Friday, October 29, 2010

Shoot the messenger

From the NYT: when things go bad, just claim that your message is not being sent correctly.  Felipe Calderón perhaps learned that from George W. Bush and now Barack Obama as well.  It's not that people don't like your policies, it's that they don't understand them well enough:

The administration of President Felipe Calderón has not shown signs of shifting tactics. Rather, his aides believe the problem is that his message — that the violence is a sign that progress is being made — has not been delivered well. There has been a shake-up in his communication staff to improve it.

Shoot your messenger, and all will be well.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Succession suppression

The death of former president Néstor Kirchner is setting off a political earthquake in Argentina.  InfoLatam has a rundown on the power vacuum that Kirchner's death created, and there is no doubt that similar such analyses will be proliferating quickly.  Kirchner was such a force that questions will be raised not only about the leadership of the Partido Justicialista but also the 2011 presidential election.  He was widely seen as the future candidate, and now presumably Cristina Fernández will run for re-election.

A September poll had President Fernández with improved approval ratings, but still under 40 percent, whereas Kirchner's were routinely high.  She has simply never reached the levels of popularity that Kirchner enjoyed.  She has also faced the constant nuisance of a vice president who casts tie breaking votes against her.  From a strictly political perspective (not even taking into consideration the terrible personal toll this will take on her) she faces an even more difficult political context without his support.

As Steven Levitsky has argued, the reason the party has endured is because it is incredibly flexible, without a rigid hierarchy.  So the party structure is strong, but allows for movement within it.  And really, Kirchner was a relative unknown and became a political powerhouse, displacing Carlos Menem (who had pretty well self-destructed by that time) so someone else may well step into the vacuum and displace the Fernández-Kirchner machine.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Corruption perception in Latin America

Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perception Index.  Of interest is the fact that Chile is perceived as less corrupt than the United States (though both are within a similar "confidence range" so the ranking is not as precise as it appears).  The Latin American Herald Tribune also notes that despite all its problems, Ecuador has improved significantly.  Meanwhile, Venezuela is near the bottom of the list again, though I must say that regardless of how corrupt the public sector is, I have a hard time believing it is more corrupt than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and virtually the same as Sudan.

With all the error that can be introduced into them, such surveys do of course need to be taken with a grain of salt.  In fact, the regional director for the Americas said the following:

For its part, Cuba, which historically has been among the least corrupt nations in Latin America, fell from its 4.4 points last year to 3.7, and dropped eight places to No. 69.
In that regard, Salas urged a certain caution, since the sources consulted provide contradictory figures and the result could be due to a “technical” matter.

That could apply to any country, so an unspecified "technical" matter could move countries up and down.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cuba lobby

Changes in attitude of the Cuban-American community in Miami has been evident for some time, and during the 2008 campaign I noted how the Cuban American National Foundation welcomed Barack Obama's moderate message.  Nicky Pear at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs has a good summary of these changes, pointing to a number of specific events that pushed CANF in new directions.

All sides of the three-way relationship seem to be accepting the need for at least an element of pragmatism. It is surely time for the U.S. to continue down this path and make the long overdue steps necessary to put an end to its counterproductive and highly damaging isolationist policy towards Cuba.

Yet it is also true that once in office, Obama has done very little to change U.S. policy, and he recently argued that the U.S. would not change anything unless Cuba liberalized its economy.  So even though support for the embargo has dwindled, we have yet to see much evidence that it will be dismantled.  And, of course, it is worth noting yet again that the Helms-Burton Act puts much of that power in the hands of Congress anyway (see section 204 of the law).


Monday, October 25, 2010

More on moving immigration goalposts

Yet another example of something I've been repeating for a while--it is impossible to increase deportations to a level high enough to satisfy those who are already skeptical of immigration reform.  A letter from Senator John Cornyn and signed by six other senators questions Immigration and Customs Enforcement's commitment to enforcing immigration laws.  We know, of course, that the U.S. government deported more people in the past year than ever before.

The result?  More bad midterm news for the Obama administration.  Reform advocates do not like the deportations, and reform opponents still don't think the administration is really committed to enforcement.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Barriers to business in Latin America

Gallup has an interesting poll on perceived barriers to business in Latin America, where the belief that paperwork is too onerous is higher than anywhere else in the world.  What I find particularly notable is that within Latin America this does not correlate to ideology.  For example, Venezuela ranks very high, second only to Uruguay in positive terms of whether governments make paperwork and permits easy enough.  Venezuelans also feel very confident that their government will allow them to make a lot of money.  Argentines, meanwhile, have almost no such confidence at all.

Strangely, though, the Gallup report comes to the following illogical conclusion:

In Latin America, the relatively high "no" percentages may reflect a broad set of issues that the public may perceive as tension between government and private businesses, including the wave of company nationalizations, tougher labor regulations, and even business confiscations in recent years.

But this makes no sense.  If it were true, then Mexico and Venezuela should be inverted.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

4.Niner K

We ran the 4.9K on campus today, which funds need-based scholarships.  I love races at the university, and now there are two a year.  It was much better than last year's inaugural race, because it was sunny and they switched the course to be a downhill finish rather than a steep uphill.  My 8 year old son ran with me.


Latin American democracies

Sara Miller Llana at the Christian Science Monitor has an article about the endurance of democracy in Latin America.  I agree with the following, to a degree:

In many countries in Latin America, the transformation from military rule and dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s and '90s has sealed a democratic tradition. The expectation of free and fair elections and that the democratically elected leader finish his or her term is resounding across the region.

My quibble is that this is a bit over triumphant.  As I've written about, a recent poll showed 22 percent of all Latin Americans believed a coup was likely or very likely in the next twelve months.  Democracy is persisting, but it is by no means "sealed," while the democratic tradition is riddled with setbacks.  Yet the absence of military rule is notable, as is the transfer of power from left to right, or right to left, in many countries.


Thursday, October 21, 2010


I am heading to Washington later today to give a talk tomorrow at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, where Latin American military officers take various courses on civil-military relations and democracy.  The title of my talk will be "Civilian Expertise and Civil-Military Relations in Latin America."  This is a topic I've been interested in for some time, and I really look forward to hearing feedback from the officers themselves since of course my audience is usually academic.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Still embargoed after all these years

Matthew Yglesias quotes a blog post by Ian Vásquez at the Cato Institute about the Cuban embargo as it turns 50.

Keeping the sanctions will only further allow the dictatorship and its sympathizers to explain away the regime’s own failings. It would be better for Cubans and the world to see the unraveling of Cuban communism without U.S. intervention.

There just isn't any intellectual defense of the embargo anymore.  It is not the cause of Cuba's economic woes--Fidel Castro himself has said the economic model is broken--though it has made the lives of the average Cuban more difficult.  It has not led to the ouster of the Castro regime.  It represents limitation of the freedoms of U.S. citizens.  It creates global sympathy for a small country perpetually bullied by Goliath.

None of these outcomes are good for the Cuban people, for U.S. national security or for the U.S. economy.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More on the binomial system

Mariano Montes at Artepolítica has a good discussion of the binomial electoral system in Chile (it is in Spanish). He is optimistic about its reform, since the Concertación has always pushed to eliminate it and Sebastián Piñera has publicly called for the same.  I would also add that Piñera is in a very strong political position at the moment, so it is entirely possible--though by no means guaranteed--that we could see a change.


Latin American Immigration call for papers

The December 2011 issue of The Latin Americanist will be a special issue focused on Latin American immigration.  Please check out the call for papers here and pass the info along to anyone who might be interested.


Drug bust

Is it just me, or does drug trafficking seem more brazen when it involves a convoy in Tijuana?  In general, drugs are hidden: in people, in cars, in submarines, in planes, boats, etc.  A heavily armed convoy suggests less concern about hiding and more interest in sheer bulk.  It also suggests a striking lack of concern about being discovered.  That is the bad news, though at least the good news is that the government had gathered intelligence to intercept it.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Reconstructing events in Ecuador

Here are two good reconstructions of the September 30 crisis in Ecuador:

Adam Isacson blogging at Just the Facts focuses on the delay between the onset of the crisis and the army's announcement of support for Rafael Correa, positing it as a squeeze to get the bonus law changed.

Sandra Edwards at the Washington Office on Latin America offers a very balanced view, seeing the events from both sides, emphasizing the proximate cause as the policy protest and Correa's surprise arrival.

The trials currently going on should also shed a lot of light.  The essential question is what the goals were of those who started the crisis.  Virtually all accounts focus on the policy, but of course behind that is the issue of what went on behind the scenes between the army and the Correa administration (meaning mostly Correa himself and his Defense Minister) and between the army and the police.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Piñera wanted to jump the shark

Sebastián Piñera apparently thought about being lowered down into the mine.  Of course, he only wanted to show symbolically that he represented all of Chile and so should join his compatriots.  He had no intention of milking it to a degree so extreme that I believe we can refer to it as jumping the shark.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Political Science and blogging

Henry Farrell and John Sides, "Building a Political Science Public Sphere With Blogs," The Forum 8, 3 (2010: Article 10.  Ungated link here, though you need to register.


We argue that political science blogs can link conversations among political scientists with broader public debates about contemporary issues. Political science blogs do this by identifying relevant research, explaining its findings, and articulating its applicability. We identify strategies besides blogging that individual scholars and the discipline could undertake to enhance its public profile.

It's good to keep discussions like this going, though my guess is that many political scientist bloggers feel rather talked out about it at this point.  As always, I would add my two cents that most political scientist bloggers focus on American politics or U.S foreign policy, so as I wrote last month all examples used in arguments about blogging ignore comparative politics.  So if I added anything to this article, I would encourage more comparativists--and of course more Latin Americanists--to start blogging.


Friday, October 15, 2010

More on crime and immgration

I have written a lot about the relationship between crime and immigration (e.g. on Texas and Arizona).  The clear conclusion is that immigration does not increase crime, and may in fact reduce it.  More evidence:

During precisely the period that California experienced the biggest immigrant population increase in its history, the state also experienced a precipitous drop in crime rates, according to a report by Barry Krisberg, a renowned criminologist at UC Berkeley's School of Law.
Correlation is not necessarily causation, but evidence is really piling up.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Political effects of the miner crisis

In addition to the pretty amazing drama of the Chilean miners, there is also much speculation about the political effects, both domestic and international.  Here are some of the possibilities, and they are not mutually exclusive:

1. Chilean-Bolivian relations improve because Evo Morales came to Chile
2. Sebastián Piñera becomes more popular in the short term
3. Sebastián Piñera becomes more popular in the long term
4. Mining Minister Laurence Golborne runs for president in 2014 because suddenly everyone knows who he is
5. The crisis helped Piñera negotiate a new mining royalty with the Concertación in the legislature
6. Chile's international image is enhanced, particularly when compared to the response to disasters elsewhere, including the United States


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile's binomial system

Claudio Fuentes has an article in El Mostrador about proposals to reform the binomial electoral system in Chile.  There is quite a large literature on the system's effects, and lots of disagreement.  One of the most common arguments is that it over-represents the right, which has less popular support than the center-left.  Claudio notes how the right itself now is talking about getting rid of the system, as leaders that it could open the door for the right to win a legislative majority.  There will be debate on it on November 5.  Last year the right blocked a proposal, but President Piñera supports it.

Its removal would revive another long-standing question about whether Chile has retained its traditional tripartite political spectrum (left-center-right) or whether the current center left/center-right split would remain.  There is no agreement about whether the latter is artificial and exists only because the binomial system created it with its incentives for coalition building.


Chile's binomial system

Claudio Fuentes has an article in El Mostrador about proposals to reform the binomial electoral system in Chile.  There is quite a large literature on the system's effects, and lots of disagreement.  One of the most common arguments is that it over-represents the right, which has less popular support than the center-left.  Claudio notes how the right itself now is talking about getting rid of the system, as leaders that it could open the door for the right to win a legislative majority.  There will be debate on it on November 5.  Last year the right blocked a proposal, but President Piñera supports it.

Its removal would revive another long-standing question about whether Chile has retained its traditional tripartite political spectrum (left-center-right) or whether the current center left/center-right split would remain.  There is no agreement about whether the latter is artificial and exists only because the binomial system created it with its incentives for coalition building.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Immigration and goalposts

Cal Thomas' column on immigration is notable for two reasons.

First, it confirms my repeated contention that the record number of deportations and other enforcement measures do not help the Obama administration politically.  Thomas moves the goalposts by saying, and I am not making this up, that the administration is deporting too many criminals as opposed to non-criminals.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Second, it repeats untruths about undocumented immigrants and lawbreaking.

What should not be debatable is that lax enforcement of our immigration laws leads to more disrespect for those laws and serves as an incentive for more people to enter the country illegally.

We know empirically that this is false.  Recent immigrants--regardless of immigration status--are more law abiding than the rest of us.  We also know that people will come regardless of our laws.  Conditions other than lax enforcement provide the push and pull factors.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Immigration salience

In anticipation of the midterm elections, it is very popular in the media to portray immigration as an issue that will decide a lot of races.  I think this is untrue and mostly unsubstantiated.  Very often it is based on polls that do not weigh the importance of different issues.  Poll after poll show the economy as most important.  So people are concerned about immigration, but not nearly as much as other things.  Registered Latino voters themselves believe immigration is only the fifth most important issue.

Meanwhile, for all Americans a July 2010 Gallup poll shows immigration as tied for fourth (at 7% saying it is most important), behind the economy (31%), unemployment/jobs (22%), and dissatisfaction with government (11%).

Yet we get stories like this one from the Orlando Sentinel, which is quite remarkable.  The reporter notes that Florida politicians are avoiding discussing immigration, then notes almost no one is mentioning it during campaign stops, and then concludes that immigration "could make a crucial difference."  Well, it could, but it won't.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

State of exception in Ecuador

I shouldn't have mentioned "normality" too quickly in Ecuador.  Rafael Correa has announced the state of exception will continue in Quito "indefinitely."  This actually isn't constitutional, because Article 166 says that they can last only 60 days, though they can be renewed.

A government official said that it would not involve any restriction of liberties, which does not make sense because Article 165 of the constitution very explicitly gives the president the right to restrict all sorts of liberties.

Article 166 also gives the National Assembly the right to revoke it, though I have not heard what kind of legislative resistance there is to Correa's decree.

Si las circunstancias lo justifican, la Asamblea Nacional podrá revocar el decreto en cualquier tiempo, sin perjuicio del pronunciamiento que sobre su constitucionalidad pueda realizar la Corte Constitucional.

It's not specified who decides whether circumstances justify it.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Generalizing from Ecuador

An analyst named Ian Bremmer wrote a post about Ecuador in the Foreign Policy blog.  He explains that unrest in Ecuador is a reminder that Cuba and Venezuela could explode in large part because their governments are so unpopular and have to make cuts.

Some problems here.  First, Correa has an approval rating over 50 percent (or did before the current crisis, which likely will make it higher still).  His popularity is not the issue--anti-democratic opposition is.

Second, Cuba may explode because of the regime's unpopularity and the cuts, but some variation of this has been predicted since 1959.  I need more evidence--or really any evidence at all since none is given--to be convinced.

Third, Bremmer "uses cutting-edge political science to predict the political future--and how it will shape the global economy."  And yet his conclusion is:

The overall prognosis?  Stay tuned.

You gotta love "cutting edge political science."


Friday, October 08, 2010

Divergent goals in the drug wars

At first glance this seems contradictory.

President Felipe Calderon calls Tijuana a success in his four-year-old war on drug cartels, though he is unsure that making the border city safer has reduced the flow of drugs to the United States.

But this is one point that I do believe has a parallel to Colombia.  The U.S. and Mexico/Colombia do not have the same goals in the drug war, even though we profess to.  The U.S. wants to reduce the flow of drugs, whereas Mexico wants to reduce violence.  The problem for the U.S. is that it is entirely possible to reduce violence while not reducing the flow of drugs.


Thursday, October 07, 2010


The Obama administration has set a record for deportations, at 392, 862.  But as I have argued before, the administration is very mistaken if it thinks it can use this to its advantage--it will probably have the opposite effect.  In short, the increase does not impress anyone, and alienates some.  From the NYT:

As midterm elections approach, Obama administration officials are facing intense pressure to show they are tough on illegal immigration. States across the country have enacted laws to crack down, citing a failure of the federal government to do the job. An especially broad law adopted by Arizona drew a lawsuit from the federal government and an outcry from Latinos in the state, who said it could lead to harassment and racial profiling. A federal judge stayed central provisions of the law.

Anti-immigration reform Republicans and conservative Democrats will not soften on the administration just because there are more deportations.  Further, it will alienate some Latinos and pro-reform voters.

The net result?  Less political support than before, and perhaps more voters staying home.


Police rebels=stupid?

Rafael Correa had mentioned that some people meant to kill him.  There are recordings that apparently bear that out, but if they are accurate they also suggest that the rebellion leaders were not especially smart.  For example:

"They should kill Correa so this will end," an unidentified man said on the recording. "Kill Correa and this demonstration will end."

Oh really?  It is hard to imagine a presidential assassination ending the demonstration (which was really more like a mob anyway) or ending much of anything except his life.  Correa actually argues the opposite, that the goal was to kill him, and thus create more chaos that would provide an excuse for a coup.

And also:

Another man on the recording indicates that police wanted Correa to sign a decree guaranteeing unspecified benefits, but which likely refers to the austerity measures.
"The gentleman who is supposedly president will not leave without signing the attributions that correspond to the national police," the man says. "That gentleman has to assure our complete amnesty."
Yet another man threatens Correa, calling him a vulgar name.
"Don't let that [expletive] leave," the man says. "First, he has to sign and then he can leave. If not, that [expletive] leaves dead."

Did they really think Correa would sign things on their behalf under threat of overthrow and/or death?

Of course, we don't know exactly who the speakers are, but if they reflect the views of the police who rebelled, then it doesn't say much about the intelligence of the plotters.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Job listings at UNC Charlotte

I am copying and pasting these two job listings from my colleague Jim Walsh.  Forward on to anyone who might be interested.

UNC Charlotte is hiring two faculty with expertise in political violence and human rights. The advertisements for both are below. I chair the search committee for the first position, and am happy to answer any questions potential applicants might have--don't hesitate to contact me at


The Department of Political Science at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte invites applicants for a tenure track position in international politics at the level of Assistant Professor. The position begins August 15, 2011. Requirements include Ph.D. in political science or international relations, research expertise in conflict resolution or political violence, advanced training in research methodology and the ability to teach undergraduate research methods, a commitment to promoting diversity as a value in the department and college, and a demonstrated ability to perform high-quality research. Desired qualifications include prior teaching experience and the ability to offer a class on Middle Eastern politics.

Faculty members in the Department of Political Science are expected to maintain regular high-quality publication, seek external funding, and teach courses that service our curriculum. The Department of Political Science has 24 faculty members, and houses an undergraduate major in political science and NASPAA-accredited MPA Program and is a core constituent in the interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Public Policy. UNC Charlotte is located in the state’s largest metropolitan area and is a growing Doctoral-Intensive urban university with a commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching. The university enrolls over 25,000 students. This is one of five new positions in four different departments, as part of an initiative to enhance global and international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Apply at Please attach the following documents with your electronic application: (1) letter of application responding to the qualifications outlined above (2) curriculum vitae, (3) one or two representative writing samples, (4) evidence of teaching effectiveness (if available), (5) three letters of recommendation in .pdf format, and (6) copy of graduate transcripts. Alternatively, letters of recommendation may be sent directly by mail or email to Dr. James Walsh, Chair, International Politics Search Committee, Department of Political Science, UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC, 28223; Review of applications will begin October 18, 2010 and continue until the position is filled. 

UNC Charlotte is an AA/EOE and an ADVANCE Institution that strives to create an academic climate in which the dignity of all individuals is respected and maintained. We celebrate diversity that includes, but is not limited to ability/disability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. 


The Department of Global, International & Area Studies at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte invites applicants for an Associate Professor position in Holocaust and Comparative Genocide Studies. The position begins August 15, 2011; Ph.D. in a discipline appropriate to Holocaust and Comparative Genocide Studies is required at the time of appointment. Requirements for the position include training in the field of Holocaust and Comparative Genocide, an ability to assume a leadership role in the development of the department’s program in this area, and a commitment to promote diversity as a value in the department and college. The successful candidate will have training and expertise in Holocaust and Comparative Genocide Studies and an established scholarly record that demonstrates familiarity with theoretical approaches and analytical models that consider the Holocaust and its legacy in a comparative context of other acts of genocide and human rights abuses across the globe. The candidate will also demonstrate the ability to offer core courses that frame the department’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights curriculum, secure external funding, and engage in community outreach activities. Desired qualifications are a commitment to multi-disciplinary approaches to scholarship and teaching and the ability to contribute to the department’s mission as it relates to the development of undergraduate curricula and future graduate programs.

UNC Charlotte is a growing Doctoral-Intensive urban university with a commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching. Established in 2009, the Department of Global, International & Area Studies currently offers a multi-disciplinary major and minor in International Studies, as well as minors in Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, and Judaic Studies. The Department contributes to the university’s General Education program and has strong collaborative relationships with other interdisciplinary programs and academic departments. Its programs and student population reflect the diversity mission and goals of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This is one of five new positions in four departments that are part of an initiative to enhance global and international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For more information about the Department of Global, International & Area Studies, see

Applications must be made on-line at: (click on “Faculty” under Vacancy Type). Please attach the following documents: (1) letter of application outlining your relevant teaching and research experience, research agenda, and other experience related to the position, (2) curriculum vitae, (3) writing sample, (4) relevant syllabi, (5) three letters of recommendation specific to this application, and (6) copy of graduate transcript. Screening of applicants will begin November 1, 2010 and will continue until the position is filled. The Search Committee is chaired by Dr. Richard Leeman, c/o Department of Global, International & Area Studies, UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an EOE/AA employer and an ADVANCE Institution that strives to create an academic climate in which the dignity of all individuals is respected and maintained. Therefore, we celebrate diversity that includes, but is not limited to ability/disability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. 


Charlotte and Osama bin Laden

Bill James, a county commissioner here in Mecklenburg County, proposed (though it was blocked after much debate) to find ways to report undocumented immigrants who obtain benefits for their U.S. citizen children.  His reasoning was that this would help us find future Osama bin Ladens.

"We don't know if they're Osama wannabes," said James early in the debate, drawing a sharp rebuke from Cogdell.
I assume he is joking, though you never know.  You just can't make this stuff up.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Ecuador, continued

Rafael Correa has supported a pay raise, so police (obviously now in the process of being purged of the major rebellion protagonists) and military will get more money, while the controversial bonus reduction will stand, though it seems at least for higher ranks it will be offset by the raise.  Furthermore, the state of emergency will end on Tuesday night (Update: that turned out not to be the case: it is currently extended until Friday).  In other words, in fairly short order his administration has restored relative normalcy.

At this point they're still trying to reconstruct events.  There are many questions, but the big one is figuring out the goal(s) of those police who rebelled.  If indeed they planned to overthrow Correa, then this is a major triumph for democracy in Ecuador, which has a very rocky history.  And really, even if they didn't it is a sign that Ecuadorian democracy is more flexible than in the past, even the recent past.  I would love to see an updated study of their armed forces--Sam Fitch has written a lot on them, but not for years.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Hispanic voters and Democrats

Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway has at least an initial answer to a question I posed not long ago about whether the Obama administration would alienate Hispanic voters by putting up immigration bills that were almost certain to fail.  Here is the graph from Gallup:

This is too short a time frame to come to firm conclusions, since there were dips before (i.e. April 2010) that then saw a rebound.  But how many policy failures will it take for those numbers to stay low?


Hostage Nation

I read Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes, and Jorge Enrique Botero's Hostage Nation: Colombia's Guerilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs.  Given how much it focuses on the three American hostages and Ingrid Betancourt, all freed in 2008, I would say the best way to characterize the book is as a companion to Out of Captivity (here is my review of that book from a year ago).  Hostage Nation provides the Colombian context that Out of Captivity mostly ignored.  Reading both gives you insight into how the FARC operates and all the many different voices involved in hostage negotiations.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book come from interviews with FARC guerrillas. The details--both historical and contemporary--about Simón Trinidad and his capture stand out in that regard.  The authors provide a sense of why people become fanatically attached to the FARC, and the nature of their ideological rigidity.  I kept thinking of Néstor Kirchner's perfect recent quote: the FARC "are so back in time, that they are even far behind the Cold War."

Ultimately, though, despite the subtitle it really is not a book about the "failed war on drugs."  The brief epilogue with statistics about coca cultivation, etc. is the only time the authors center on that.  I do think the drug war is failing, but this book doesn't really expand on the argument.  The fight against the FARC is intertwined with the drug war, but they are not synonymous.  Winning or losing battles against the FARC tell us very little about the flow of narcotics.

It does serve as a well-written reminder, though, that all the contract work that U.S. citizens find in Colombia creates problems.  In particular, the contractors feel like they are protected by the U.S. government, whereas the U.S. sees them as much more expendable precisely because they are contractors.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Padres 2010: Choose your glass

Half empty:  a 10 game losing streak from August 26-Sept 5 transformed a seemingly guaranteed division championship into nothing.

Half full: everyone expected a losing season (and a really bad one at that) so excitement on the last day of the season represents a huge bonus.

I feel a little of both.  I just wish we showed a little more spark on this 162nd game--this was the team everyone thought would characterize the year.  Minuscule batting average, no extra base hits, no runs scored.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010

No immigration bill will pass this year, but Senators Robert Menendez and Patrick Leahy have introduced S. 3932, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010  It is not on Thomas yet, but here is a preliminary copy of the 874 page behemoth along with a handy summary.

The bill provides a good starting point.  Among many other things, it has a temporary worker program, including a new category of temporary worker, that both protects their rights and remains flexible according to the U.S. labor market; it has extensive enforcement; it ensures immigration policy remains a federal prerogative; and it offers a rigorous pathway to legality for those currently in the U.S. illegally.

What also struck me, though, was a focus on U.S.-Latin American relations, which means a welcome recognition that we cannot pretend to live in a vacuum.  Tucked into the second to last section is the following:

STRATEGY ADDRESS FACTORS DRIVING IMMIGRATION.—The Secretary of State, working with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, shall subsequently submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, a strategy which responds to the identified economic, social and security factors driving high rates of irregular migration from the prioritized countries identified. The strategy should incorporate consultation with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

And then make specific recommendations:

Recommendations for future United States Government assistance and technical support to address key economic, social and development factors identified in the prioritized migration source countries. Such assistance should be designed to ensure appropriate engagement of national and local governments and civil society organizations.

Good.  Of course, knowing what drives immigration does not necessarily mean you can come up with programs to slow it down.  However, a full understanding of those "push" factors is critical for making immigration reform work properly.  Working with Latin American governments, even at the local level, should be part of any reform bill.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Experiments in Guatemala

The political crisis in Ecuador has distracted from the story about U.S. medical experiments in Guatemala in 1946-48.  Here is the research paper (ungated at her website) the news stories are based on:

Susan M. Reverby, "'Normal Exposure' and Inoculation Syphilis: A PHS 'Tuskegee' Doctor in Guatemala, 1946-48." Forthcoming (January 2011) in Journal of Policy History.

She requests very specifically that she does not want anyone quoting the paper without permission, which is unfortunate because there are some interesting (and disturbing) quotes.  The basic idea was to infect people and then treat them with penicillin to test its effectiveness.

The U.S. government immediately and categorically apologized.  It makes you wonder how many other similar occurrences still remain unearthed.


Friday, October 01, 2010

Was there a coup attempt in Ecuador?

Given the information we current have--and obviously that will change as more details emerge--it should not be called a coup attempt.  Let's go to the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, under coup d'état.  First sentence:

A nonconstitutional change of government leadership carried out with the use or threatened use of violence is known as a coup d'état.

An attempted coup, then, is an effort to change the leadership, in this case the president.  It is not entirely clear what the police thought they were going to accomplish, but ousting Correa was not obviously part of it.  Perhaps they hoped the armed forces would join in and overthrow him--if that turns out to be the case, I might change my mind.  I've seen reference to the air force, but it's not yet clear what their goal was, whether they were coordinated at all, etc.  If they just hoped to intimidate him, then it isn't good but it isn't a coup attempt.  Fortunately, the following was the case:

The head of the armed forces, Ernesto Gonzalez, said troops remained loyal to Correa. "We are in a state of law. We are loyal to the maximum authority, which is the president."

And let's hope it stays that way.

Update: FWIW, the government of Ecuador does not necessarily refer to a coup attempt, but rather to an "insubordination."  Correa himself, though, of course does.


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