Thursday, May 31, 2012

Debating legalization

The New York Times has a "room for debate" section on drug legalization in Latin America. Unfortunately, it's not very useful, since it consists of short sound bites for an enormously complex issue. Case in point the argument that we should not legalize drugs because that would put a lot of criminals out of work. The unhappy unemployed criminals will therefore commit more crimes than before, and we'll be worse off. Therefore, apparently, we should allow them to remain in their current place of employment.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Press abuses in Latin America

G. Philip Hughes, who was an Ambassador to Caribbean countries during the administration of George H.W. Bush, has an op-ed in U.S. News & World Report criticizing Barack Obama for failing to condemn press abuses in Latin America. Like many such op-eds, he notes only Venezuela, Ecuador, and Argentina (Cuba wasn't mentioned, though lack of any press freedom there is obvious).

Yet according to Reporters Without Borders, the Latin American countries with the worst abuses against the press are Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras. But since all of them are U.S. allies, he conveniently decides not to mention them. Or, in the case of Mexico, he claims that abuses are now gone because it is democratic.

In short, I don't disagree with the basic premise, namely that the Obama administration should be more vocal about attack on the press. But any such statements would have to start with government friendly to the United States.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chilean civil-military relations

One thing that became quite clear after hearing a number of paper presentations at LASA this year is that scholars of civil-military relations still don't agree on much. How do we know "civilian control" when we see it? How do we know if civilian authority is "effective"? Indeed, what should militaries be doing in a democratic context? What incentives exist for civilians to pursue democratic civil-military reform?

This was driven home to me when I gave my own presentation on civil-military relations during Chile's Concertación era (1990-2010). I discussed how economic reform--particularly the Copper Law--has been very elusive while some political reforms have been enacted. I added that the lack of economic reform did not conform to many rational choice analyses suggesting that politicians had an incentive to go after resources as a way to boost their own re-election chances.

From the audience came a very reasonable question--why? If Chile is so democratic, the armed forces are under control, and politicians naturally want access to resources, then why are these reforms not happening? Similarly, as I mentioned last week, the Brazilian government went so far as to announce its refusal to discuss the country's amnesty.

I didn't have a good answer. This is an empirical question worth chewing on. In no particular order, let me map out some possibilities, which can overlap.

1. The military is making some type of threat behind the scenes
2. The right (however defined) is blocking the reform efforts
3. There is insufficient political interest/lack of incentive across the ideological spectrum
4. The president believes the effort would distract too much and so won't pursue reform
5. Reform is not broadly seen as necessary in the first place

On the surface, none of these appear to fit Chile all that well. But something is going on under the surface.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Opposite day for Cuba

This is the ultimate in logic for those who still believe in the Cuba embargo: "pro freedom" now means "stifle freedoms." So if you love freedom, apparently the best thing to do is to deny freedom of speech. Or if you don't like what is happening in a country, then copy that country!

This reminds me of when my kids proclaim that it is "opposite day," meaning that whatever they say should be taken as the opposite. For Cuba policy, this is how we should understand proclamations that the embargo will help the Cuban people.

My previous rant on this is here.

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Osama Wazan's The Last Moderate Muslim

Not long ago I met Osama Wazan, author of the novel The Last Moderate Muslim. He said he cried as he wrote parts of it, which I can imagine. It is a coming-of-age story during the Lebanese civil war. The main character, a boy named Ziad, sees terrible atrocities committed by both Christians and Muslims and tries to come to grips with his Muslim faith, his family, and his country. What a great book.

As the title suggests, ultimately it is a call for moderation, but Ziad has experienced his own feelings of intense religious fervor and hatred toward non-Muslims so that message does not come off as naive. Rather, it is a clear-eyed view of someone who looks pragmatically at what extremism on all sides actually achieves. Lebanon was ripped up, its population alternatively fled and killed each other, corruption flourished and the normal opportunities afforded young people were hard to find or non-existent (Ziad, for example, goes to college late because of the war, then finds the university periodically closed because of violence).

Unfortunately, it will likely also leave you feeling pessimistic about the outcomes of current Middle Eastern civil wars (or, indeed, almost any civil war). In the novel, Ziad is one of the few people who can overcome the true horror of war. It would be no easy thing.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

LASA 2012 paper

Later this afternoon I will be presenting my LASA paper on the military and the Concertación in Chile. It is really a basic overview that will become part of an edited volume examining Chilean politics during those years. You can see the paper here. Certainly a lot of progress has been made, but it is quite remarkable how much remains untouched--the amnesty, the copper law, lack of legislative oversight, etc. Even when you view reforms in terms of incentives the lack of progress in some area doesn't make much sense. There is a lot of money politicians could tap into if they reformed the copper law, but they have not done so.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cheyre on the Chilean military

Here at LASA I attended an interesting talk by former Chilean Army Commander in Chief Juan Emilio Cheyre, who had been central to publicly acknowledging the Army's human rights abuses. Today he discussed the concept of "participative professionalism," where the military would seek to be more integrated with society without becoming politicized (e.g. natural disaster response). He emphasized again the need to keep human rights front and center. Unlike many retired officers, he used words like "dictatorship." I plan on mentioning this in my talk on Saturday. It's nice to hear this sort of thing from someone who is so widely respected.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brazil amnesty

We need more research to answer why to this:


El gobierno de Brasil descartó entrar en cualquier tipo de discusión, nacional o internacional, sobre la ley de amnistía de 1979 que exoneró a los responsables de abusos de derechos humanos cometidos durante los gobierno militares entre 1964 y 1985.
...
"No nos vamos a meter en el debate sobre la ley de amnistía, ni domésticamente, ni a nivel internacional", dijo la comisionada del gobierno para los derechos humanos, María do Rosario.

My scholarly work on civil-military relations is periodically critiqued for being too negative in its assessment, but this is yet another example of how civilian governments stop short of dealing with sensitive issues. If the military is not a problem, is not politicized, will not be a distraction, then why refuse even to discuss the amnesty?

For a scholarly (and often pessimistic) look at Brazilian civil-military relations, Jorge Zaverucha has written a lot.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

El Americano in Cuba

David Grann has a lengthy article in The New Yorker on William Alexander Morgan, a U.S. citizen who fought for Fidel Castro during the revolution, and then was executed by firing squad as he became an opponent of the new regime.


It was March 11, 1961, two years after Morgan had helped to overthrow the dictator Fulgencio Batista, bringing Castro to power. The revolution had since fractured, its leaders devouring their own, like Saturn, but the sight of Morgan before a firing squad was a shock. In 1957, when Castro was still widely seen as fighting for democracy, Morgan had travelled from Florida to Cuba and headed into the jungle, joining a guerrilla force. In the words of one observer, Morgan was “like Holden Caulfield with a machine gun.” He was the only American in the rebel army and the sole foreigner, other than Guevara, an Argentine, to rise to the army’s highest rank, comandante.

Interesting stuff, including J. Edgar Hoover, Rafael Trujillo, Robert F. Kennedy, and of course Che Guevara, who didn't like Morgan (they were the only two foreigners to hold the title of "Comandante").

Especially these days, when you see the geriatric dictatorship that Cuba has become, it can be hard to imagine how romantic the revolution was, and how much hope it generated at the beginning.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Level of speech

A new study argues that the speeches of members of Congress are now one grade lower than they were seven years ago:

Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level. (You can find more comparisons here)

We need to be careful about over-reacting to this. Comparing to the original documents of the country is not fair, because they were written by highly educated people for highly educated people. A better comparison would be the speeches by members of Congress once less educated people started getting elected.

Level of speech is an interesting thing. A few years ago I was a fellow at the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University, which was a great experience. A major goal of that program is to get scholars doing research on issues of interest to North Carolina (in my case, immigration) to translate their research into op-eds that could inform and contribute to public debate. In one workshop with a Communications professor, he told us to keep the op-eds at a high school level (incidentally, did you know Microsoft Word can tell you what grade level your document is? I did not know that before). The reason? Newspapers have broad audiences, and editors will more likely accept op-eds if they are accessible. I published several that reflected my research perfectly while using language more people could relate to.

In other words, we want to be educated but that does not mean we use fancy language just for the sake of it. The fact that MLK's famous speech was at a 9.4 level is an important reminder of that. It was pitched broadly while retaining eloquence.

It makes me think, in fact, that many academic articles and books might be greatly improved by making them more accessible. That doesn't mean dumbing them down. Rather, it means making them more clear.

h/t The Monkey Cage

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Warrior Dash 2012

Yesterday I ran in the Warrior Dash, a 5K that is both bizarre and really fun, while also raising money for St. Jude's Children Research Hospital. Throughout the race there are 14 obstacles, including three separate mud pits (one of which was too deep to stand up in), two climbing walls, rope ladders, jumping over fire and even running over junked cars. It took me almost an hour to run, at a 17:37 pace. When you go through mud, then try to go uphill on a slippery slope, you can't go too fast. Or at least I can't.

After you finish and get hosed off, you turn in your chip for a free beer, which at that point goes down very nicely. If you're in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend it.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Iran-Latin America op-ed

Another alarmist Latin America-Iran op-ed. It is too easy to refute--that one is a real doozy, including an acknowledgment that the argument sounds "comical"--and I've done so more times than I want to bother counting, so instead I offer you an easy-to-use template to write your own op-ed. If you use it, then just slip my name in there somewhere for credit.

First, assert that there is a bloc of leftist governments in Latin America that all think and act exactly alike.

Second, assert that Iran plans to join these countries in some sort of unified military operation.

Third, discuss Iranian activities in the region. There are a few real ones, but be sure to include several based on either anonymous sources or no sources at all.

Fourth, discuss how the United States is ignoring the threat and express amazement at its lack of leadership.

Fifth, throw in a few non sequiturs about drugs or immigration. That's always good.

And there you go!

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Cubans and LASA

The State Department is allowing Mariela Castro to visit the U.S., in part to attend the Latin American Studies Association conference next week. The bizarre thing is that other, less controversial, Cubans were not allowed to attend.

A copy of one visa denial letter, issued last week and obtained by The Washington Post, stated that Soraya Castro Marino, who directs a study institute in Havana and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2010, was found ineligible this time because her presence would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” All rejected applicants reportedly received the same letter.

This is flat out dumb. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, any of these Cubans can do that is detrimental to the interests of the United States. This has been a bone of contention for years with LASA, and for a while even prompted the organization to meet outside the U.S. in protest (which over time became an untenable decision). It doesn't make any sense at all.

They will come and speak their minds; much of that will have nothing to do with Cuban politics and will focus instead on their own research. This is called free speech, which is not present in Cuba. Why in the world would the U.S. want to censor Cubans while condemning censorship in Cuba?

Even if they do talk about Cuban politics, as indeed Castro will, then we can all listen and make up our own minds. There will be plenty of contrary opinions published everywhere. Again, this is called free speech.

Finally, this decision to allow some and reject others highlights the completely arbitrary nature of this policy. The Obama administration does not seem even to bother trying to follow any coherent logic.

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Economy and election in Venezuela

Here is another indicator of why Hugo Chávez will be hard to beat in October's presidential election:

Venezuela, South America’s largest oil producer and a founding member of OPEC, experienced economic contractions of 3.3 percent in 2009 and 1.4 percent in 2010, before expanding 4.2 percent last year. 
Of the 30 countries that have already reported first quarter growth, Venezuela’s was the fourth fastest after China, Latvia and Indonesia. The 5.6 percent expansion matched that of Kazakhstan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 
Net income for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, surged 42.4 percent last year to $4.5 billion as the average price for the country’s crude oil rose to a record $101.06 a barrel. The price averaged $112.04 in the first quarter, according to preliminary figures by the Oil Ministry.


He's ahead in every poll (though the margin varies widely according to who is reporting) and when oil money keeps rolling, it is even harder to put a dent in his solid--if not spectacular--approval ratings. Thus far his health and lengthy absences, not to mention secrecy, do not seem to be affecting the presidential race much. If he can maintain an image of recovery and a semblance of energy, those issues may never matter.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

LASA app

The Latin American Studies Association conference is next week in San Francisco, and there is an app for that (for iPhone and Android). It's actually very cool. It has the entire program, maps (click on a panel and you can immediately see where it is). You can make your own schedule, type notes, or even tweet. I had hoped it would provide access to the papers themselves, but that might be asking too much (you can see them here).*

At large conferences, you get a program the size of a small phone book, and you flip through it constantly to figure out where you want to go and how to get there. Having it on my phone will be nice.

* I am old enough to remember photocopying 25 or so copies of my paper, then carting them to LASA, where a large room was dedicated to hard copies of the papers, which you paid about $1 each for.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

John Grisham's Calico Joe

I read John Grisham's Calico Joe on a whim, being in a baseball mood.

The narrator is a man whose father--a complete jerk--used to be a pitcher for the Mets, and in one fateful game in 1973 pitched to a young Cubs phenom named Joe Castle. Grisham mixes real players--as a boy the narrator even chats briefly with Willie Mays--with fictional, wrapping them together in a story about bad parents, adulation, pain and forgiveness. As always with Grisham, there are also bucolic, small town Southern scenes that make you want to sit out in the porch with a drink.

Corny? Well, yes. If you don't like baseball, you might gag.  Read the Amazon reviews and you'll see people who are really angry that this is not a legal thriller, or a thriller of any kind, or even unpredictable. I got the impression that Grisham really enjoyed writing this novel, with many references to baseball history, records, and especially unwritten rules of conduct--e.g. don't show up a pitcher when you hit a homer--that would never fit in The Firm or some such novel. I found it a quick and very enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cubans and the state

Robert Jackson gave a speech and this paragraph caught my eye.

Regarding Cuba, we have a positive policy—one that seeks to support Cubans’ right to freely determine their future. The Administration has taken steps to ease travel restrictions and increase the flow of information and remittances for ordinary Cubans, as well as allowing more exchanges for religious, academic, or cultural purposes. We believe that these policies are enhancing the independence of the Cuban people from the state, and we will be the first to cheer when a democratically chosen government in Cuba resumes its full participation in the inter-American system.

Sounds nice, but it's not reasonable to argue that U.S. policy has any measurable effect on Cubans' ties to their state. The Cuban government is cutting those ties on its own, with economic liberalization. If the U.S. wants to give Cubans more economic space, then it should end the embargo.

Short of some sort of disastrous invasion, the U.S. cannot do anything about the political ties between the Cuban people and the state. We don't know when--or if--a Cuban spring will occur, but it will not come from Washington, DC or Miami.

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McCain on Romney on immigration

John McCain says that Mitt Romney will do a 180 on immigration and ignore everything he's said repeatedly in public for months.

“Look, Mitt Romney understands that we have a challenge with the Hispanic voter. I believe, as this campaign moves on, that you will see him addressing this issue of the need for immigration reform. We all know what we need to happen.”

I am not sure what "we" he's referring to. Certainly it has not included Mitt Romney. But I am not complaining: if Romney wants to pander and thereby do the right thing in a naked attempt to get more votes, then I am all for it.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

U.S policy according to Granma

Granma has an analysis of U.S. policy toward Latin America that is remarkably free of ideological fervor. As a matter of fact, I think this largely hits the nail on the head:


However, Carlos Oliva Campos, a faculty member at the University of Havana, commented to Granma, "The fact that the region is not a priority for a given administration does not mean that the region has lost its critical importance within the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Practically, throughout our entire history, we have served as a laboratory for policies and a proving ground for strategies." 
"Although the Middle East, Asia, and Russia under Putin, are priorities, Obama’s policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean is essentially a continuation," he said. 
"The Summit of the Americas was very important because the region is no longer the same. Now there is another relationship of forces, very interesting, because it’s the ‘left’, not just socialists, which is complicating the U.S. response. What’s more, the U.S. is no longer the only defining external factor for markets or trade in the region."


The "laboratory" angle is the subject of scholarly books by both Greg Grandin (Empire's Workshop) and Brian Loveman (No Higher Law). The point is that even though the United States appears to be "ignoring" Latin America (whatever that means precisely) it is keeping Latin America in a global perspective (e.g. all the talk about Colombian counterinsurgency and counternarcotics operations being applied in Afghanistan). Meanwhile,  Barack Obama has not changed the policies of George W. Bush all that much.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Losing or gaining?

Andres Oppenheimer's current column is an example of the difficulties many people have in figuring out Latin America's relationship with the United States. So we start with the notion that the U.S. is losing ground in Latin America:


My opinion: Washington has lost some of its former economic clout in Latin America, but that started under former President George. W. Bush, and is not an irreversible tragedy.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/12/2795531/us-parties-next-clash-who-lost.html#storylink=cpy


But then a funny thing happens when he examines this "tragedy":

As Latin America’s commodity-based radical populist fad of the past decade begins to unravel, Washington will no longer be an almighty superpower, but a big first among equals.

Aha! The tragedy is more equality. Therein lies the rub. There is considerable discomfort with the idea that the United States does not dominate the hemisphere as it did during the Cold War. Make no mistake about it, the U.S. is still by far the most powerful and influential state in the region. But it is not so dominant.

That's a good thing for everyone involved, including the United States. But it is leading to quite a lot of whining, even by those--like Oppenheimer himself--who have been at least in rhetorical support of greater equality.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

No Cuban transition

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado and Gregory A. Petrow, "Stability, Transition, and Regime Approval in Post-Fidel Cuba." Political Science Quarterly 127, 1 (Spring 2012): 73-103.

Abstract (gated):

JONATHAN BENJAMIN-ALVARADO and GREGORY A. PETROW examine Gallup World Poll data from Cuba to evaluate both the level of Cuban regime approval, as well as its causes. They conclude that Cubans are satisfied overall with their leaders, and that part of this satisfaction stems from equating the regime with the state.

The authors come up with what they call a Collective Esteem Model, based on World Gallup Data. They call for a more sophisticated quantitative approach to understanding Cuban politics. Their basic argument is that dissatisfaction with the regime is the key requirement for political transition, but that dissatisfaction is not present.

It's not really clear to me, though, how this is different from qualitative analyses of Cuban politics, though it has an additional challenge that the authors address only briefly, namely the quality of the data. In a dictatorship, we would expect respondents to be more positive than in a democracy for fear of retaliation--even if the questions are framed in a way to make them non-life threatening, people will naturally be more nervous.

Whether you are a policy maker, media commentator, or scholar (of any methodological stripe) the fundamental point is the same: there is no sign of a Cuban Spring--see my recent article in Military Review on U.S. policy options--and we don't know when it will happen.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Polling in Venezuela

Venezuelan state media reports that 57% would vote for Hugo Chávez, and only 21% for Henrique Capriles. Further, Chávez has 66% approval, at least among those age 18-29.

These numbers were much higher for Chávez than what I'd been seeing, so I was not shocked to find that the group who did the poll, Grupo de Investigación Social Siglo XXI is headed by one Jesse Chacón Escamillo, a former Chávez cabinet member who participated in the 1992 coup. A quick look at their website suggests that Venezuelans are happy about everything Chávez does.

Polling in Venezuela is far more politicized than any other Latin American country. Different organizations publish radically different results about the same topic. Expect this is to get increasingly intense as the election nears, especially if Chávez remains of the country for long chunks of time and concern about his health grows. Except for GIS XXI, which will likely report that Venezuelans are happy about whatever he's doing.


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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Engagement as war

John Boehner jumps wholeheartedly onto the Iran threat bandwagon, and argues that free trade--perhaps with greater imports of orange tanning lotion--is the answer. He does not explain how those two things connect. Even worse, he frames U.S. engagement as a "war."

"We must be clear that we will be there, with our friends and partners in the region, committed to fighting and winning the war for a free, stable, and prosperous hemisphere," Boehner said in a speech to the Council of Americas, which represents companies that do business in Latin America.


Listen, people. There is no hemispheric war, and the U.S. will isolate itself even further by framing it that way. And I will repeat for the umpteenth time that Latin America does not view Iran as a threat, so the U.S. will isolate itself by huffing and puffing so much.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Quote of the day: immigration

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) is “still deciding what his position on immigration is,” as RNC Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclán termed it.

And that quote is from one of his own supporters!

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Colombian economic growth

In the Financial Times, former Colombian Finance Minister (under Ernesto Samper) José Antonio Ocampo serves up a rare dish, namely a discussion about Colombian economic growth and investment that does not include a) any mention of the time it took to ratify the U.S.-Colombia FTA; or b) wide-eyed accolades for the benefits of a more open economy.

Instead, he places Colombia squarely where it should be, namely as another Latin American country riding a commodity boom and needing to enact policies recognizing that fact.


Mining and oil exports have grown sevenfold since 2003. At $37bn in 2011, they accounted for two-thirds of exports. Traditional exports, such as agriculture and manufacturing, have also grown – but only by three times. Coffee, the traditional staple, represents only about 5 per cent of exports. 
High energy and mining prices are a mixed blessing, however, as they threaten to undermine diversification of the economy, traditionally one of its strongest characteristics. As a capital-intensive activity, mining also generates limited employment, a big concern in a country that, despite significant improvements, has struggled to shrink unemployment. At an average rate of 10.8 per cent in 2011, it remains one of Latin America’s highest.



Exactly.

[The] redistributive possibilities of fiscal policy also need to be enhanced. This is particularly important in a country that, over the past decade, has largely missed the improvements in income distribution enjoyed by the rest of Latin America. Colombia now has one of the worst income distributions in a region famed for its inequality. At 0.578 the Gini coefficient is Latin America’s worst after Guatemala. Bettering that is essential to sustained and prolonged growth.

Also true. It's nice to go beyond the rah-rah attitude that the vast majority of editorials have about Colombia. The FTA is no magical being, and has multiple effects, some of which are negative. Like everywhere else, Colombia would benefit from a focus on diversification and explicit acknowledgment of potential problems even while enjoying the benefits of the boom.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Putting Malvinas money where your mouth is

Argentina's ambassador to the UK says the Malvinas issue is regional and that British trade will soon suffer.


Argentina warned yesterday Britain’s trade with South America would be hit unless it handed the Falklands over to them. 
Alicia Castro, the country’s ambassador to London, attempted to drag its neighbours into the row after she described the islands as a “colonial enclave”. 
She added: “Argentina is very happy having this ­colonial enclave in the south of our country. 
“It’s not an Argentinian cause, it’s a regional cause. The United Kingdom, by not wanting to have a proper dialogue with Argentina, it’s turning its back on Latin America as a whole. 
“If Britain wants to improve is relations with Latin America, they have to settle this dispute.”


I doubt this. Yes, Argentina gets some rhetorical support from South American governments, most loudly from Hugo Chávez, and some countries even have blocked ships flying the Falklands flag. That is a far cry, however, from governments deciding to damage their own economies by imposing some sort of trade sanction on Great Britain. Latin American trade with Britain has jumped recently, especially with Brazil, and I can't see President Rousseff jeopardizing that for Argentina.

This is a classic example of words being cheap.

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Jim Bouton's Ball Four

I hadn't read Jim Bouton's Ball Four since I was a teenager in the 1980s, when a lot of the cultural references from 1969 went over my head but I had found it really funny. Reading it years later, it's even funnier. Bouton was once a Yankees ace, but arm trouble led him to take up the knuckle ball and by 1969 he ended up on the original Seattle Pilots team, and then the Astros after a trade. The book is his account of that season, by turns thoughtful and vulgar.

The key to Ball Four, as with Dirk Hayhurst's two excellent books, is the high level of honesty. He does not pull punches at himself, which makes the book real without being vindictive. He does not view himself or anyone else as exalted because they're major league baseball players, and always notes how what people are supposed to say (e.g. "I'm doing this for the team") often contradicts the truth ("I'm doing this to stay in the majors"). He skewers hypocrisy, but he's not a malcontent as he wants to stay on the team so swallows his pride when he feels it's necessary.

And it's so funny because he questions everything, especially things that aren't supposed to be questioned, like the eternal wisdom of managers and pitching coaches, who demand total control even if their decisions are illogical and/or contradictory. As he writes about his constant fight to be allowed to pitch more on the side, "What the hell was he talking about? Except that I knew. I was asking to do something unorthodox, and unorthodoxy does in baseball what heresy does in the priesthood."

It has a very well-deserved label as the classic book on baseball.

Trivia: Jim Bouton also invented Big League Chew, a staple of my little league days.

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Friday, May 04, 2012

FDI in Latin America

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean just released its report on foreign direct investment in Latin America, which reached a record high of $153 billion in 2011. Given the growing conventional wisdom about the rise of China and the decline of the United States, I was curious to see if that was reflected in FDI. The answer: not exactly.

U.S. companies comprised 18% of FDI in 2011, down from 23% in the 2006-2010 period. But can you guess what country had the highest total in 2011? The Netherlands. The report notes the obvious point that these are companies based elsewhere. But where?

Meanwhile, China represents just 1% of FDI in the region. More important is Spain, which went from 9% to 14%, and Japan, from 3% to 8%.

So the U.S. has been playing a smaller relative role, but not because of China. Why don't we ever hear the media talk about Japan? And why don't we ever hear about strange goings-on in the Netherlands?

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Policy Options for a Cuban Spring

In the latest issue of Military Review, a main journal of the U.S. Army, I have an article co-authored with a Latin American Studies graduate student on U.S. policy options for a Cuban Spring. We discuss both the legislation and official policy (both toward Cuba and general) currently in place, and further put it in the context of the Arab Spring.

The upshot: in the event of regime change in Cuba, the U.S. has a constructive role to play, but engagement should multilateral and non-military. Otherwise it would be counterproductive both for U.S. policy and for Cuban democracy:

The history of U.S.-Cuba relations and the experience of the Arab Spring provide a useful context for identifying the optimal policy responses to an eventual Cuban political transition. There is a fine line between caution and passivity, but this line is one the United States must walk. There will be strong resistance to a foreign presence, and the possibility of blowback is very real. The United States can and must play a role in Cuban democratization, but it cannot create it.

Gregory Weeks and Erin Fiorey, "Policy Options for a Cuban Spring." Military Review May-June 2012: 88-95.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cuban feminism

An article in the New York Times Rendezvous blog argues that Cuba might be the most feminist country in Latin America. The very first piece of evidence? The number of women in parliament. You know, that institution that rubber stamps whatever the Communist Party wants. But lots of women get to do the rubber stamping. Another piece of evidence is membership in the Communist Party, so apparently lots of women are also ordering what needs to be rubber stamped.

It is not clear to me how that necessarily equates to feminism, particularly since every single important decision in the dictatorship has been made by the same two men for the past 53 years.

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