Monday, October 31, 2011

Market economies in Latin America

Here is another interesting graph from the 2011 Latinobarómetro poll. The question is whether a market economy is the only way to become developed.

Some of the results seem counterintuitive.  Rafael Correa is popular and critical of capitalism, but there is broad support for the market. Same with Venezuela. In Chile, meanwhile, which is the most capitalist country in the western hemisphere, support is very low. If you want to know why, read my book.

Maybe the strangest example is Nicaragua, which has the highest level of belief in the market despite being one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.

Overall, though, we should remember that ideology is not nearly so simple as it is usually portrayed.  Citizens' views are far more nuanced than they are typically given credit for, and in fact government policies are not as easily categorized as people like to think.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brazil and Europe

This sort of story would have been inconceivable not too long ago. Europe wanted Brazil to buy up bonds as a way of easing the European debt crisis. Brazil not only said no, but said they will only take it up through the IMF.

But Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega echoed calls for Europe to solve its own burgeoning fiscal problems, saying Brazil had no intention of making such purchases. 
"I believe that European countries do not need funds from Brazil to buy bonds. Brazil is not considering it," Mantega told reporters in Brasilia. "They have to find solutions to the European problems within Europe."

According to Brazil, other solutions were too "nebulous." During the Latin American debt crisis, the developed world told Latin American governments that they were incompetent and no more credit would be forthcoming without IMF-led structural adjustment. This is like coming full circle, as Brazil is doing something similar, assuming that any IMF package would involve reforms of some sort. Given the fact that debt crises hurt the average person, this is nothing to celebrate, but is so indicative of how far Brazil has come just since Lula first took office.


Government confidence in Latin America

As always, the latest results from the Latinobarómetro poll give us plenty to chew on. For today I will take a look at government confidence. Across the region, it has dropped a bit in recent years but has increased a lot over the past 15 years.

Left and center-left governments tend to get high marks, with the right and center-right lower (and I think the latter would include Peru as well, depending on the timing of the polling). I am a bit surprised to see Brazil that low. Venezuela's relatively high numbers show why Hugo Chávez has a solid chance of winning again next year.

As the narrative notes, there is more confidence in government in Latin America than there is in Europe, though that is damning with faint praise.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

FTAs and labor rights in Latin America

I hope this is true. Layna Mosley, a professor of political science at UNC Chapel Hill, has an op-ed in the New York Times about the effects of international trade on labor rights.

THE passage this month of free trade agreements may be a victory not only for President Obama, but also for workers in Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Although the anticipated economic consequences of these agreements are small, these pacts also offer a mechanism for improving workers’ rights in partner countries. 
There is, however, a more general way in which trade agreements — and the economic ties they generate — benefit workers in developing nations. As Colombia and Panama expand their trade relationships with the United States, workers stand to gain more than just the job creation and higher wages that often come with expanded trade. Research I conducted over the last several years with the political scientists Brian Greenhill and Aseem Prakash suggests that trade with developed nations helps developing countries expand labor rights themselves. 
Why? International trade gives producers incentives to meet the standards of their export markets. When developing nations export more to countries with better labor standards, their labor rights laws and practices tend to improve. Our findings, which are based on newly collected measures of labor rights around the world, demonstrate a “California effect” on workers’ rights, in which exporting nations are influenced by the labor rights conditions that prevail in their main trading partners.

This is an interesting argument, though I would need to see Latin America-specific data/analysis to be more convinced. I have never heard anything about labor rights expanding in Central America, for example, despite recent implementation of CAFTA-DR (and things are worse in Honduras, though that is related more directly to the 2009 coup). To be fair, she says labor rights will expand, not that they will expand very noticeably.

Henry Farrell at The Monkey Cage mentions the op-ed but for some reason does not offer any comment.

h/t Kindred Winecoff


Friday, October 28, 2011

FDI in Latin America

So many different and sometimes contradictory arguments to be made from this table on 2010-2011 foreign direct investment in Latin America, hot off the press from CEPAL:

--So a leftist/populist president in Argentina means an FDI drop. Oh wait, there was a massive increase in Venezuela

--So drug violence in Mexico means a drop. Oh wait, there was a big increase in Guatemala

--Chile is the most developed country in the region and investors love it. Oh wait, it saw a drop of 14%

--El Salvador faces severe problems with political violence. Oh wait, it had the highest increase in the entire region, at 1,404%

--Brazil is a currently a darling of investors. Yes, true, with 157% increase

--Paraguay is having major economic and political problems, so is not popular with investors. Yes, true, with the biggest drop in the region (-31%)

You can play at home.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Debating the Univision debate

Jorge Castañeda writes about the potential Republican boycott of a Univision debate.

But if they go ahead with the boycott, the contenders will have created another dilemma: Appearing to snub Univision's enormous audience could have grave consequences for the GOP nominee in November. 

This is a common argument, but I don't think it is accurate. Latinos are already overwhelmingly Democrats, and have a very clear view of what the Republican primary strategy is like. It is therefore very hard to imagine too many Latinos suddenly changing their view of the Republicans, either for better or worse. The Univision issue will be very quickly forgotten, and will not change many, if any, minds.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monetary non-union

When I heard about the criticisms--including a smirk--that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy aimed at Silvio Berlusconi regarding Italian economic reforms, it made me think that even the widest-eyed idealist must admit that any sort of monetary union possibility in Latin America is dead. It was already a long shot given age old nationalist concerns.

Remember Hugo Chávez's call for a common currency called the Sucre? Just imagine a time when one president starts criticizing another for failure to enact economic reforms. We'll get a redux of King Juan Carlos' "Por qué no te callas?" (which now has its own Wikipedia page).


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Condemning the Cuba embargo

Just like clockwork, the United Nations voted to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba for the 20th year in a row.  In recent years the vote has gone pretty much the same way.  Israel stands with the U.S. along with tiny Pacific nations to varying degrees:

The final tally was 186-2, with only Israel joining the United States as it did last year. The small Pacific nations of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained as they also did last year.
Last year's tally for the symbolic measure was almost identical, 187-2, with three abstentions.

What a sad spectacle for an utterly failed policy.

American Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Adviser for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said the embargo is a bilateral issue and "not appropriately a concern of this assembly."
Godard said the sanctions represent "just one aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

After over 50 years, how in the world can we say with a straight face we think it will encourage a more open environment in Cuba?  For many, many years the embargo has been one of the best friends of the Castro regime, allowing it to blame its economic mistakes on the U.S. and have a constant political foil.  Ending the embargo would entail a political defeat for the Castros and a victory for common sense.


The anti-DREAM Act

Via Latina Lista: You are a citizen of the United States. You were born in Florida and grew up there. You have a Florida driver's license and are a registered Florida voter.

But you have to pay out-of-state tuition in college because your parents, not you, are undocumented. Sound unconstitutional? There really can be no doubt.

The lawsuit, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, calls Florida’s policy a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause.
Michael A. Olivas, who teaches immigration and higher education law at the University of Houston, said he was “astounded” by Florida’s actions. Colorado at one time had a similar policy, but abandoned it on the advice of its attorney general, and Olivas said he knows of no other state with significant immigrant populations that is doing this now.

And in a breathtaking example of lack of accountability in government: no one will take responsibility for it and no one can even determine who established the rule in the first place.

The attorneys who filed suit say the policy is the result of administrative rules created in 2005, but they could not pinpoint who spearheaded the creation of those rules or why they did so. Though Florida state law deals with tuition residency issues, it delegates the responsibility to draw up specific rules to the Department of Education (for community colleges) and the Board of Governors (for state universities).

I don't see this lasting too long. It's terrible that it lasted as long as it did.


Venezuela without Chávez

Daniel Hellinger has an interesting analysis of the potential future of Venezuelan politics in the latest issue of LASA Forum, "A Future Without Chávez?" His basic argument is that Chávez could potentially lose the next election because there is some discontent at the grassroots level, and there is the problematic strategy of borrowing against future oil export earnings.  Nonetheless, the opposition as yet has little to offer those Venezuelans who feel they have benefited from Chávez's programs.

What he does not do, however, is address the statements periodically emitted by the executive branch and the military about not accepting an opposition victory.  How smooth can we expect a transition to a Venezuela where Chávez is not president?  Hellinger is an expert on Venezuelan politics so I would have loved to read what he had to say on that.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Cristina wins

This just in.  Cristina Fernández de Kirchner wins the presidential election easily, and bloggers everywhere jump to say how unsurprised they are.  I, for one, am unsurprised.

Expect also to see plenty of commentary about how she is just like Juan Perón, she is Hugo Chávez's evil twin, and possibly even is recruiting Al Qaeda to attack Arizona through Mexico (you heard that here first!).  Or more subtle news items like this Reuters piece, that dismisses her because of her make-up and "sympathy vote."

A question that goes largely unasked in the media for both Argentina and Venezuela is why the opposition is so unable to articulate a coherent alternative and generate enough interest to become competitive.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dead presidents

Juan Forero at the Washington Post writes about the Latin American tendency to worship dead leaders, and how this can be viewed as an inability to "move forward" politically.  It is an unfortunately simplistic piece, focusing of course on Juan Perón, the cult of whom has been written about to death (no pun intended).

More problematic is the fact that he suggests this is a Latin America-specific phenomenon.

Some pundits say it’s nothing less than necrophilia, evident in everything from literature to public holidays to the symbolism used by governments across Spanish America.

But let's stop for a moment and think about the United States, where there is plenty of dead president fetishizing.  The Republican Party has elevated Ronald Reagan to cult status, while the Democratic Party has done the same for FDR (and just search on Amazon for the mountain of books published constantly on each one).  Near here, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party has what they call a "Lincoln Lunch."  Political parties use dead presidents for the purpose of generating a certain kind of idealized image, and that is not unique to Latin America.

True, we don't focus so much on the bodies or body parts of dead presidents, but that does happen around the world (Vladimir Lenin comes to mind).  But in the United States we built massive monuments to dead presidents, with millions of people visiting each year to be awed by their greatness.  We don't exhume dead presidents, we just carve their likenesses on mountains so we can stare at them.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Marco Rubio and Batista

Marco Rubio (R-FL) has long blamed Fidel Castro for the fact that his parents left Cuba.  Now it appears they were fleeing Fulgencio Batista!  And he's mad that anyone would distinguish between the two, or suggest that he's clueless.

In a campaign ad last year, he said: "As the son of exiles, I understand what it means to lose the gift of freedom." Rubio's biography on his Senate website previously said he was "born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who come to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." It has been changed to say Rubio "was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."

It is very hard to imagine a Cuban or Cuban American getting confused about the difference between 1956 and 1959, or the difference between Castro and Batista.  But when it comes to Florida and Cuba, rationality goes straight out the window.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Latin America links

Here are some Latin America links you might not have seen:

--Colin Snider notes that the dictatorships in both Spain and Argentina stole babies

--as usual, José Cárdenas says that we should just continue our broken Cuba policy because, who knows, someday it may magically work (wait, that's not fair, because in fact he does not claim it will ever work)

--The Havana Note points our important generational differences among Cuban Americans

--Aguachile on how Enrique Peña Nieto is open to PEMEX privatization

--RAJ about how the Honduran Supreme Court knows the 2009 coup was unconstitutional but they're cool with that

--Patrick Corcoran on internal displacement in Mexico


Thursday, October 20, 2011

USAID in Cuba

From the Cuba Money Project, an interview with a former USAID official talking about Cuba. The money quote:

These are political programs designed to get information and political stuff into Cuba. There’s no evaluation team going in there to see how they’re working.

We know that the Castro regime has been in power for more than a half century and is as strong as ever, so that gives us a clue about how they're working. Another similar success case? Iran!

Asked if USAID operated similar programs anywhere else in the world, Hyman cited Iran.

For a great visual check out this sample page of a declassified USAID project for Cuba:

The sad thing, of course, is that the hard core group of Florida lawmakers make it impossible even to shed some needed light on these projects, much less shut them down.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Volunteering for the military in Chile

The Chilean military is blaming a drop in volunteers on the student protests. The logic is that with schools closed, there is no way for the armed forces to reach out to young people interested in joining. In Chile, serving is only compulsory if the military does not get enough volunteers.

There are all sorts of other potential reasons for the drop, some positive, some negative. Perhaps people at lower socio-economic levels actually have more employment opportunities. Perhaps the earthquake left a negative impression about the military. Perhaps the military needs to adapt its recruitment efforts to a new generation.

Further, the AP notes problems with the military's math.

But Chile's military also had a shortage last year, before the movement began, and at that time it called up fewer than 39,000 for the draft.
To have 2.5 candidates for each spot, the military would need to call up only 14,223 more youngsters. Instead, so many more have been told to report that Chile could have more than six candidates for each position. The Associated Press asked Chile's national draft office in writing for an explanation, as requested by its spokesman, and did not immediately receive a response.

Overall, this is a self-inflicted PR problem. It makes the military look either unpopular or incompetent.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Intellectuals in Peru

There is a lot of talk about the role of academia in influencing (or not) public policy in the United States and the proper role of a " public intellectual." Along those lines, Martín Tanaka writes about the Peruvian context as he reviews what sounds like a very interesting book, Osmar Gonzales' La academia y la ágora. He makes four points:

First, there are two types of intellectuals: those who want followers and those who want to contribute to the common good. Remember this is the country where a former professor led a violent and messianic movement.

Second, there is a tension regarding intellectuals who are part of criollo culture arguing against it in favor of the pueblo. He argues this is evident with intellectuals who support Ollanta Humala.

Third, intellectuals have been weakened vis-a-vis technocrats, who do not have to generate public consensus about their ideas, but rather are sheltered and simply get to impose them. This is a legacy of Alberto Fujimori.

Fourth, for years politics have not been sustained by ideas, or at least there has not been sufficient intellectual questioning of policy. He thinks Humala offers an opportunity to overcome this.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Ecuador and remittances

Juan Ponce, Iliana Olivié, and Mercedes Onofa, "The Role of International Remittances in Health Outcomes in Ecuador: Prevention and Response to Shocks." International Migration Review 45, 3 (Fall 2011): 727-745.


This article evaluates the impact of remittances on health outcomes in Ecuador using an instrumental-variables approach. Although we do not find significant impacts on long-term child health variables, we find that remittances do have an impact on health expenditures, and on some preventive issues such as de-worming and vaccination. In addition, we find significant effects of remittances on medicine expenditures when illness occurs. In this regard, remittances are used for both preventive and emergency situations. Interestingly, we also find a significant and positive effect of remittances on health knowledge.

There is a lot of debate about how remittances are used, and in particular whether they are used primarily for consumption versus starting new businesses or other productive strategies. This article's conclusion is heartening since it suggests that there are positive non-economic outcomes.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obama and Latinos

The Wall Street Journal discusses some of Rick Perry's problems of balancing a (relatively) more moderate immigration stance with the need to appease restrictionists for the nomination. More interesting, though, is the data accompanying the article. One in particular caught my eye: 48% of Hispanics beleive the Democratic Party is either indifferent or hostile to them. The Obama administration should view that number as far too high for comfort. 72% believe the same of the Republican Party, so Obama is banking on two assumptions: First, the Republican campaign has been so hostile to Latinos that there is no danger of switching. Second, that even if some Latinos stay home and don't vote, that won't be decisive in battleground states. These are not necessarily bad assumptions, but Obama will need all the help he can get.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest talk

I am giving a talk this afternoon in the Department of Geography at San Diego State University. The title is "The Spatial Political Demography of Carolatinos in Charlotte." This is part of the ongoing research collaboration with my dad, using GIS to better understand the political impact of Latino migration to the south.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quote of the day: Guatemala

From the New York Times Magazine:

"I don't know that he took their money, but he certainly took their girls."

--the Chair of the UN Special Committee on Palestine, regarding how Israelis worked to get the favor of the Guatemalan committee member in 1947.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More on Iran being stupid

Yesterday I wrote about how the Iran plot makes the Iranian government appear pretty stupid. Tim Padgett at Time has the exact same argument, though for different reasons.

If Iranian government operatives really did try to contract a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama Administration alleges today, then they weren't just being diabolical. They were being fairly stupid.


Had Arbabsiar actually been dealing with the Zetas – and not a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant who posed as a Zeta operative – they probably would have conveyed that reality to him fairly quickly. And they would have likely dismissed the $1.5 million that Arbabsiar allegedly offered the D.E.A. informant. The Zetas, after all, are part of a Mexican drug-trafficking, kidnapping and extortion industry that rakes in as much as $40 billion a year. To risk that kind of cash flow by carrying out a five-alarm international hit for a million and a half bucks seems a non-starter. It also seems an organization like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, for whom the Justice Department says Arbabsiar may have been working, should know better. Arbabsiar, who lives near Mexico in Corpus Christi, Texas, certainly should have been wiser.

I just keep feeling like there is something I'm missing here. From basically every angle, from Mexico to Argentina to the United States to the Middle East, this operation makes no sense for Iran, the government of which has not generally shown irrational behavior. Aggressive, yes. Irrational, no. All of the soft diplomatic balancing Iran was carefully doing in Latin America would also be undone in one stroke for what appears to be no gain.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Initial thoughts on Iran and the Zetas

Details continue to emerge about the alleged plot of an Iranian and an Iranian-American to pay the Zetas to kill the Saudi ambassador and other plans to possibly also attack Argentina.  Two things immediately come to mind.

First, how stupid is this? Connecting to a criminal organization to commit murder will not boost your global prestige, or make achieving your foreign policy goals any easier in the short or longer terms. We'll have to hear more about the extent of the Iranian government's involvement to see how stupid they were, or whether these envoys did most of the stupiding.*

Second, it is notable how there is no ideological connection to Latin America, such as to the traditional boogeymen like Hugo Chávez. This was only about the use of brute force. In fact, if such an attack took place, even the Latin American governments Iran does business with--such as Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela--would feel obligated to condemn it, thus making it even harder for Iran to gain more diplomatic leverage in the region. That is especially true if Argentina were attacked yet again.

Iran's interests are strategic, not ideological. Its government is pretty noxious, and if this stuff is true then it is incompetent as well.

* I realize this is not a word, but I wish it was.


No human is illegal

On Sunday I took my son to the annual Latin American Festival. I chatted with some of the people at the Latin American Coalition, who have launched this campaign:

This, of course, is referring to the use of "illegal" or "illegals" to denote people. It is always used pejoratively and becomes an excuse to hurl all sorts of slurs. If you as an individual are defined as illegal, as opposed to your immigration status, then it becomes easy to label you as dirty, criminal, freeloading, and worthless.

I tend to see "illegal immigrant" as much less pejorative, particularly how it is commonly used (though I know many disagree). That is why "undocumented immigrant" is more common for those who want a less loaded term, though even that is problematic given that many immigrants are documented in some way even if they don't have legal status.

Regardless, language matters in public policy debates, so this is not merely a matter of semantics. Language puts particularly types of images in people's minds. Whether that image is positive, negative, or neutral affects public opinion.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Latin America and Palestine

Mahmoud Abbas is doing a quick Latin America tour--Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Colombia--to keep the momentum going for a UN vote on Palestinian membership as a state (the vote will be "soon" but it is not clear how soon). The Colombia stop is especially interesting because the Santos administration had previously said it would abstain. This suggests Abbas is already trying to maneuver for an alternate solution that Colombia and other governments might support after a U.S. veto.

The General Assembly, however, could still vote to upgrade the status of Palestinians, who currently hold the status of nonvoting observer "entity." The body could change that status to permanent observer "state," identical to the Vatican's standing at the United Nations.

I have not heard what the U.S. position is on this option, since the very concept of "state" is so loaded within the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations. On the other hand, it could be a solution that settles the situation down for the time being.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Romney on Latin America

Mitt Romney issued his big foreign policy strategy. There is actually quite a bit on Latin America, and we can only hope that if he is elected he will ignore the region or that this is just red meat for the Republican base that he won't actually follow. Why? Read on:

--he sees another axis of evil:

A special problem is posed by the rogue nations of the world: Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. Their interests and values are diametrically opposed to our own and they threaten international peace and security in numerous ways, including, as in the case of North Korea and Iran, by seeking nuclear weapons, or by harboring criminal networks, exporting weapons, and sponsoring terrorists. They deny their people the human dignity and well-being offered by economic opportunity and political freedom. They can be the source of intense regional conflict that can easily spread into a far larger arena and endanger the peace of the world (p. 6).

This is almost mindbogglingly ignorant. Equate North Korea and Venezuela? You can be sure that Hugo Chávez will use Romney's comments to his own benefit in the 2012 presidential election.

--Speaking of mindbogglingly ignorant, he wants UN Ambassadors to act like Jeane Kirkpatrick and John Bolton (p. 7) who openly favored bullying and who both basically despised the UN.

--But there is even more mindboggling ignorance:

Decades of remarkable progress in Latin America toward security, democracy, and increased economic ties with America are currently under threat. Venezuela and Cuba are leading a virulently anti-American “Bolivarian” movement across Latin America that seeks to undermine institutions of democratic governance and economic opportunity. The Bolivarian movement threatens U.S. allies such as Colombia, has interfered with regional cooperation on key issues such as illicit drugs and counterterrorism, has provided safe haven for drug traffickers, has encouraged regional terrorist organizations, and has even invited Iran and foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah into the region. The region is also witnessing an epidemic of violent criminal gangs and drug cartels, which have wrought death and mayhem across much of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (p. 32).

Honestly, you think the drug trade is fostered by Venezuela and Cuba rather than demand in the United States? Seriously? Hugo Chávez is so all-powerful that the rest of Latin America just collapses before him and only SuperRomney can save the day?

I guess that is not surprising for someone who actually claims without evidence that Iran and Hezbollah are destabilizing the region.

And of course he supported the Honduran coup. Jeane Kirkpatrick would be proud:

In some cases, he has actually encouraged it, as when he publicly backed former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya — a Hugo Chavez ally — despite Zelaya’s unconstitutional attempt to extend his term as president in defiance of the Honduran supreme court and legislature (p. 32).

--he says Mexico is a failing state, just like Somalia and Afghanistan (p. 6):

These are states with weak governance that are wracked by poverty, disease, internal strife, refugees, drugs, and organized crime.

That alone merits detailed commentary, but it clearly shows a Romney tendency to label very different countries into simple, alarming categories. You will not find many people who think Mexico and Afghanistan should be put

--we need to spend massive amounts of money on guns, missiles, ships, etc. and the magic of his economic plan will mean the funds will just appear. Anyway, we need all that money to pay for the extensive meddling he suggests for the Middle East.  Oh yes, and we need to build the border fence.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Working in Bolivia

Who knew I had a Bolivia connection? Back in the early 1950s, my Great Grandfather Bart Hosea, Sr. worked on the Pan-American Highway. Bolivia was not a major part of the highway, but seems to have connected. We found this picture of what apparently was a hotel he stayed at (or just took a picture of?) in Cochabamba:

Interestingly, the hotel is still there, and looks quite similar.

He died when I was too young even to have a mental image of him--it is curious that he had a Latin America connection.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

E-Verify in South Carolina

The irony of Republicans who say they want to focus on small businesses enacting policies that specifically hurt small businesses seems lost only on those Republicans. Governor Nikki Haley seemed surprised to hear from a business owner that E-Verify was a bureaucratic sinkhole.

Haley said she would look further into Irons' situation, adding the new rules are not meant to penalize businesses.

Maybe they aren't meant to, but it was clear from the beginning that they would.

And there was this incredible little nugget in the article as well.

During the town hall meeting, Haley also said the media missed the mark in its stories about her dictate that state workers answer the phone with, “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How may we help you?”
Some, including state workers, criticized the requirement as unnecessary and juvenile.
“The focus was always supposed to be on, ‘How may I help you?’” Haley said. “We told you we were going to get people to remember who they work for.”

This immediately reminded me of Hugo Chávez and his decision to make a military salute be accompanied by "Homeland, Socialism, or Death!" I can't decide which is worse: ridiculous slogans, or the fact that leaders want to be praised for coming up with ridiculous slogans.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lobo's spin

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. There is some pretty remarkable spin in there.  So, for example, Honduras is somehow a thriving democracy despite the removal of a president in a manner that even most of Zelaya's opponents agree was unconstitutional.  Honduras' economy is doing great, though he makes no mention of either poverty or inequality. He cites his own anti-corruption programs, but there is no evidence of any reduction of corruption.

He blames every ill in Honduras on international factors, which means that none of Honduras' homegrown socioeconomic problems really need to be addressed.

I know, I know, this is the message he needs to project. Presidents don't write articles about how their own political elite has ruined the country, and how they are uninterested in allowing any real change to ever occur, to the point of overthrowing anyone who seems to challenge the status quo.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Peru unemployment data

Something about this Peru urban unemployment data gives me the sneaking suspicion that these numbers are not reliable (beyond the common complaint of not measuring underemployment). From ECLAC:

2002: 9.4%
2003: 9.4%
2004: 9.4%
2005: 9.6%
2006: 8.5%
2007: 8.4%
2008: 8.4%
2009: 8.4%
2010: 8.0%


Presidents and sanctions

Taehee Whang, "Playing to the Home Crowd? Symbolic Use of Economic Sanctions in the United States." International Studies Quarterly 55, 3 (2011): 787-801.

Abstract (gated):

Why do we observe economic sanctions despite strong doubts regarding their effectiveness? While the symbolic use of sanctions is advanced as an alternative to the instrumental use explanation, no one has assessed this alternative explanation empirically. I investigate the symbolic use of sanctions for domestic political gain in the United States, assessing in particular the effect of sanctions imposition on US presidential approval ratings. Findings suggest that policymakers benefit from imposing sanctions through increased domestic support. This domestic political gain can present policymakers with an incentive to use sanctions as a low-cost way of displaying strong leadership during international conflicts.

I don't find this convincing. Take the example of Cuba, which as far as I know is currently the longest continuous application of U.S. sanctions. They are related to domestic opinion, but only in Florida, so national presidential approval is irrelevant.  This argument might have held in the 1960s, but not really now.

In addition, I would argue that at least after the Cold War, sanctions against Latin America have no impact on presidential approval at all.  Take Honduras in 2009, for example. It was a huge deal in Latin America, but barely registered in the United States. All of the debate about sanctions the Obama administration was applying did not impact his approval because Americans did not care about the outcome. Actually, the main domestic audience was a group of Florida lawmakers, and they opposed any sanctions so the presidential approval issue actually worked in reverse.


Monday, October 03, 2011

FTA and human rights

From Business Week:

President Barack Obama may send free- trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for consideration as soon as today, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plans.
The trade pacts reached under President George W. Bush and revised by President Barack Obama have been stymied in a stalemate with House Republicans over benefits for workers hurt by import competition. The Senate voted to extend the aid on Sept. 22, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he would consider the program, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, in tandem with the trade deals once the Obama administration submits legislation to enact the agreements.

So it seems the basic plan is to submit the agreements and try to make Republicans take the blame if they are unwilling to spend money on the TAA.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that almost no progress had been made in recent years to prosecute those who killed trade union leaders.  Human rights, however, seem to have disappeared from Obama's statements about the FTAs, as Colombia is praised for advances in human rights.  In fact, the administration's criticism of the deals shifted rather seamlessly from human rights to the TAA.


Undocumented students

The Associated Press has a very good article on the issue of states granting in-state tuition for undocumented students.  In the absence of the DREAM Act or some similar reform, they can get a very good education and then be ineligible to get a job.  The article also makes the point that although there is some research about the rise of enrollment after in-state tuition is granted, there seems to be nothing about the post-graduation status of the undocumented students.

This is a problem, because the question of attending college too often is framed as an end in itself.  Without a pathway to legal residency, however, it is really more of a means to the end of an well-educated, legal workforce.  Without that end, these students are just in a holding pattern, waiting for federal action.


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