Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Third Part of Immigration Story

Here is the third and last installment of the Charlotte Observer’s series on illegal immigration. Overall, I’m disappointed. There are some heartbreaking stories, which are worth reading simply to keep a human face on the people coming here, but there was virtually no discussion of competing federal proposals, no analysis at all of the local political reaction to illegal immigration, no mention of the mayor’s newly formed commission on immigration, no attempt to delve substantively into the economic impact (whether positive or negative), etc. They missed a good opportunity.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Even More Threats

Yet another threat from Venezuela to cut off oil exports to the United States. To make it work, Chávez would need China “to configure more of its refineries to process Venezuela's particular type of crude. Venezuela also would have to increase its fleet of tankers and build a pipeline to Colombia's Pacific coast.” So it would certainly cost Chávez. The benefit is spitting in the eye of Mr. Danger and establishing a closer relationship with China, at a time when the U.S. government is wary of its growing presence in Latin America. Or perhaps a largely symbolic goal of demonstrating his political and economic independence, thus enhancing Venezuela’s place in the region (and the world). Personal glory is all wrapped up in this as well.

Maybe he’s bluffing about cutting the U.S. off entirely, maybe he’s not. Normally with threats (and he is making a lot of them) there is the idea that some behavior/policy must change, or the threat will be carried out. It’s not clear to me what Chávez wants specifically, or whether he really wants anything at all.


Second Part of Immigrant Story

Here is the second installment of the Charlote Observer's series on illegal immigration. My feeling is the same as yesterday--it is good for the general public to read it, but I'm still a tad disappointed that it doesn't have anything new or very original.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Immigrants and NC

Today’s Charlotte Observer has the first of three installments on the trek of illegal immigrants to Carolinas. This first part mostly highlights stories of Mexican immigrants and the routes they are taking. I think it’s a useful thing to read, though I found it curious that the paper labels it as a “rare glimpse” at illegal immigration. Maybe it reflects some naivete, since reporters here know very little about the phenomenon in general, and so feel like these first analyses are the first being done, when in fact there are more descriptions than can be counted (for a great recent one, read Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway). There have also been many studies about how immigration reform, especially in the mid-1990s (with names like Operation Gatekeeper) pushed migrants eastward to more dangerous areas to cross. So none of this stuff is really new.

But it’s a good piece nonetheless, if only to provide North Carolinians with a more holistic view of the issue, rather than the mostly uninformed declarations we’re too often getting. I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the series goes.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Venezuelan Foreign Policy

So Hugo Chávez is restricting Delta, Continental, and American, as retaliation for the U.S. government not changing its ruling that Venezuelan airplanes are unsafe (which was made several years before Chávez took office).

On both sides, it is policy based on spite. It may also be that Chávez is unwilling to actually cut the U.S. off from oil, so is taking some easier measure to annoy Mr. Danger. This particular move, though it could certainly hurt the airlines, seems mostly destined to hurt Venezuela. It’s hard to see a rousing call of support for measures that block Americans or Venezuelans with money from coming to the country. Ask Fidel—he hates the U.S. government, but loves U.S. cash.


Friday, February 24, 2006


If you’re into art history at all, check out Jonathan Harr’s The Lost Painting, which is the true story (written by the same guy who wrote A Civil Action) of how a 17th century Caravaggio masterpiece, long thought lost, was discovered in Ireland. It’s fun, light reading.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chilean Politics

Here is an interesting column by Andres Oppenheimer about the new Chilean cabinet, which will take office in a few weeks. It may be the most “globalized” cabinet in Latin America, since many have lived extensively abroad (often as political exiles during the Pinochet dictatorship), even receiving advanced degrees, and about 70 percent speak English. This will have positive effects, since Chile has been active in negotiating trade agreements (including, but not limited to, the U.S.), participating in UN operations (most notably in Haiti) and generally is seen as the economic leader in the region, so a savvy cabinet is a big plus. The major question, however, is whether this creates a disconnect with the population. Certainly, Chilean economic growth is impressive, but inequalities and poverty are persistent, and the president and her cabinet will need to show they are committed to domestic issues.

I think this should also serve to put to rest the terribly oversimplified and widespread notion that Latin America is “tilting leftward.” In some cases, like Venezuela, that is more clear, but the diversity of so-called “leftists” is considerable. It is very hard to say that President-elect Bachelet should be in the same category as Evo Morales, and that either one resembles Kirchner in Argentina. It is tempting to label Bachelet, because she is from the Socialist Party, but she has assembled a pro-free market cabinet that will likely work very well with the United States.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Book Part 2

I thought it might be useful, particularly for students, to see the entire long process of producing a textbook. This book was born in June 2003. After a long day in the National Library in Santiago, Chile, I went to a cafe across the street and started jotting notes while having a beer. When I got home, I typed them up into a formal prospectus. So now we're getting towards three years.

1. write a book proposal (called a prospectus) and send it to publishers
2. once it is accepted, negotiate royalties (this took several emails and phone calls) and how long it’ll take to write
3. write the first three chapters, which are then sent out for anonymous review by fellow professors around the country who might want to use the book
4. once the reviews come back, discuss them in detail with the editor; weed out the useless comments
5. revise the first chapters based on the reviews, then write the rest of them
6. then the whole thing is sent out for reviews again
7. get the reviews back, discuss them all in detail again
8. make revisions to the entire book
9. send the entire book manuscript out for review again, and rewrite based on the comments
10. once that is done, you get the page proofs, and study them for errors
11. then you make the index
12. then you make sure you have permissions for all the copyrighted material you use (it costs money, so the publisher gave me a small budget for it)
13. once all that is done, the author can relax a bit and then wait for reviews/sales
14. think of another topic, and go back to number 1


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

U.S. Policy Toward Bolivia

Thanks to my brother for pointing out this article in today's Washington Post about U.S. policy toward Bolivia. It’s written by Pamela Constable, a long-time observer of Latin America and the co-author (with Arturo Valenzuela) of A Nation of Enemies, a very good book on the Pinochet regime.

What she says can give us some hope, at least for now, because she argues that U.S. officials tend to see Evo Morales as pragmatic, and therefore are not jumping on him immediately. I’ve already noted this “wait and see” attitude, and how delicate it is. So far, however, we haven’t blown it, which for U.S. policy toward Latin America is saying something.


Monday, February 20, 2006


I had to get gas this morning, and chuckled to myself because, coincidentally, the most convenient gas station--where my wife and I have spent quite a lot of money in recent years—is a Citgo.

This is funny because Citgo is, as its website points out, “an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” So here I am, sometimes poking fun at Hugo Chávez, and yet I’ve been funding him all the while. My salary is paid by the state of NC, which means the taxpayers, so maybe we can even say all of us together are directly helping him. Fill ‘er up…


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Venezuela Redux

Hugo Chávez again threatens to cut the U.S. off from Venezuelan oil. How many times can he say this before everyone ignores him entirely? Although Chávez clearly wants to be seen as this generation's Fidel Castro, I think he blusters too much to take that title quite yet.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Chuck E. Cheese's

My son turned four today and we had a party with his friends at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It is loud, crowded, chaotic, crazy, and exhausting for adults, which meant he loved every minute of it.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Hamas in Latin America?

Thanks to student Uday Deora for pointing out this story I had missed on Hamas’ plans to visit South America. A quick internet search doesn’t reveal whether the plans are being acted upon, or how Latin American leaders are reacting. Apparently they hope to visit Argentina, which has dealt with Iranian-based terrorist attacks on its Jewish population.



Here are some interesting poll numbers from around Latin America. Of note is that 28 percent of respondents in Ecuador want their next president to be like Hugo Chávez.


Thursday, February 16, 2006


Ozzie Guillen is no Chávez, but like his fellow Venezuelan he says whatever he's thinking. Here he criticizes Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra for talking about playing for any team but the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic.

And in other news, looks like Sammy Sosa's career is over. He's one of those guys (along with Palmeiro and even McGwire) who have fallen from grace incredibly quickly. Corked bat and possible steroids aside, I can't help but feel bad that he's going out with a whimper.


Aid and Strings

In her Senate testimony, Condoleezza Rice argued that the U.S. is not cutting aid to Latin America, but is simply shifting it around and attaching more strings.

The programs have very impressive names, like Millenium Challenge Account and Economic Support Fund. You can only get the latter if you make U.S. citizens exempt from the International Criminal Court (known as an Article 98 agreement). This, of course, has been a recent issue for Bolivia. The ICC dispute in particular has been a major source of contention, and the main result has been to further damage already tattered relationships.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Latin America and Immigration

Since Latin American governments benefit more than ever before from their citizens moving to the United States (from the export of their excess labor and the remittances the workers send back) their leaders are becoming very active in lobbying the U.S. to prevent restrictive immigration policy from passing. Foreign minister from 11 countries got together to discuss the matter and plan to send a delegation to the U.S. Mexico is sending its own congressional delegation as well. Look for more of that when Congress gets into it. See here for a good, brief description of current immigration proposals in the U.S. Congress. There will be serious fireworks when the debate begins, which I now hear will be in March.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Coca Sek

Here’s an interesting BBC piece on the Nasa, an indigenous group in Colombia that grows a small amount of coca legally. They are now making a cola (it’s called Coca Sek) and have plans for coca wine (and other products) as well. The article claims that Coca-Cola still uses coca leaves for flavor, but they are “decocainized.” I don’t know if that is true or not.

The DEA says these things are OK as long as they don’t “make people high.” A reporter who “consumed some four cups of coca tea and half a dozen coca biscuits felt no high at all.” But they didn’t try the Coca Sek or wine. I wonder how the DEA tests these products—will a bunch of DEA agents sit around drinking Coca Sek, asking each other if they’re high yet?

After Evo Morales’ election, it seems like we’re seeing more reports on the non-drug trade uses of coca by mostly very poor Andean people. With enough press, it might even begin shifting public opinion.


Monday, February 13, 2006

North Korea

Many of my students know that I find North Korea fascinating—it is gruesomely interesting. I periodically check in on its official news agency because it’s so bizarre. You don’t see North Korea-Latin America connections very often, but yesterday the North Korean government stressed that Brazil is appreciative of how Kim Jong Il is working to “revive socialism.”

Kim Jong Il Highly Praised in Brazil

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) -- The Brazil-Korea Friendship Association published a special issue of information bulletin titled "General Kim Jong Il, Great Defender of Socialist Cause" on Feb. 3 on the occasion of the February holiday. The bulletin said in an article that leader Kim Jong Il authored famous works "The Historical Lesson in Building Socialism and the General Line of Our Party" and "Socialism Is a Science", providing ideological and theoretical guidelines for upholding the socialist idea and reviving socialism. It noted that the Pyongyang Declaration "Let Us Defend and Advance the Socialist Cause" adopted in April, 1992 was a historical document that saved the world socialist movement and put it on a new road of development. Kim Jong Il decisively frustrated the vicious moves of the U.S. to destroy socialism and isolate and stifle the DPRK and firmly defended its socialism with his Songun politics, showing with a practical example which way the countries and peoples aspiring after socialism should follow to defend socialism, it stressed.


U.S. Media

Evo Morales gave a speech in which he criticized the U.S. decision to cut military aid (however, see this excellent discussion of how very little military aid is really being cut). CNN seems to be following in the NYT’s footsteps by using hyperbole to make things look as bad as possible—part of the headline is that Morales “rips U.S.” but then the article has only very mild examples from the speech.

In the speech he also said he wanted his followers to launch a movement to give him a Nobel Peace Prize, which would make it harder for the U.S. to bother him. Solid logic, though I'm not sure that simply winning an election will do the trick...


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Figuring Out the Paperwork

Today's paper had this story about a woman who brought a severed head into the U.S. from Haiti. She was charged with "with smuggling a human head into the U.S. without proper documentation" and (I am not making this up) "with failing to declare the head."

So what is the proper documentation? I guess on the customs form you need to write, "One head, detached from previous owner," then pay some taxes and you're good to go.


Friday, February 10, 2006

By Popular Demand

Students love the Cuba stories, maybe because they're often so bizarre and locked into the distant past. Student John Hyatt forwarded this article about how Mexico is looking to prosecute the Sheraton that booted the Cubans out of the oil meeting. It does a good job of explaining the ways in which U.S. policy makes life difficult for everyone.

Here's the rub. If you're the Sheraton and allow the meeting with Cubans involved, then you are violating U.S. law because you are a U.S. company. If you do not allow the meeting, then you are violating Mexican law, which says U.S. laws penalizing Cuba cannot be enforced in Mexico.


Hugo Chávez Never Runs Out of Material

Hugo Chávez tells Tony Blair to go to hell, calls Bush a “nutcase” and refers to him as "Hitler Danger Bush Hitler,” then demands that Great Britain return the Falklands to Argentina. All in a day’s work.


More on Bolivia

There is already speculation that the United States is hoping to prompt the Bolivian military to overthrow Evo Morales. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some strategy, but for now the evidence remains scanty. The U.S. is withholding some military aid because Bolivia won’t provide waivers for U.S. citizens with regard to the International Criminal Court. The NYT article is loaded with innuendo, like “the cut holds the potential to anger Bolivia's powerful military establishment, which has been responsible for a long history of coups.” But elsewhere, the head of the U.S. Southern Command said publicly that the U.S. could and should work with Morales.

It is hard to imagine the cuts leading to a coup. Although militaries across the region remain quite politically active, there is not much appetite for trying to overthrow an elected government and then attempt to establish a military regime—in Bolivia it would require considerable and sustained violence. Further, if the military acted according to Stepan’s “moderator” model, overthrew Evo Morales, and then handed power to some other civilian president, who would that be, and how could that person possibly govern?

I just hope I am not being too optimistic (and in my own work I’ve rarely shown optimism about Latin American civil-military relations).


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

World Baseball Classic

Thanks to my brother for pointing out this article about the success the World Baseball Classic has had in selling tickets—Petco Park in San Diego (great picture in the article) has sold 85 percent of its seats. I’m looking forward to the games, and it’ll be nice to have some competitive baseball a month earlier than normal.

The rosters are a mixed bag. The notion that a player gets to choose his team seems weird, but I guess it increases general interest when Mike Piazza (born in PA) plays for Italy, as will some random guy named Kasey Olenberger, who hails not from Rome or Florence but from my wife’s hometown of Santa Rosa, California. My great-grandfather came from Denmark, and I’m thinking it’s a shame there is no Danish team, because no one there plays baseball so I think I could make the team.

Now, we know both Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro want to win badly. Chávez has some MLB pitching help from Tony Armas, Freddy García, Johan Santana, and Carlos Zambrano; hitting he has Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Richard Hidalgo, and Magglio Ordonez (if he’s healthy). Not too shabby.

We’ll have to see about Cuba (which only got to play after intense but absurd negotiations with the U.S. government), which routinely produces high quality players. The MLB site has no info at all about their players aside from their names (not even rank or serial number). State secrets, I suppose.



There are all sorts of interesting nuggets in the president’s budget. With regard to Venezuela, for example, the administration wants to “enhance” its Voice of America broadcasts (along with Zimbabwe and Afghanistan). There is no description of what “enhance” means. Call it “diplomacy by annoyance” or “the politics of pestering.”


Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Coca growers in Bolivia want Evo Morales to allow them to grow more. This is a big first test, and may mark the end of the U.S. "honeymoon." If he does so, look for some quick and unpleasant words from the U.S. government.


Monday, February 06, 2006

The president has offered up his 2007 budget proposal. Here is the summary of immigration policy. It does note that:

we must also recognize that enforcement cannot work unless it is part of a comprehensive immigration reform program. The U.S. economy has legitimate needs for foreign workers and the best way to fill that demand is with a Temporary Worker Program (TWP).

The budget allocates $247 million for this program, but I could not find any specific quota numbers. In their book Beyond Smoke and Mirrors, Massey, Durand and Malone suggest having 300,000 two-year visas annually—I doubt we’ll end up with that many, but if it’s too small then it won’t work at all.

There is also $111 million to improve an existing immigrant verification system and $47 million for additional agents. A big question, of course, is whether temporary workers will leave when their visas expire, and there is no mention of incentives to get them to do so. If they just stay anyway, then it won’t work at all.

So now let’s see what Congress does with it. Tom Tancredo et al will be waiting to rip it to shreds. If they do so, it won’t work at all.


Life is Tough For Former Dictators

Lucía Pinochet Hiriart, daughter of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, tried unsuccessfully to get asylum in the U.S. and now apparently the U.S. embassy in Chile is about to provide a response to her claim that the U.S. rejected her request only because it was desperate to maintain good relations with Chile as the rest of South America shifts more to the left. (For a quick description of the case in English, see this or this).

Now, I agree the U.S. government did not want her to stay too long, but her argument presupposes that she had a valid petition to begin with. Her father embezzled money, gobs of it, and she got a share, which of course she did not pay taxes on. Her claim (like her father’s) is that it is a leftist plot cooked up to further discredit him and his family. I believe that about as much as former intelligence chief Manuel Contreras’ claim that the detained-disappeared really are still living in Europe and pretending to be dead (yes, he really did make that claim).

It just goes to show that life is hard for former brutal dictators. And given his advanced age (he will be 91 later this year) he is becoming the Strom Thurmond of former brutal dictators.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

There's Always More Cuba News

Thanks to my student Jordan for sending this news link on the connection between Cuba and U.S. businesses, which are salivating over the possibility of drilling for offshore oil in Cuban waters.

The irony for Fidel is apparent. So I hate President Bush, the U.S. imperialists and their money-grubbing capitalist ways, but man, I love the cash they generate.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, can’t think of any response except to try and annoy Castro more, and to compare his allies—such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez—to Adolf Hitler. C'mon, can’t we come up with anything better than that?



This morning I ran in the UNC Charlotte Homecoming 5K, and it was my turn to push the kids (we have a double jogger stroller). You don’t really grasp how hilly campus is until you run while pushing two children and all their stuff. Though my time was not that great, I still won a medal for 3rd place in my age group, which I won because, well, there weren’t many people in my age group.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Professors Can be Whiners Too

Some anonymous professor has started this blog as a forum for professors to complain about students (it was started as a counter to ratemyprofessor). I don’t get it, as some people write as if their hopes and dreams are crushed by bad students. Yeah, I’ve had such students, everyone has, but they’re a small minority and I can’t imagine obsessing about them when I deal with very good students on a constant basis. There are even people who write these long rebuttals to what students put on ratemyprofessor. Now that’s just sad, the equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”

Also, I really don’t like whining in general, whether it comes from students or professors.


More on Evo

Following up on my earlier post, President Bush called Evo Morales to congratulate him on his victory in Bolivia. It is a reiteration of the idea that the Bush administration is waiting to see what Morales does, especially since he has yet to formally address the coca issue.

It does include one interesting tidbit, however, which is that the president calls his allies within a day or two after their elections, but waited over a week to call Morales. Maybe this is a strategy all presidents have used—I’m not sure. But the idea of calling your friends right away, while sending a message by not calling people you don’t like as much makes me think someone could do an interesting study comparing international diplomacy to high school. At international summits, everyone obsesses over who is invited, seating arrangements, who gets to talk, etc. Maybe what we learn in high school sticks with us longer than we think in unusual ways.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Immigration and Remittances

According to the Banco de México, remittances from Mexican workers increased in 2005 by 20.6 percent over 2004. The numbers not only in Mexico, but across the hemisphere generally, are really staggering.

That article courtesy of the blog of Michelle Dion, fellow Carolina Ph.D.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


There are a lot of really nasty ways of getting drugs into the U.S. from Colombia, but this is one of the worst I've seen in a while.



After 2.5 years of work and 489 pages, my book on U.S.-Latin American Relations is now done. My editor at Longman (the publisher) told me in November that if I finished the draft in January, then we could publish in August 2006 (though publishing delays are very common with books, so we’ll see). So, like so many of my students (and, yes, I’ve even poked fun when you do this) I finally emailed the manuscript out at 11 p.m. last night, the last day of January.


Immigration and the SOTU

Now that the Alito confirmation is done, Congress will begin debating immigration reform before long. In last night’s State of the Union, this was the snippet about immigration:

“Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest-worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally and reduces smuggling and crime at the border. “

It’s mostly platitudes, but the guest worker aspect will get sticky with quite a few Republicans, who want reform limited to enforcement.

See here for a slightly more expanded view of Bush’s proposal, which I think would cost somewhere in the area of 100 gazillion dollars. When I was on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” last month, I was the only person who was pessimistic about comprehensive immigration reform being passed this year. I hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen anything so far to convince me otherwise.


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