Monday, May 31, 2010

Colombian election

Antanas Mockus received far fewer votes than expected yesterday (21.5 percent to Juan Manuel Santos' 46.6 percent) though perhaps just about the percentage we would have expected six weeks ago.  Santos is looking to scoop up the votes necessary to get over 50 percent (and to retain the ones he has) while Santistas in the legislature are telling Mockus to conceded to avoid the cost of a second round.

Matthew Shugart notes that Mockus' chances "dimmed dramatically," but I wonder precisely how dramatically?  Put differently, what is the highest percentage differential that a candidate has overcome from a first round?  The difference here is 25.1 percent, which is higher even than what Mockus received, and so it seems inconceivable that Santos would lose in a second round.

Boz and Steven Taylor also have quick rundowns, while Colombia Reports notes how the traditional parties lost out yet again.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rafael Correa interview

La Nación published an interview with Rafael Correa that is worth checking out.  Among other things, he likes Sebastián Piñera, discusses the differences between himself and Hugo Chávez, and actually says he wishes that Latin Americans would learn from Anglo-Saxon culture and stop lying all time: "In Latin America, everyone lies and no is surprised."  Interesting stuff.


Timothy Henderson's A Glorious Defeat

Timothy Henderson's A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and its War with the United States (2007) is a thoroughly enjoyable account of the events leading up to, and through, the 1846-1848 war.  It is written for a general audience, and he does a great job of explaining complex situations in a really engaging manner.

The complexity lies in bringing together the different strands of Mexican political turmoil (and the ever-present Antonio López de Santa Anna), the politics of Texas, and the politics of the United States.  The U.S. was moving westward and believed Mexico both incapable and not chosen by God to have what became the western United States.  Texas was looking for autonomy from Mexico, became independent, and then annexed to the U.S.  Mexicans watched in disgust, but were too crippled by corruption, factions, and a ragged conscript army to resist.  Finally, the U.S. fabricated a provocation in order to declare war.

I found the analysis of Mexican politics to be very compelling, as it acknowledges how Mexican politicians failed to create the sort of political institutions that would keep the country together, even as they faced Americans who disdained them and had no compunction about lying and stealing land.  The most fascinating individual has to be Santa Anna:

Politics, for Santa Anna, seems to have been primarily the art of finding the right despot, and for him that search usually ended satisfactorily only with himself (p. 80).

He would rule, be exiled, and yet time and time again, Mexican political elites called him back.  Along those lines, my favorite passage from the book may be the following:

Moderate politician José Fernando Ramírez, who was normally of a very skeptical turn of mind, wrote to a friend, "There is no doubt whatsoever that [Santa Anna] is returning as a real democrat, and I can conceive of his being one."  Ramírez, perhaps realizing how absurd that sounded, added laconically, "I cannot tell you on what I base my conviction." (pp. 159-160).

Santa Anna left in disgrace after Chapultepec Castle was taken and U.S. troops marched into Mexico City (though he would return yet again later!).  For anyone who has not been to Chapultepec Park, there is a massive monument to six teenage cadets who died rather than surrender.  Here is a photo I took of it when I was in Mexico City last month:

Mexico finally agreed to terms, in large part because the vacuum caused by the war led to indigenous uprisings, including 200,000 dead in the Yucatán Peninsula in 1848 alone.  Many elites wanted to bring in European monarchy to rule, though they would not be successful in that endeavor for more than a decade.

Indeed, one critical conclusion that tends to get less attention is the following:

The territorial transfer unleashed toxic political passions that a little over a decade later would plunge both the United States and Mexico into bloody civil wars.  The U.S.-Mexican War exacerbated the imbalance of power and wealth that had, in large measure, caused it in the first place, and that imbalance has yet to be corrected (pp. 179-180).


Saturday, May 29, 2010

IMF wants some love

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn gave a speech in Lima, and tries to get some IMF credit for keeping up social spending in Latin America during the recession.

But during this recession, many countries preserved basic social spending and social safety nets. “This is something the IMF pushed for in country programs. I think it was incredibly important. Not only did it protect the most vulnerable from the ravages of the crisis, but it also contributed to social and political stability,” Strauss-Kahn said. 

Today's IMF is not the IMF of the 1980s and 1990s, when social spending was seen almost as anathema, but this is still a bit hard to swallow.  It makes it sound like governments preferred to cut spending, but were finally convinced by the IMF to do the right thing.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama and Honduras

Jeremy Kryt has an article on Honduran politics at Huffington Post, which provides a very good rundown on the continued push for constitutional reform and on human rights abuses.  The only problem is an interview with Mark Weisbrot, who seems to have fallen off the deep end, arguing that Barack Obama's Central America policy is just like Ronald Reagan's because he supports death squads.  This is akin to Newt Gingrich saying that Obama represents a threat similar to Hitler.  Both comparisons are not only inaccurate and ignorant of history, but they also trivialize the extremes of 1930s-1940s Germany and 1980s Central America.


2010 National Security Strategy and Latin America

The 2010 National Security Strategy just came out.  It covers a lot of ground, but in general it moves the U.S. away from unilateralism and toward engagement and international institutions.  Here is a general taste with mention of the Americas:

We are working to build deeper and more effective partnerships with other key centers of influence—including China, India, and Russia, as well as increasingly influential nations such as Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia—so that we can cooperate on issues of bilateral and global concern, with the recognition that power, in an interconnected world, is no longer a zero sum game. We are expanding our outreach to emerging nations, particularly those that can be models of regional success and stability, from the Americas to Africa to Southeast Asia. And we will pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people, and mobilize international coalitions.

This is very different from President Bush's 2006 National Security Strategy, which clearly singled out Fidel Castro without naming him (but who else is a "tyrant" from a "different era" in Latin America?) and Hugo Chávez (reference to populism).  The Bush strategy had a lot more about what the U.S. rejects and refuses.  Peter Feaver notes how those references were dropped, disapproving of having no mention of Venezuela.  But since U.S.-Latin American relations deteriorated sharply during the Bush administration, it is all to the good that the strategy shifts.

Mexico, of course, gets special mention, nothing too new or surprising:

The strategic partnerships and unique relationships we maintain with Canada and Mexico are critical to U.S. national security and have a direct effect on the security of our homeland. With billions of dollars in trade, shared critical infrastructure, and millions of our citizens moving across our common borders, no two countries are more directly connected to our daily lives. We must change the way we think about our shared borders, in order to secure and expedite the lawful and legitimate flow of people and goods while interdicting transnational threat that threaten our open societies.


With Mexico, in addition to trade cooperation, we are working together to identify and interdict threats at the earliest opportunity, even before they reach North America. Stability and security in Mexico are indispensable to building a strong economic partnership, fighting the illicit drug and arms trade, and promoting sound immigration policy.

Brazil then also gets more props:

In the Americas, we are bound by proximity, integrated markets, energy interdependence, a broadly shared commitment to democracy, and the rule of law. Our deep historical, familial, and cultural ties make our alliances and partnerships critical to U.S. interests. We will work in equal partnership to advance economic and social inclusion, safeguard citizen safety and security, promote clean energy, and defend universal values of the people of the hemisphere.

We welcome Brazil’s leadership and seek to move beyond dated North-South divisions to pursue progress on bilateral, hemispheric, and global issues. Brazil’s macroeconomic success, coupled with its steps to narrow socioeconomic gaps, provide important lessons for countries throughout the Americas and Africa. We will encourage Brazilian efforts against illicit transnational networks. As guardian of a unique national  environmental patrimony and a leader in renewable fuels, Brazil is an important partner in confronting global climate change and promoting energy security. And in the context of the G-20 and the Doha round, we will work with Brazil to ensure that economic development and prosperity is broadly shared.

Interestingly, President Bush's National Security Strategy (from 2006) mentions Brazil only once, and in passing.  I think that is an important shift.  Regardless of the controversy surrounding Brazil's efforts to engage with Iran, the Obama administration is making public efforts to recognize Brazil's growing global importance.  Plus, the use of the word "dated" is another dig at the Bush administration's Cold War-type approach to Cuba and Venezuela.

It also mentions immigration reform, which the Bush Strategy had also mentioned only in passing:

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our ability to innovate, our ties to the world, and our economic prosperity depend on our nation’s capacity to welcome and assimilate immigrants, and a visa system which welcomes skilled professionals from around the world. At the same time, effective border security and immigration enforcement must keep the country safe and deter unlawful entry. Indeed, persistent problems in immigration policy consume valuable resources needed to advance other security objectives and make it harder to focus on the most dangerous threats facing our country. Ultimately, our national security depends on striking a balance between security and openness. To advance this goal, we must pursue comprehensive immigration reform that effectively secures our borders, while repairing a broken system that fails to serve the needs of our nation.

Ironically, the administration is currently actively engaged in the "consume valuable resources needed to advance other security objectives."  At the same time, it is good to point out how lack of reform has a negative impact on security.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Iran and Lula

Thomas Friedman gets medieval on Lula for talking to Ahmadinejad.  There are good arguments to be made about how to deal with Iran, but unfortunately he doesn't try to make any.  I would please also ask that Friedman not write anything further on Latin America because his oversimplifications (Venezuela=evil; Colombia=good) just perpetuate stereotypes.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NAFTA nutshell

What does this say about free trade agreements?  I happened to receive a book about NAFTA from an "in a nutshell" series of books.  The back of the book says it is "a succinct exposition of the law" in "a compact format for convenient reference."

But it is 533 pages!


Doing "something" on immigration

The Obama administration is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, and promising $500 million for border enforcement.  The AP reporter sums it up pretty well:

President Barack Obama's plan to send as many as 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border appears to be a scaled-down version of the border security approach championed by his predecessor.

Same as with President Bush, the idea is to be seen as "doing something."  The hope is that "doing something" will create some momentum for immigration reform by "securing" the border first.  Already, the Obama administration is deporting more people a year than Bush.

But that will not happen, because the goalposts will consistently move.  Already, John McCain has said he wants far more troops.  Since it is not actually possible to "secure" the border, there will always be calls to spend more on enforcement.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government issued an official statement in response, arguing that the troops should be used to stop the weapons and cash going into Mexico rather than immigrants coming out of it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get in line forever

From ImmigrationProf Blog:

The number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts reached a new all time high of 242,776 matters at the end of March 2010, according to an analysis of very timely court data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The case backlog has continued to grow -- up 6.3 percent -- since TRAC's last report four months ago, and is nearly a third higher (30.4%) than it was a mere 18 months ago. The average length of time cases have been waiting increased to 443 days.

These numbers are really staggering.  I've written many times about how the "get in line" argument is disingenuous because the line stretches from here to the moon.

But this data also highlights something that does not get much attention in the immigration reform debate.  If the government enacts some sort of amnesty policy, who will administer it?  There will need to be a massive injection of funds to increase the number of judges or other qualified officials because the system is already totally overwhelmed.


Monday, May 24, 2010

More on SB 1070

Patrick Corcoran (who blogs on Mexican politics at Gancho) has a good summary and rebuttal of SB 1070.


Chuck Norris on immigration

I thought this must be a joke at first, but it appears to be serious--Chuck Norris analyzes immigration and asks what the founders of the U.S. would do.  Best quote: "If we can protect our borders in the Middle East, we certainly can here as well."  If Chuck says our borders extend to the Middle East, then they do.

Update:  A commenter pointed out that he wrote "protect borders" rather than "protect our borders."  I am not still not sure what his point is, but at least he isn't arguing that the U.S. is sovereign in the Middle East.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Immigration and glass houses

There is a popular argument that roughly goes like this: Mexico mistreats immigrants, so its president should not lecture us even if Arizona mistreat immigrants.  Felipe Calderón was also asked about it.

Andres Oppenheimer has a good column looking at how although Mexico has (as anyone who studies immigration knows) human right problems with regard to Central American immigrants, its laws are not like Arizona's.  But I particularly agree with this:

Mexico's mistreatment of Central American migrants should be no excuse for laws like Arizona's. And the Arizona law's abuses should be no excuse for Mexico's failure to crack down on its police forces for human rights abuses against undocumented immigrants. Both are wrong, and both should be denounced.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Old Chilean Wine in New Bottle?

Sebastián Piñera gave his first state of the address yesterday--text hereRobert Funk live-blogged and concluded that he sounded pretty Concertaciónish, and that this was not the UDI right, but a 1950s right that believes the state has a legitimate and even important role to play in economic development.  It would be interesting to compare speeches by Jorge Alessandri

Along similar lines, Socialist Diputado Marcelo Díaz commented that "Many are things that have been suggested many times before and are now being put forward by a government of a different stripe. I hope that when we see the small print we aren’t disappointed.”  I wonder if members of UDI are thinking the same thing.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Responses to Calderón

In his address to the U.S. Congress, Felipe Calderón struck a major nerve by urging Congress to renew the assault weapons ban and criticizing Arizona's immigration law.  Conservatives are not happy, as he was seen as "lecturing" and "pandering," it was "inappropriate," "a lot of nerve and whining," his argument is "a lie," Mexico "holds American sovereignty in contempt" and those who applauded him in Congress are communists.  Being lectured, and by a Mexican no less, does not go down well in all quarters.

Calderón's comments represent more of what Marc Rosenblum called "moving beyond the policy of no policy."  Immigration is a transnational policy area, and since 9/11 (which also roughly coincided with the PRI's loss of the presidency) the Mexican government believes it can have a voice in the policy process.  At the same time it is keenly aware of how that can lead to backlash.  The Arizona law likely put it over the top, and Calderón figured he could not make a speech without mentioning it.  And if he's going to rile people up anyway, he may as well put in the weapons ban.

His comments may well mean little, because immigration reform is not likely to get a vote this year anyway.  By next year, no one will remember.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chávez about to fall, for the millionth time

The Economist has a story on Venezuela, with a solid recap of recent events.  After years and years, though, I am tired of the "Chávez is really hurting now, and soon his government will fall" meme.  Way back in 2001, Kurt Weyland asked if Chávez was "losing his luster," using essentially the same argument as The Economist nine years later.  It is similar to the decades of predictions about the imminent collapse of the Castro government in Cuba.  Or the imminent death of Fidel Castro, though at least that one will eventually come true.

So, feel free to continue predicting.  At the very least, though, these predictions should explain what has changed significantly enough to make it happen in 2010 when it hasn't happened before (not counting the coup, anyway).


The immigration reform message

See here for the text of remarks by Presidents Obama and Calderón yesterday.  Obama has boiled the message down to this: I can get the Democratic votes, but I can't get to 60 in the Senate without a few Republicans.  Therefore, if the federal government fails to pass reform, it is entirely the fault of the Republican Party.

Here’s the challenge that we have politically.  The political challenge is, is that I have confidence that I can get the majority of Democrats, both in the House and the Senate, to support a piece of legislation of the sort that I just described. But I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.  I’ve got to have some support from Republicans.  When we made an effort of this sort a few years ago, it was under the leadership of John McCain and Ted Kennedy.  And because there was a bipartisan effort, we were actually able to generate a majority of votes in the Senate.  And we just missed being able to get it done in the House.

If we can re-create that atmosphere -- I don't expect to get every Republican vote, but I need some help in order to get it done.  And there have been people who have expressed an interest. But if they're willing to come forward and get a working group and get this moving, I’m actually confident that we can get it done.  And the American people -- including the people of Arizona -- are going to prefer that the federal government takes responsibility and does what it’s supposed to do.

It is a clear, simple message.  We'll have to see how much it resonates.  The basic Republican response is that "enforcement first" is somehow possible.  All sides, of course, have the "American people" on their side.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sue Myrick roboconference

A while ago I received my first roboconference call, from my very conservative Republican congressional representative, Sue Myrick.  The phone rings all across her district, you pick it up and hear her talk to fellow constituents, then press zero to get in the queue to ask a question.  Out of curiosity, I pushed zero to go down the rabbit hole, hoping to ask her about her view on HR 4321.  I was never given the opportunity, and when time ran out took the option of leaving a voice mail asking her to recognize the empirical errors of many of her callers regarding immigration.

But what a fascinating trip.  I stayed on for a half hour, just listening, to all sorts of topics.  Some people were clearly nuts, and one woman ranted that Nancy Pelosi--and I even had to write this down to remember it--"IS AN ENIGMA ON THIS COUNTRY!!" (I won't even get into the woman who said Obama was trying to take over "the church," whatever that is).  She was incensed about immigration because she hated hearing Spanish.  Her husband was German, so she seemed OK with immigration, but not if she had to hear Spanish (the Congresswoman did not tell her that recent immigrants work very hard to learn English).  However, another guy talked passionately about how he wanted more deportation, yet also we love cheap goods, so we need to figure out a way to get the cheap labor in legally.  I think that sentiment may be the real enigma on this country.


Demography and immigration views

Interesting article in the NYT about the demography of views on immigration.  In short, older Americans are more restrictionist, and also whiter; younger Americans are more open to immigration, and more racially diverse.

That very different makeup of the young and the old can lead to tensions. Demographers say it has the potential to produce public policy that alienates the young because older people are more likely to vote and less likely to be connected to the perspectives of youth — especially the perspectives of young people of different races and national origins. 
This is not a new phenomenon--the gap between the ages of policy makers and the young is ever-present.  I think a really interesting issue is how the views of this diverse young population changes over time.  By the time they are policy makers, will they automatically retain these views, or will age also make them more skeptical of relatively open immigration policies?


Monday, May 17, 2010

Lula's "success"

There has been no Brazilian foreign policy apocalypse with Lula's trip to Iran, which for reasons not entirely clear to me had seemed to become conventional wisdom.  Instead, Lula helped broker a deal for Iran to swap uranium, which it had rejected before.

I will leave it to others to judge the deal itself (the Washington Post has more details), which still needs to be agreed upon and not reneged upon.  This was no major breakthrough that Lula will be forever remembered for, but it edges Brazil more and more toward a recognized role as Middle East negotiator.  Even if this deal falls apart, the failure will not be Lula's.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Droning on at the border

I have written more times than I can recall how high-tech border enforcement has never been as effective as people think/hope.  Many times, in fact, it is an abject and expensive failure.  No matter how overwhelming the evidence, lawmakers continue to push for virtual enforcement.  The latest example is using an unmanned drone in Texas.

This story revealed two things that I did not know.  First, Customs and Border Enforcement already has five such drones.  Second, drones have been patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border for a decade.

I don't have much to add.  It will be hyped.  It will be expensive.  It will do relatively little.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Non-Latin America bleg

I am teaching an Intro to Comparative Politics course that begins a week from Monday, and I really need to include a short article (even a newspaper article if it lays everything out clearly--even a good blog post!) on the British elections.  It needs to be understandable for an undergraduate with no prior background.  Any suggestions?


Moustafa Bayoumi's How Does It Feel to be a Problem?

I highly recommend Moustafa Bayoumi's How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America.  The title comes from W.E.B. Du Bois, who asked the same question about African American during Jim Crow.  Bayoumi, who is an English professor at Brooklyn College, chronicles seven Arabs (men and women mostly in their 20s in Brooklyn) and we meet their friends as well.

As you might imagine, the result defies all stereotypes.  Some are deeply devout Muslims, some are not.  Some are very angry at the U.S. government, while others hope to leverage their knowledge of Arabic into an FBI job.  Some have close relationships with their families, while others (particularly one young woman) chafe at their parents' control.

What you can't help noticing is that their problems are the same problems that all young have--getting a job, getting married, figuring out your identity, etc.  The difference is that after 9/11, there is an extra layer of obstacles.  For all of them, even those with family members who have been arrested, terrorism is anti-Islam.  That's not even an issue, yet so many people around them figure they are terrorist sympathizers.

One interesting (and I think positive) aspect of the book is the fact that one of the men volunteers for an organization that sends out free Qur'ans.  Hits on the website spike and requests soar when a public figure speaks ill of Muslims.  Most of those requests come from non-Muslims who are simply curious to learn more.  There is an appetite for understanding, perhaps (and hopefully) greater than we tend to think.  What this book shows is that there are certainly cultural differences, but issues like high school elections, getting through college, arguing with your parents, thinking about religious beliefs, even just going out to eat, are entirely universal.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Brazil and Iran

Boz has some links that use fairly alarmist language about Lula's engagement with Iran (though, to be fair, he does not use that sort of tone).  The upshot is that Lula is gambling his reputation and even the stature of his country, because if Iran balks, then Lula looks obstructionist and damages his relationship with the U.S. and Europe.

I'm not ready to buy this.  One problem is that the Obama administration is not talking like that.  In fact, one senior State Department official says "I think we would view the Lula visit as perhaps the last big shot at engagement."  From this perspective, whatever Lula does is win-win for the U.S.  He convinces Iran to back down, great.  If he doesn't, then it makes Iran look unreasonable and increases support for sanctions.

This is all very fluid, of course, and there are many unknowns.  If Brazil continues to resist sanctions, how isolated is it?  Where does Russia stand?  How belligerent does Iran become?  How pushy does the Obama administration become?  There are many more similar questions.

In short, reports of the Brazilian foreign policy apocalypse are premature.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Racial profiling and furtive movements

In the context of the debate over the Arizona immigration law and racial profiling, Marvin King links to an NYT article showing that African Americans and Latinos are nine times more likely than whites to be frisked in New York City.

Of the reasons listed by the police for conducting the stops, one of those least commonly cited was the claim that the person fit the description of a suspect. The most common reason listed by the police was a category known as “furtive movements.” 

That criterion, of course, can mean anything.  Even worse, in 19 percent of the cases the reason for frisking was "other."  Lucky for them, though, they didn't need to be carrying their papers.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blaming Mexicans

Daily Beast senior editor Bryan Curtis blames Felipe Calderón for the Arizona immigration law.  I read the tortured argument and at the end was interested to see at the end that he wanted to highlight how he published the story of his grandfather's softball career (no, I am not making that up).  That pretty well sums up his expertise on the issue.  If you don't know much about a topic, then blame Mexicans!


Hugo Chávez and Twitter

The Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, aka the Venezuelan state news agency, reports that Hugo Chávez nationalized a university.  Its source?  His Twitter account.  Thus far, he has a team of about 200 people on the account, trying to respond to requests he gets via tweets.

It seems to fit his personality, as it is hyperactive, impulsive, and spontaneous.  And if you don't need to bother asking Congress, why not just announce your decisions on Twitter?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Partido Progresista

Marco Enríquez-Ominami is creating a new party, the Partido Progresista (Progressive Party, or PRO, a name chosen through an internet poll, thus showing how he is closer to "the people") and will start obtaining signatures on June 1 (according to the Organic Law of Political Parties, he will have 210 days to obtain 0.5% of the total number of people who voted in each congressional district in the last election for Diputados).

On his website, he is looking to establish foreign policy credentials through discussions with Mexican officials, among other things.  I don't know how much anyone buys that, but with the Concertación chewing itself, there is definitely a gap for him to fill.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Crime and Migration in Latin America

Charles H. Wood, Chris L. Gibson, Ludmila Ribeiro, and Paula Hamsho-Diaz.  "Crime Victimization in Latin America and Intentions to Migrate to the United States."  International Migration Review 44, 1 (2010): 3-24.

Abstract (gated):

Among the challenges faced by Latin America at the onset of the 21st century is the increase in crime and violence that began in the mid-1980s, and which, to one degree or another, has afflicted most countries in the region. In this study we explore the potential implications of the upsurge in crime on migration by testing the hypothesis that crime victimization in Latin America increases the probability that people have given serious thought to the prospect of migrating with their families to the United States. Using Latinobarometro public opinion surveys of approximately 49,000 respondents residing in 17 countries in 2002, 2003, and 2004, the results of a Hierarchical Generalized Linear Model found that, net of individual and country-level control variables, the probability of seriously considering family migration to the United States was around 30 percent higher among respondents who reported that they or a member of their family was a victim of a crime sometime during the year prior to the survey. Evidence that victimization promotes the propensity to emigrate is a finding that contributes to an understanding of the transnational consequences of the increase in crime in Latin America, and adds a new variable to the inventory of factors that encourage people to migrate to the United States.

This is an interesting addition to the "push factor" literature on Latin American migration to the United States.  It is well-documented that political violence pushes people, but much less attention has been paid to everyday forms of crime.  Everyone talks about needing to boost economic growth in Latin America, but simply reducing crime could reduce migration.

At the same time, we need case studies to tease out the relationship and make the argument more convincing.  For example, I was struck by the fact that 67.6 percent of Mexicans reported crime victimization (the highest in Latin America) yet only 10.5 percent reported an intention to migrate.  The authors control for geographic proximity to the U.S., but something is going on here.  On the flip side, the numbers of El Salvador show about half as many self-reported victims as in Mexico, but roughly double the percentage of those saying they intended to migrate.  If crime is so important, how do we account for this?

From a methodological perspective, this is an example of how quantitative and qualitative methods can work together fruitfully.  The quantitative angle piqued my interest but left me wanting more.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Drugs in Latin America

Gallup has a new and sobering (no pun intended) poll about drug trafficking within Latin America.  A majority in six countries (Brazil, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Argentina, Panama, and Chile) say there are drug sales in the area where they live.  Those numbers have been climbing every year.  They are the highest by far in Brazil.

Drug consumption has been increasing in Latin America over the past decade.  In large part, this is a perverse result of growing disposable income.  The UN has already noted the high level of illicit drug use in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, the wealthier countries of the region.  We see extremely low numbers in Bolivia, for example, even though it is a producer nation.  Same with Honduras, despite being a major transshipment country.

In part, though, I also think this is related to the growing sophistication of organized crime, which is becoming more successful in creating distribution networks and keeping prices sufficiently low.  As usual, supply and demand are working very nicely together.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Juxtaposition: Cuba

"Cuba says its sugar harvest is worst in 105 years"


"Cuba records more visitors than ever before"

Viva the service economy revolution!


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Eduardo Frei's campaign

As the fallout continues from the Concertación's presidential loss, some of Eduardo Frei's advisers are talking about his campaign.  Qué Pasa has an article on the topic, beginning with a Power Point presentation prepared by Eugenio Tironi, one of Frei's top people.  Its message: Frei is seen as part of the past, no one remembers his presidency, and his only attribute is not being Sebastián Piñera.

Now that's how you generate excitement for a presidential campaign!  Tironi has also published his own book about the campaign, perhaps to explain why nothing is his fault.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Unimportance of Cinco de Mayo

I recommend novelist Oscar Casares' take on Cinco de Mayo in the Houston Chronicle.

The holiday, which has never really been much of one in Mexico, crossed over to this side of the border in the 1950s and 1960s, as civil rights activists were attempting to build harmony between the two countries and cultures. The date gained more attention in the 1980s when marketers, particularly beer companies, saw this as a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the celebratory nature of the holiday.

Also important for marketing:

Of course, if you happen to not speak Spanish, Cinco de Mayo is much easier to pronounce, no matter of how many margaritas are involved. So a facility with the language and how this lends itself to marketing products around the holiday certainly must also play a role. 

Just imagine a beer company trying to fit Dieciséis de Septiembre on a beer koozie.

He brings up immigration as well.  And really, is it asking so much for people to actually know what Cinco de Mayo celebrates?


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Immigration debate

I was just on the Voice of America show Hablemos con Washington, talking (in Spanish) with Chris Sabatini (from the Council of the Americas) and Jack Martin (from the restrictionist organization FAIR) with host Leonardo Bonnet about the Arizona immigration law.  I have no idea whether anybody's opinions changed one way or the other from listening, but it was a very lively debate.  It was an hour show, and I am certain my Spanish improved greatly after about 10 minutes warm up.


Arizona immigration and polls

The NYT offers up a poll showing 51% of Americans say the Arizona law is "about right," and then uses a "woman on the street" interview that greatly qualifies that finding.

“The Arizona law is fine, but the federal government has to step in and come up with something — and they’re not doing it,” said Pat Turkos, 64, a library worker and Republican from Baltimore.

She said: “I don’t think they should be stopped just walking down the street, only if they’re stopped for speeding, for example. I believe everybody has the right to come here, but I think they have to be made legal citizens.” 

First of all, even with the recent changes, someone walking down the street can be stopped if it appears they are loitering (or any number of civil offenses).  So part of the problem is that the person does not actually understand the law.

Second, despite supporting the law, this person also supports almost an almost entirely open immigration system that makes everyone legal.  That seems contradictory, but on the other hand may reflect a distaste less for immigrants per se, but for illegality.

In short, support for the Arizona law tells us very little about the overall views of the general public.  Maybe they are hardcore restrictionists, but maybe they just want the federal government to do something rational that eliminates--or at least greatly reduces--the need for anyone to be in the country illegally in the first place.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Immigration and foreign policy

It's very common to use examples to show whether Barack Obama (or any other U.S. president, really) is "serious" about Latin America or is "paying attention" to the region.  Such examples are usually overstated, as there is no single issue that Latin American leaders are centered on.  For Mexico and Central America, however, it is fair to say that immigration is critical--lobbying the U.S. government has now been a top priority for their presidents.  It will be at the top of the agenda for Guatemala when Arturo Valenzuela visits.  It certainly will be for El Salvador as well.

Immigration is too often framed solely in domestic policy terms.  It is an intermestic issue, to be sure, but immigration policy is foreign policy--that is the crux of the debate over state and local immigration laws.  We become too mired in the overcharged swamp that is current immigration debate, without thinking sufficiently about the broader regional implications.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Quote of the day: Colombia

“I will just have to present the same bill many times to get it approved.”

--Antanas Mockus on how to govern when your party has almost no seats in the legislature.

From The Economist; h/t Steven Taylor


Saturday, May 01, 2010

New numbers for Piñera

Adimark has new poll numbers for Sebastián Piñera.  His approval went down two points from March to April: 52% to 50%.  Disapproval went up sharply, from 18% to 31%.

As far as perceptions of how well his administration has been helping victims of the earthquake, approval went down from 70% in March to 55% in April.

These downturns are by no means disastrous, but he does not seem to be really impressing anyone.  On the other hand, the Concertación is not exactly popular (only 36% identify with it right now, versus 44% for the government, and 20% for no one) so is not in a very good position to take advantage of any stumbling.


Doing immigration the Bachelet way

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was famous for naming a new commission for practically every sticky issue she faced.  Many of these commissions gave reports that were quickly forgotten, but they gave the appearance of progress.  Now Lindsey Graham wants to head a commission on immigration that would not even meet until after the November elections.

Perhaps this commission will be equally successful as the 1994 U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which released a report wonderfully entitled, "U.S. Immigration Policy: Restoring Credibility."


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