at Johns Hopkins sums it up pretty well:

“I don’t get the sense that there’s a game plan for Latin America,” Mr. Roett said. “And Latin Americans don’t get that sense either.”

At a round table at the NCPSA meetings on Friday I made a similar point, using the examples of Honduras, the Colombian bases, and immigration to show how the administration's rhetoric was too often at odds with its policies, which creates problems.  Matching the two is not the same as a game plan, but it is a necessary start.

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