Thursday, September 30, 2010

Demobilization and Reparation in Colombia

Jemima García-Godos and Knut Andreas O. Lid, "Transitional Justice and Victims' Rights Before the End of a Conflict: The Unusual Case of Colombia."  Journal of Latin American Studies 42 (2010): 487-516. [and at least for now it is ungated, as is the entire current issue of JLAS]

Abstract:

In a context of continuing armed conflict, a comprehensive scheme of transitional justice has been developed in Colombia since 2005 through the Law of Justice and Peace, with the aim of achieving peace with one of the armed actors in the conflict, the paramilitary groups. The clear link between the demobilisation of illegal armed groups and the rights of the victims is the main feature of the Colombian process. This article provides a systematic review of the implementation of the law, focusing on the institutions, mechanisms and procedures put in place to fulfil its goals. Emphasis is given to the legal category of ‘victim’, victims' rights and victim reparation measures. By exploring how the scheme works in principle and in practice, we are able to assess the prospects for victims' rights in Colombia today.

Unfortunately, the abstract doesn't actually address the two key points in the paper.  First, reparations while a conflict continues is highly unusual.  Second, the process of reparations for abuses by paramilitary groups (the article is not about the FARC) is uneven but going quite well.

Our review of the implementation of the Law of Justice and Peace indicates that there has been a great deal of progress with regard to the establishment of mechanisms and procedures. Public institutions mandated to implement the various aspects of the law have been created and are operating. This, by itself, is no small achievement. In the particular case of Colombia, where the state and its institutions have had relatively little presence in vast areas of the national territory, and where there is a deeply rooted mistrust of the state in general, the implementation of a legal instrument such as the Law of Justice and Peace is a challenging task. Yet regulations have been formulated, approved and implemented, forms have been designed, registration is taking place, and information mechanisms explaining the process are being developed. 

It is an interesting read, particularly for details on the laws and institutions crafted to deal with demobilization and victims' rights, but also for the ways in which those laws could have positive repercussions for other types of victims.

Read more...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Fidel column

Read the latest Fidel Castro column.

--He makes fun of voter turnout in the U.S. when in Cuba there are no free elections

--He confuses high voter turnout in Venezuela with support for the government

--He praises press freedom in Venezuelan when in Cuba there is none

--He mocks the "gross material cravings" of the Venezuelan opposition right after his own brother announced that 500,000 Cubans would have to find work in the private sector to satisfy their cravings, gross or otherwise

--He says the U.S. wants Venezuelan oil.  Well, that one's true

Read more...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Malapportionment in Venezuela

Much has been made of the electoral engineering in Venezuela that led to a large discrepancy between seats and votes.  In the Venezuelan case, this is due largely to malapportionment (some people's votes count more than others because of how the district lines are drawn).*  In 2009, district lines were redrawn so that, for example, 20,000 people in Amazonas have one representative, while Caracas has one representative for 350,000 voters (see also Matthew Shugart's blog post last year on the reduction of proportionality).  Thus, the opposition votes in the latter are worth far less than the pro-Chávez votes in the former.

Nationwide, this led to the PSUV winning about 60 percent of seats with 48 percent of votes (a difference of +12).  Meanwhile, the opposition received 47 percent of votes and about 38 percent of seats (a difference of -9). (Note: these numbers are approximate and we're still waiting for final results, but they're good enough for illustration).

If democracy means "one person, one vote," then this is clearly a problem.  Unfortunately, it is a problem in many countries widely considered to be democracies.  This does not excuse Venezuela, but rather puts it in comparative perspective.

Take the 2001 legislative elections in Great Britain, for example.  Labour won 40.7 percent of the votes, yet 62.5 percent of the seats, which is a whopping +21.8 percent difference (though this occurred for different reasons than the Venezuelan case).  Labour "took" those seats from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (who got over 10 percent fewer seats than votes).  Seat and vote discrepancies have long been an issue in Great Britain.  Rein Taagepera and Matthew Shugart note how the 1929 British parliamentary election crushed the Liberal Party because of electoral rules, a defeat that led it to be a minority party for decades.**

What should we take from this?  The Venezuelan opposition has every right to complain, as the rules are set in the PSUV's favor and some votes are more valuable than others.  Electoral rules are generally crafted and re-crafted to benefit those who are making those rules.  Unfortunately, doing something about it will be difficult, because of course the rules themselves make it harder to obtain the necessary votes.  But it is a common problem even in established democracies.

*Many people are using the term "gerrymander" for Venezuela, but gerrymandering refers to changing district lines while keeping the number of voters in each district about the same.  That is not the case in Venezuela.

**Rein Taagepera and Matthew Soberg Shugart, Seats and Votes: The Effects and Determinants of Electoral Systems (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989): 2.  I note this book as well because it is the classic on the topic.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Cuba and reality

I love Mary Anastasia O'Grady as much as anyone, because she is 100% Nutter Butter (no offense to Nabisco).  But when she calls Fidel Castro a threat to global security, I am happy to let someone else refute her rationally, so read Steven Taylor.  He links to Jeffrey Goldberg's response, and who sums up nicely that O'Grady's column "is almost pathological in its disregard for reality."

Is a tiny bit of sanity too much to ask for?  The answer courtesy of the Wall Street Journal is a resounding "no."

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Juxtaposition headlines: Venezuela

"Gran victoria socialista" (Agencia Bolvariana de Noticias)

and

Hugo Chávez wins but opposition gains (Fox News)

and

Poll setback for Venezuela's Chavez (Al-Jazeera)

Take your pick!  The opposition claims to have won a majority of votes, but a minority of seats.  We still await official results.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brief thoughts on Venezuela's election

Perhaps the best thing about the Venezuelan legislative election today is that it will soon be over.  The vast majority of commentary is useless--so, for example, the Miami Herald discusses how Twitter is huge in Venezuela, yet admits it has no noticeable effect on elections.  And that one isn't even terribly politicized.  For the ultimate in hyperactive updating, just follow Hugo Chávez's Twitter account at @chavezcandanga

Once you strip away the hyperbole, Venezuelans are voting.  Unlike five years ago, the opposition is calling on everyone to vote, and it is expected to be free and fair.  Polls have shown a large number of undecideds, and today they will make up their minds and be counted.  For these reasons, you may call Venezuela lots of things--and political scientists are always eager to create new subtypes--but not a dictatorship.

Read more...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Immigration reform and NC

Franco Ordoñez at the Charlotte Observer has an interesting post about Democrats, immigration, and North Carolina.  It has national implications, and is a very good reminder (if anyone really needed one) of how immigration does not fall as neatly along partisan lines as is often portrayed.

The N.C. Democratic Party is paying for a mailer in a state Senate race that calls for "bringing the Arizona immigration crackdown to North Carolina."
...
The mailer features a photograph of Redwine, a former state House leader, outside a prison talking with a prison guard. The headline reads: "David Redwine wants to throw the book at CEOs who just won't quit hiring illegal immigrants."
The Democratic Party in the state wants to win.  This is not a pretty way to try, but it highlights the local constituency vs. national party split on the issue.  To avoid further disaster on the national level (which is guaranteed by the state of the economy) the Democratic Party has to ignore these discrepancies.  This will become a problem eventually when the party needs pro-reform votes.

Read more...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Remittances and development

There has been considerable academic debate about the economic development impact of remittances.  Some of the key arguments:

Positive:


--Remittances bypass the state and therefore promote economic development at the local level, unhindered by bureaucracy or corruption

--they inject capital into Latin American economies that otherwise simply would not be there, thus alleviating poverty

Negative:


--they serve to intensify economic dependence on the developed world, primarily the United States

--they tend to be spent on consumer goods as opposed to being used to create new businesses or infrastructure at home


In this context, it is good to see the State Department's announcement of the Building Remittance Investment for Development Growth and Entrepreneurship (BRIDGE) with El Salvador and Honduras.  The idea is that remittances flow through domestic financial institutions, so with assistance offer an opportunity to use that money for public works, commercial development, etc.  This wouldn't affect anyone's access to their money, and presumably would act like a bank does (though the specific "in-country financial institutions" are not named).

A critical aspect of such a plan, though, is to avoid the problem noted above of having the money sucked away through corruption.  That issue isn't mentioned.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Pledge to America: Immigration

The Republican Party has released a draft of "A Pledge to America," (text here) which is intended to be like 1994's Contract for America.  Here is the part about immigration:

• Establish Operational Control of the Border: We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.
• Work with State and Local Officials to Enforce Our Immigration Laws: The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws.
• Strengthen Visa Security: To stop terrorists like Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, we will require the Department of Homeland Security to review all visa applications at high-risk consular posts and prevent aliens from attempting to avoid deportation after having their visas revoked.


In practice, it is fair to say that this will entail larger government, more spending, and more judicial activism:

First, there will be no immigration reform.  Of course, this is not surprising.

Second, the reference to cabinet members means that there will be no environmental or--ironically--private ownership questions taken into consideration for a greater government role in enforcement.

Third, the patchwork of state and local laws will expand governments' spending and presence, thus almost certainly creating a situation that is even more confusing and contentious.  That will mean more court rulings and ultimately the Supreme Court will help make the law.

Fourth, there would be an increase--perhaps drastic--of spending on the Border Patrol.

Fifth, since the system is already overloaded, there will be a drastic increase of spending and government presence to try and find every person who has overstayed a visa.  Immigration reform would greatly reduce that load, but see number one.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ironic quote of the day: Peru

"Mr García has won more applause abroad than at home, where his approval rating hovers at about 30 per cent."

--From a Financial Times article talking about how great Alan García is.

Read more...

Links

--Kirsten Sehnbruch on poverty in Chile (in Spanish)


--Sarah Stephens at The Havana Note on George Will on the Cuba embargo

--Laura McKenna asks about the worth of going to college

--Marisa Treviño on the effect of attaching DADT to the DREAM Act

--Marc Cooper on Cuban economic reforms

--Annie Correal at Feet in 2 Worlds about Evo Morales and U.S. immigration policy.  I didn't know he just had a biography published in English.

Read more...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mexico and Colombia

In an LA Times op-ed, former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Thomas McNamara applauds Hillary Clinton's comparison of Mexico today and Colombia in the 1980s.  As I was just writing this morning, a flood of Colombians have fled the country, creating a huge problem for Ecuador in particular.  If we want to make that comparison, then we also need to realize that there will be a similar flood of Mexican refugees, and they will be heading for the United States.

Read more...

Colombian refugees

For the first time, Colombia and Ecuador will hold meetings to discuss their serious refugee problem.  This is very good news, and the issue in general deserves far more media coverage.  Four thoughts:

First, this is one of numerous gestures President Santos has made to neighboring countries.  The change from Alvaro Uribe is palpable.  The relationship between Ecuador and Colombia has already improved considerably.

Second, and following that, it is really terrible that it took this long.  Over 50,000 Colombians have fled into Ecuador and become refugees, and tens of thousands more without legal status, while the Uribe administration essentially tried to sweep it under the rug.  Ecuador expects another 15,000 this year.

Third, the fight against the FARC cannot be considered successful when such flows of refugees continue.  It just means the conflict is spreading out.

Fourth, although Santos insists that conflict with the FARC is a domestic issue, this is one of many examples of how that is inaccurate.

Read more...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Colin Powell gets it

News outlets have focused on Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press, particularly his statement about undocumented immigrants:

They're all over at my house doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I'm sure you've seen them at, at your house.  We've got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status.

But he made another--and much more important--statement that goes along with research I've been doing with my dad and many blog posts I've made:

In the next few years, we will discover that, between the ages of 15 and 64, the working ages of our people, most of those are going to be kept in that age group because of immigration and the children of immigrants, whereas in other parts of the world the age of the population's getting older and fewer people are working. 

Bravo!  We need more people to understand that reality.  We pretend these demographic dynamics do not exist, but there are indeed irresistible forces.  With the right kinds of policies, they can work to the country's advantage.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

DREAM on

Following up on Friday's post about the DREAM Act, Mary Giovagnoli at Immigration Impact has a concise summary about the procedural issues in the Senate that it faces.  It should be coming up for a cloture vote on Tuesday.

She has a nice quote, and actually something that pops into my head all the time when I hear people complain that the president or Congress is "playing with politics."

At some point, it just gets tiresome to hear everyone talking about playing politics. After all, this is politics, isn’t it?

Read more...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Immigration and losing

Almost since his inauguration, President Obama has been saying he is committed to immigration reform, while trying to placate advocates of reform who keep noting that he has in fact not done anything about it.  That has become even more of an issue this year because Obama is concerned about getting hammered in midterm elections, and the hammering could be worse if reform advocates and/or Latino voters stay home in frustration.


The administration's current plan is to insert the DREAM Act into a defense spending bill, where it faces very shaky odds.  The idea if that if it passes, then it is a major victory.  If it fails, then Republicans--who will be very vocal about their opposition--will get the blame and people may well even be energized enough to vote against them in November.

The essential problem with this strategy is that it is openly a political ploy.  Can you satisfy constituents by setting up a situation that you and everyone else believes is going to fail just to show you made some effort?  In other words, how much do voters respond to losing as opposed to winning?  These sorts of questions could easily be answered by a poll that probed Obama's commitment to immigration reform and who people blame for the absence of reform.

UPDATE:  There were not enough votes to bring it up for a vote (it sounds even stranger when worded like that).  The finger pointing will now  begin in earnest.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mexico's wall

Mexico is building a wall along part of its border with Guatemala.  From IPS:

According to the head of customs for Mexico's tax administration, Raúl Díaz, in order to stop boats carrying contraband, the southern Mexican state of Chiapas is building a wall along the border river Suchiate, similar to the one the United States is building along its southern border with Mexico. 

"It could also prevent the free passage of illegal immigrants," admitted the Mexican official. 


The irony here should be obvious.  It is unfortunate that Mexico is copying the United States even while it also criticizes what it copies.  Here is President Felipe Calderón in 2006:


Mr Calderon said he deplored the move because "the fence doesn't resolve anything".
"Humanity committed a grave mistake in building the Berlin Wall," he said.
"I'm sure that the United States is committing a grave mistake in building this fence." Outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox called the plans "shameful".
 That assessment remains accurate for both the United States and Mexico.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Piñera and human rights

Curious turn of affairs with some military officers convicted of human rights abuses in Chile.  They initiated a hunger strike, which they just ended, or at least suspended while they had a few completos.  Meanwhile, they refer to themselves as "political prisoners."  My sense is that they have generated more publicity than sympathy.

But as El Mostrador points out, there is a unique aspect to the situation--they have admitted publicly that they are guilty.

Al comienzo de la proclama, señalan que son “miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas, de Orden y Seguridad, en adelante “los presos políticos militares, que cometimos delitos contra la seguridad de las personas (más conocidos por violaciones a los derechos humanos) en el período comprendido entre el 11 de septiembre de 1973 y el 11 de marzo de 1990″.
I assume they took this stance to facilitate asking for their sentences to be commuted.  Its symbolic value, though, is also important, as formal and public declarations of guilt are not common.

Also noteworthy is something I've written about before.  Before the election, Sebastián Piñera promised to limit prosecutions and make them go more quickly.  He has not fulfilled that promise, and so the main organization of retired officers is not happy.  Piñera walks a fine line, as he is not "right wing" in the conventional sense of the word, yet is also sensitive to his very conservative base of support.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Obama and Latin America

Susan Kaufman Purcell argues that economic uncertainty in the United States, which is Barack Obama's fault, has adversely affected U.S. policy toward Latin America, especially in terms of not passing FTAs and creating polarization that makes immigration reform less likely.

Regardless of whether you agree at whose feet blame should be laid, it's obviously a president-centric argument, which creates problems.  President Bush's economic policies were very different than Obama's, yet he also failed to enact immigration reform or pass FTAs even in times of economic growth.  If we end up with the same result, probably we're focusing on the wrong variables.  Arguments based on presidents and personalities are very tricky, and usually ignore other important factors.  Congress, for example, is totally absent in this case.

President-centric arguments also tend to ignore the fact that U.S. policy toward Latin America is characterized far more by continuity than change.  In 20 or 30 years, will we perceive such major differences between Obama and other presidents?

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Quote of the day: Cuba

I'm sorry to say it, but I think the expression, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" means, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

--Jeffrey Goldberg, after Fidel Castro claimed he meant the opposite of what he said.

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The Chilean transition ends yet again

I just published an edited volume on Chile, and my chapter* focuses on the idea of "transition" in Chilean politics, focusing on civil-military relations (I plan on getting a PDF of it on my academic website soon).  Since Patricio Aylwin, presidents have wanted to declare the transition over for political reasons, but this creates conflict with other groups (such as both human rights organizations and the military itself) who are concerned that such a declaration will had adverse consequences.

Now El Mercurio reports that Sebastián Piñera will give a speech at the UN in which he will say the Chilean transition is over.

En la Asamblea General, en cambio, su intervención de 15 minutos tendrá un cariz más político. Si bien Cancillería y Presidencia aún trabajan en los contenidos del discurso, en el ministerio anticipan que abordará el concepto de que la llegada al poder del primer gobierno de centroderecha tras 20 años de Concertación marca el fin de la transición en el país.

In the chapter, I discuss all the many various ways in which "transition" has been defined.  This is a new one, because of course it was not possible until this year.  I will be curious to hear the response from human rights advocates, who are greatly concerned that such a declaration symbolizes "moving forward" and ending human rights trials related to the dictatorship.

*Gregory Weeks, "The Transition is Dead, Long Live the Transition: Civil-Military Relations and the Limits of Consensus."  In Silvia Borzutzky and Gregory B. Weeks (eds.). The Bachelet Government: Conflict and Consensus in Post-Pinochet Chile (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010): 67-84.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Desperate but not serious

I would like someone to do an analysis of how the word "desperate" is used for Latin American politics.  José Cárdenas at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government sees Fidel Castro's appearance as an act of a desperation.  As usual, his argument is not compelling.

It made me think, though, of how often I've seen the word "desperate" used, usually when a political situation turns in a direction someone does not like.  They rationalize it as meaning that the "bad guys" are "desperate" because they're feeling pinched by the "good guys."  It's a sort of cognitive dissonance, where you want something to fail so badly that you use your opponent's success as a way to claim failure.

Some recent examples:

The FARC is desperate.

The Juárez cartel is desperate.

Narcotraffickers use submarines because they are desperate.

The Zetas are in Central America because they are desperate.

Fidel Castro has been desperate for years (maybe forever?)

Alvaro Uribe was desperate, at least according to Hugo Chávez.

Oh yeah, and the Venezuelan opposition is desperate too.

Though for José Cárdenas, of course Chávez is also desperate.

And these were examples I managed to pluck out quickly.  There are countless more.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Obama and Mexico

Strange column from Georgie Anne Geyer.  She thinks the Obama administration should be doing more to combat violence in Mexico, but instead of giving specific policy prescriptions, she blames the administration for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It does seem strange, doesn't it, that we are fighting two wars halfway across the world in countries we barely know, and yet we all but ignore this lethally dangerous situation in our backyard. But then, there is no foreign policy architecture in this administration, no decisions on what is primary and what is not, no sense of what is necessary and what is expendable.

Two big problems here.  One is that Obama did not start those two other wars and would love to be rid of them.  Two is that the administration has been focused a lot on Mexico (such as Hillary Clinton's "insurgency" comments, later contradicted by Obama).  The administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Mérida Initiative.  We can debate how much is needed, and how fast, and for what, but that is not exactly "ignoring" Mexico.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

My MOC

I've blogged periodically about Rep. Sue Myrick, my member of Congress, and her claims about Middle Eastern terrorists, Hugo Chávez, the Mexican border, etc.  She keeps asking (very indignantly) the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation and create a task force, but it keeps responding that it has no evidence of what she is talking about.  As a matter of fact, DHS offered her a private intelligence briefing on the matter, but she didn't want one!

After Myrick made her request in June, she told the website NewsmaxTV that she was offered a private intelligence briefing by the Homeland Security department, but declined because she didn't want to be bound by secrecy and wanted to focus on her request for a task force.

In other words, she apparently did not want to learn actual facts.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Quote of the day: Cuba

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

--Fidel Castro

Of course, that is the statement that has everyone abuzz.  In his article, though, Jeffrey Goldberg provides the most logical explanation for it, which is to provide cover for Raúl Castro's market reforms rather than to repudiate the revolution.  Yet it is always strange to see how advocates of a Marxist revolution claim it needs an injection of capitalism to survive, and how Fidel Castro is on board.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fidel and Iran

Fidel Castro calls Iran on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.  Good for him, and hopefully Hugo Chávez will listen at least a little bit the next time he praises the Iranian revolution.


Castro advised Ahmadinejad, a repeated Holocaust denier, to understand the "unique" history of anti-Semitism.
"I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews," Castro told the magazine. "I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.
"The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours," Castro told the magazine. "There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."


Governments can have diplomatic and economic relationships with Iran without becoming terrorist threats, but that does not mean they should whitewash the regime.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Central America and TPS

Mike Allison has a good post on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Central American migrants.  It is a well-intentioned policy that has unfortunately become distorted in various ways.

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Migrants in Mexico

Check out Amnesty International heart wrenching report on migrants in Mexico: Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico, which I had not seen before.  The plight of migrants going through Mexico has deservedly been receiving a lot of attention in the past few years, even before the recent massacre.  There isn't anything really new in the report, but the following highlights the entrenched corruption that makes effective reform so difficult:


Many of the cases detailed in this report highlight the involvement of the authorities at some level in many abuses against migrants. Far too often, officials provide criminal gangs with cover to commit abuses or simply fail to intervene to prevent a crime being committed against a migrant. Failure to take action to prevent a crime or to record and effectively investigate a crime amounts to concealment and needs to be taken as seriously as complicity or acquiescence (p. 38).


The report has 26 different recommendations, though it ends up sounding a bit more like a wish list than realistic prescriptions.


h/t Aguachile

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Journalism, policy, and political science

I've been following the "political journalism vs. political science" debate in the blogosphere, though I did not go to APSA.  I have to say that I find the debate a bit confused and also not well attuned to comparative politics (was there a comparativist there?).  In particular, "being relevant to journalists" and "being relevant to policy makers" are often conflated, but they are very different.  So Robert Farley writes:

The question of subfield prominence also bears more attention.  By and large, IR and comparative haven’t had the same impact on the journalist community in either their quantitative or qualitative forms.  I think that several major concepts/grand theories from both comparative and IR have found their way into the general policy conversation (deterrence theory, for example) but it’s more difficult to find uses of clear, sound political science research.  

Matthew Yglesias accepts this at face value without even questioning it, and barely even mentions comparative politics.  But it is exaggerated.  I am not even that high up on the academic food chain, but I get calls from reporters, both from small and large outlets, who are interested in figuring out ideological swings in Latin America, Chilean politics, dynamics of immigration, etc.  That is not the same as having reporters discuss specific hypotheses from comparative politics, but anytime a professor talks to a reporter, he or she is using their own research and reading to inform the discussion.

At the same time, I do agree with Kindred Winecoff that reporters really should read major academic works on the topics they're investigating.  But I am not entirely upset if they take the effort to call people in academia who know what they're talking about.

I would also add that getting into the "general policy conversation" is separate from journalism.  Arturo Valenzuela, who is the Obama administration's key policy maker for Latin America, and was also in that position for Bill Clinton, is a widely known and influential comparativist (though, interestingly, he co-wrote a very good book about Chile with a reporter for a non-specialist audience, and obviously was not punished for it).  Frank Mora, who holds a high-level position on Latin America at the Defense Department, is also a comparative/IR scholar.  My colleague up the road at Davidson College, Russell Crandall, is also working for the Obama administration on Latin America.  They are intensely involved in the policy discussion, and bring an academic background to policy making.

As for writing to a non-specialist audience being punished in academia, I think you cannot generalize so much.  Some departments do so, but my feeling is that they are the minority.  A more precise argument would be that you are punished if you write only for a non-specialist audience without doing more rigorous academic work at the same time. Yet even more precise is that the "punishment" is mostly relevant for junior professors without tenure, because that could mean losing their job.

This debate often gets whiny, but it is a good one to have.  It is useful to think about what impact we have, or want to have, beyond academia.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Latin American economies

We hear a lot about economic recovery in Latin America, but the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has a noteworthy buzzkill:


Exports that most increased were natural resources from South America at the expense of manufactured products and services with varying degrees of technological content, ECLAC said.
Statistics for the period show the region has reverted to an export structure based on prime materials similar to that of 20 years ago.


Ah, good old dependency theory.  Like the undead, it just doesn't quite ever go away.  You export primary products and import finished goods.  In Central America and the Caribbean, dependency is even more pronounced because remittances are becoming more and more central, and of course their flow relies not only on the U.S. economy but also U.S. immigration policy.

It is also noteworthy that this transcends ideology.  Governments may disagree on exactly who makes the profits, and how the proceeds get distributed, but they agree on where they should come from.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Immigration and "left"

The immigration debate is strange in many ways, but here is one more example.  If you favor acknowledging the realities of market supply and demand, desire less government intrusion in people's lives, and argue that giving individuals more freedom and opportunity will make the United States stronger and more secure, then that means you are "moving leftward."

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Juxtaposition: Daniel Ortega

Daniel Ortega wants more help from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency

AND

Daniel Ortega says U.S. intelligencies agencies are evil and plotting a coup against him

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More from my member of Congress

My member of Congress is at it again, this time with an op-ed in the Washington Times.  She says that an indictment handed down by the Southern District Court of New York may show a connection between Hezbollah and the FARC.  Or sort of.

The first problem is that I cannot find a record or text of this indictment anywhere, not even at the court's website.  I can't imagine the Congresswoman is making it up, but for now we have only her version of the indictment.  That version is riddled with passive tense ("it was reported"  By whom?) and innuendo.  For example, a car bomb went off in Ciudad Juárez.  Hezbollah uses car bombs.  Ergo, Hezbollah is training Mexicans.

Is is possible that international terrorist organizations coordinate?  Obviously yes, but  I do wish the Congresswoman would wait until she had more concrete facts before trying to get everyone riled up.

h/t boz from a previous post about my member of Congress.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Trends in illegal immigration

From the new Pew Hispanic Center report:


The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center.

This sharp decline has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.-to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. The decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades.


Several points to make here.  First, demography accounts for some of this, as the supply for working age people gradually tries to meets demand, and so the pace slows down.  Part of the reason for the huge influx in past years was because of the demographic fit between the U.S. and Latin America (plug again for my forthcoming book).  Put simply, the U.S. was old and Latin America was young.  Once you get more young migrants in the U.S., and thereby fewer young people in Latin America, the fit is no longer so close.

Second, it's not always clear what people are doing.  We know from many studies (including this one, though it remains a bit vague) that there is no evidence of mass return migration.  There may still be circular migration, but not large scale permanent return.  But if the flow of undocumented immigrants continues, and the undocumented population decreases, then how do we account for that?

Third, we won't be able to make very confident conclusions about causation until the U.S. economy picks up again.  An essential policy question is how much of the drop is related to enforcement.  Only once there is more hiring, new construction, etc. can we get a good sense of how much enforcement matters.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Media freedom in Latin America

Newsweek asks why there are so many crackdowns on the media at a time when Latin America is the most democratic it's ever been.  It is a question well worth asking, though the article gets too much in the "good government" (mostly right) vs. "bad government" ( mostly left) mode (and it also includes a bizarre non sequitur about spanking children).  Colombia gets a pass despite having more journalists killed this year than last, though I suppose the logic is that a few people killed for reporting is not a big deal when dozens were murdered in past years.

But the most glaring omission is Honduras, which is not mentioned despite having eight journalists murdered already this year, and becoming one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.  The media is under such assault in Honduras that even the Miami Herald published an editorial condemning it.

Overall, it is something everyone should pay closer attention to, though it would be nice to see a higher quality treatment of the issue in the MSM.

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