Friday, November 30, 2012

U.S. Fuel Exports to Venezuela

Steven Bodzin has a great post (following up on a previous one) about how much fuel Venezuela is importing from the United States. I am nabbing one of his charts, so please give him credit if you use it:

Really fascinating. The MSM gets it sometimes, but not often enough. Instead, we get the drum beat of "threat" based on the fact that the U.S. also imports from Venezuela (a few years ago Dick Lugar even had a big investigation). Hugo Chávez himself eggs this on, with periodic empty threats of shutting off the flow of oil.

The point is that there is way, way more going on than virtually anyone in the United States gives credit for. After almost 14 years of "revolution," Venezuela is more economically dependent on the United States than ever.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Latin America links

--The Pew Hispanic Center on the future growth of the Latino electorate.

--David Smilde on Venezuela getting on the UN Human Rights Council.

--Tim's El Salvador Blog on Salvadoran Ni-Nis.

--COHA on Kerry, Rice, and Latin America.

--Yoani Sánchez on what she worries about.

--Colin Snider on human rights trials in Argentina.

--And as a bonus, Mike Munger on publishing and him perishing.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Here'ssss our water, my preciousssssss...

The four living Chilean presidents had a photo op to show their support for Chile's case at the International Court of Justice. It all starts on December 3 and ends on December 14. They made statements, and Peruvians got mad. This sort of back and forth happens periodically.

Now, though, there's a bit more of an edge because a decision will finally be made, and it will come on the heels of a controversial decision in the Colombia-Nicaragua territorial dispute. Both sides have claimed they will abide by the ruling, though it's entirely possible "abide" will be defined as "try to continue dragging out because this decision sucks."

For documents related to the case, click here.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sugar and Pork

Via Mike Munger: the conservative (and anti-Latin American) case for sugar subsidies. Brazil and Mexico will destroy us if we don't slap a tariff on their sugar, and it'll be like World War II all over again. This is the same member of Congress who makes a big deal about keeping Washington out of the economy. But his pork is the good pork.


Peña Nieto and the U.S.

Enrique Peña Nieto is meeting with President Obama and others today, but there's really not much "new" in that news. He'll mention immigration, security, blah, blah, and blah.

A more interesting question is what type of Mexico he's leading, and what his election means. For that I recommend the Foreign Affairs article by Héctor Aguilar Camín and Jorge Castañeda. Their basic view is that Peña will continue reforms--health care, tax reform, oil, among others--and the PRI will work with the PAN. It's a rather more optimistic view than you typically see.

The vast majority of Mexicans now agree that the only way politicians should get and keep power is through the ballot box and that the clamor for greater accountability and less corruption is legitimate. They believe that protecting human rights, adhering to the rule of law, and ending the culture of impunity are nonnegotiable goals. They demand due process rights and greater security, and they think poverty and social inequality must be reduced, along with the influence of Mexico's powerful monopolies and oligopolies. Yet they also reject any macroeconomic policy associated with large public deficits and consider the advantages of globalization, free trade, and economic integration with the rest of North America greater than the drawbacks. 

What goes within Mexico is more important than state visits. On immigration, for example, reform in the United States is critical but so is reform that provides employment. One point that Castañeda does not make is that NAFTA has been responsible for quite a lot of illegal immigration. Reforms within Mexico cannot just liberalize the economy without anticipating the effect on labor and, by extension, on U.S.-Mexican relations.


Monday, November 26, 2012

U.S. Influence in Latin America

I agree with much of William McIlhenny's piece at Americas Quarterly. The upshot: can we please stop with the "the United States is paying no attention to Latin America" meme? I like this bit:

Some will always prefer to wax nostalgic for an era of nominal influence on elites and dysfunctional relationships with undeveloped societies.  But that time is gone for good, to our resounding advantage.

True. What was so great about that? Even when we thought our influence was working to our advantage, it often wasn't.  Batista and Somoza were our men, and look how great that turned out over the long run. We pushed for drastic market reforms in places like Bolivia to our own detriment. Not exerting such influence may be the best thing not only for Latin America, but for U.S. interests as well.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Latinos and conservatives

My post about the Charles Murray op-ed made me think more about the Republican party's difficulties in embracing the Latino population. There are a number of dichotomies that the party is now publicly trying to sort out.

1. Latino immigrant as hard worker vs. Latino immigrant as welfare state moocher

2. Latino immigrant as Spanish-speaking enclave creator vs. Latino immigrant as bilingual asset

3. Latino immigrant as potential conservative vs. Latino immigrant as Democratic party lackey

4. Latino as "foreign other" vs. Latino as embodiment of "American dream"

5. Amnesty as rewarding illegal behavior vs. amnesty as rational response to broken system

Within the Republican party, of course, these dichotomies are filtered through different lenses--libertarianism, social conservatism, nativism, etc.--in sometimes contradictory ways. It's fascinating to watch a party sort itself out in such a public manner. Once we have a concrete proposal being debated in Congress, it will intensify even more.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Free Stuff in Venezuela

Via Caracas Chronicles: Venezuela's Planning Minister says Venezuelans need to stop thinking they'll just get lots of things for free just because of oil revenue: "la gente tiene que pagar."

I immediately thought of my recent post about how, after years of making expropriation a core part of his government, Hugo Chavez mocked those who said he might expropriate. Now an official in his government is saying that the bedrock of Chavez's rule--subsidied goods paid for by oil revenue--is a negative thing.

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Latinos and Conservatism

Charles Murray at the American Enterprise Institute says don't hold your breath that Latinos are conservative. He looks at survey data to make the case that as a whole Latinos are not really more opposed to abortion or gay marriage, more religious, or more likely to be married. So far, so good. Then we get this.

I can understand why people think Latinos are natural conservatives. Just about every Latino with whom I come in contact is hard-working and competent. I don’t get into discussions with them about their families and religion, but they sure look like go-getting, family-values Americans to me. But note the caveat: “with whom I come in contact.” There’s a huge selection artifact embedded in that caveat—I always come in contact with Latinos because they are on a work crew that’s doing something at my house or office, or at my neighbors’ houses. That’s the way that almost all Anglos in the political chattering class come in contact with Latinos. Of course they look like model Americans.

Oh boy. The people he sees blowing his leaves are "model Americans" but all the rest are...not. Those who work in white suburbia are good, those that don't are the 47%.


Cuba: No Catheters For You!

Damien Cave at the New York Times has a great look at the Cuba embargo, and unlike most accounts makes sure to mention the ways in which the executive branch has been tied up by the Cuban Democracy Act and Helms-Burton. It also focuses on how ridiculous the embargo laws are.

“The Treasury Department is asking me, in a children’s hospital, if I use, for example, catheters for military uses — chemical, nuclear or biological,” said Dr. Eugenio Selman, director of the William Soler Pediatric Cardiology Center.

I feel much safer knowing that we expend resources to protect us from terrorist catheters.


Immigration and the Majority

At the Washington Post, Georgetown's Dan Hopkins uses survey data to show that Americans are actually not all that split on immigration. It's useful to disseminate that message as widely as possible, but it's not new at all. I've blogged about this numerous times, and way back in 2006 I referred to a Foreign Affairs article by Tamar Jacoby, quoting that very fact. She was wrong to predict quick action, but right to assert that there's no reason to be surprised by support for immigration reform.

A much better question to ask is why the belief persists in the face of so much contrary evidence. Part of the problem is that people get causation wrong. Since there is no reform, that must be caused by majority opinion against it. Instead, absence of reform has a lot to do with excessive political focus on a minority base opposed to reform. The media picks up on the extremes, and the public is left with the impression that the country is hopelessly divided when in fact it's not.

What we've seen, in effect, is tyranny of the minority, but a minority consistently--and successfully--peddling the notion that it's views are held by the majority (perhaps even a silent majority, to quote Richard Nixon). What Mitt Romney found--as everyone, including him, knew he would--is that he needed that minority to win the candidacy, but it became a liability in the general election.

Most Republican leaders seem to recognize this, which is why so many are talking openly about supporting reform. It required the trauma of losing the presidency to make it happen, but it happened. This may also mean that the message about a long-standing majority supporting reform will finally start to gain traction. We will have waited a long time.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Signs of Political Change

The Republican Party is still trying to sort itself out with regard to immigration, but you know something is moving when big money gets behind it.

Gutierrez , along with the co-founder of the massive pro-Romney “super PAC” Restore Our Future, Charlie Spies, is looking to put his focus, and donor contributions, where his mouth is on immigration reform. The two are leading the formation of a new PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, with a clear focus on resolving an issue that played a role in Romney’s poor showing among Latinos on election day.

I immediately thought of Cuba. Students often ask me when political opposition to the embargo will reach a topping point. My stock response is that most people don't care, but that business leaders along with their governors will be a critical factor. Now maybe the real sign is when those businesses put together a Super PAC.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Latin America trade

Shannon O'Neil echoes a point I made several times during the presidential debates--despite the chorus of voices proclaiming the decline of U.S. trade with Latin America, it is actually quite massive and growing.

I think, though, that much of the problem is not volume of trade, but rather the fact that other trading partners exist at all. This phenomenon is new and threatening. It is not enough for us to be involved in the lion's share of trade with Latin America; we have to be all of it or we're weak.

It is therefore zero sum. If China buys more commodities, that means we're somehow losing out, even if we don't want to buy those same commodities. What the chorus wants, really, is to get extra-hemispheric governments out. The Monroe Doctrine is, after all, something of a talisman for U.S. policy and we've never lost the knee-jerk reaction to fear involvement by outside powers.

What this also means it that no matter how many agreements the U.S. signs with Latin American governments, the chorus will keep singing because no agreement guarantees exclusion.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Op-ed Fail

This op-ed from Otto Reich is really something. We learn three main points:

First, Latin America does not get much attention from the United States because "Latin America does not present its best face to the world."

Second, Latin Americans vote for leaders Reich does not like because they don't have any information and don't know better.

Third, current corruption in Honduras is entirely the fault of Mel Zelaya.

A bonus point is that Rafael Correa is "rabid."


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Latin American Middle Class

Outstanding article in Financial Times on the middle class in Latin America. The problem is that things are not changing as much as often claimed.

Rising incomes are, of course, to be cheered. But the World Bank also points to “abysmally low” levels of intergenerational mobility in the region: while people’s fortunes have improved within the current generation, there are still enormous barriers to social mobility between generations. In other words, the class you are born into is a bigger factor than any other in determining your future prospects. The children of poor parents still face daunting challenges making their way in the world. 
“We are measuring the extent of correlation between parents’ backgrounds and their kids’ achievements,” says Augusto de la Torre, the World Bank’s chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean (though not one of the report’s authors). “The correlation is very high in Latin America compared with other regions. Family background is much more important.” 
De la Torre describes this as a probable result of “self-sorting” behaviour. 
“Better off families send their children to schools that less well-off families can’t afford,” he says. “That’s different from Asia, for example, where public education is relied on by everybody.” 
It’s not just education. Better-off Latin American opt out of public health systems by buying private health insurance. They opt out of public security services by paying private guards – typically sitting in a makeshift hut on the street, collecting monthly payments from residents. They even opt out of public electricity services by buying their own generators.

Yes to all that. Rising incomes are good for everyone, but they can often obscure long-standing barriers to advancement. There's a tremendous amount of de facto segregation.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Selling to Cuba

Interesting story about how the once vaunted cash trade--including multiple currency swaps--with Cuba has declined in recent years as the country finds other trading partners with less onerous terms.

U.S. sales of food and agricultural commodities to the communist-run island began more than a decade ago with the Trade Sanctions Reform Act enacted in 2000 under President Clinton. Modest sales of $138 million the following year rose steadily to a peak of $710 million in 2008, according to statistics calculated by Kavulich's group. 
The value of U.S. exports to Cuba has since plummeted to just over half that last year at $358 million. It was $250 million through the first six months of 2012, with no sign of improvement.

Cuba is turning instead to Vietnam, Venezuela, and China.

As with virtually every other aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, our trade policy makes no sense and hurts us much more than it hurts the Cuban government. We want to punish you by not trading, so we will just trade in a peculiar way and say we're punishing you. And we will only allow exports of a very particular type, defining "agricultural commodities" in new and fun ways. So, for example, you can export semen but not cardboard boxes. For the full list of goods in all of its glory, just click here.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

American exceptionalism and the Cuba embargo

In what has become an annual spectacle, the entire world minus the U.S., Israel and a tiny handful of tiny Pacific countries condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba. This year the vote got the highest number of countries--188--joining in the condemnation.

This perhaps is the essence of American exceptionalism. Unlike so many countries, we are deeply committed to continuing uselessly punitive foreign policy even in the face of clear evidence that it is failing.

It is indeed the ironic curtain.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Senator Uribe

Rumor has it that Alvaro Uribe will soon announce his senatorial candidacy in Colombia. He hates Juan Manuel Santos--and many other people as well (take a look at this Twitter feed!)--and his goal seems to be derailing all of his security policies. It's fascinating to see how many former Latin American presidents seek to remain in elected office. More so than other recent examples, this one is fueled by rage.

And an interesting tidbit at the end:

There is just one complication that threatens to bog Uribismo down. 
Should Uribe become a senator he will lose his presidential immunity, and with that perhaps an inevitable slew of lawsuits awaits…

Just Google Alvaro Uribe lawsuits to get a sense of that.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chavez's Fairy Tale

Hugo Chavez wants foreign investors to come with their money because there will be no expropriation:

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, Chavez made light of nationalization concerns, urging businesses not to fear him.

"Come and invest! Don't believe the fairy tale that we're going to expropriate you," he said in comments on state TV.

Once upon a time, there was a president who nationalized quite a few industries, doing so publicly and proudly. That is the fairy tale, which also happens to be true. In fact, it has been a core part of the "revolution." Companies deemed to be working against the state for whatever reason--not producing housing quickly enough, for example, are taken over. Here is a lenthy list of companies he took over. The government itself noted that in 2009 it had nationalized 131 companies. When he nationalized some supermarkets, he made the point that he had a plan.

“This isn’t Chavez going around expropriating any old way, as the bourgeoisie says. There’s a plan here, a strategy, a policy,” he said."

Chavez has given countless speeches on the topic, so it's unclear who he thinks he's going to convince.


Tim Wendel's Castro's Curveball

Tim Wendel's Castro's Curveball is a light, pleasant novel that brings together pre-revolutionary--late 1940s--Havana, Fidel Castro, and baseball. You need to suspend disbelief, but it plays on Castro's love of baseball and the rumor that he'd been signed by the Washington Senators. In this book, Havana Lions catcher Billy Bryan is the one who is trying to sign him. After many years, Billy returns to Cuba during the Special Period with his daughter to come to peace with his past.

Castro and his early political activism is woven into the book, along with a fictional female photographer he falls in love with, and who is part of Castro's political circle. Wendel does a nice job of bringing that era to life.

Also noteworthy, for me at least, is that this book was an impulse buy at my local used bookstore, The Last Word. Leisurely browsing still a really fun way of finding books.


Friday, November 09, 2012

Voter Turnout in Latin America

Roque Planas has a good discussion of voter turnout in the United States and Latin America.

We obsess a lot about turnout in the United States, including the incessant but well-meaning exhortations to vote from our fellow citizens, with talk of "civic duty." Often it mirrors the age old demand to clean your plate since kids are dying in Africa. You need to vote because people elsewhere in the world cannot. It doesn't matter if you don't want the food on your plate. Eat it.

In the spirit of contrarianism, then, it's worth thinking about the negative side of voter turnout.

First, it can mean your country is so polarized that the election is viewed as life or death. In Venezuela, turnout was high because the two sides detest each other. This is not a desirable state of affairs, and so lower turnout would signal more contentment and less hatred.

Second, it can mean your government is forcing you to vote, giving you no choice but to make a choice. After many years of obligatory voting, Chile changed the law, which led to lower turnout but sighs of relief.

Third, your government is authoritarian. Turnout in Cuba is high, and many votes are fabricated. The same was true in the heyday of the PRI in Mexico.

This is not to knock voting, as in fact I vote regularly. But sometimes it is useful to step back from the knee-jerk "vote or else" attitude that is often prevalent.


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ideas are scary

Mike Munger posts about the Venezuelan government refusing to give approval for conference travel to an academic whose views were not sufficiently revolutionary. This immediately made me think of the US government's refusal to give permission for Cuban academics to come present papers at the Latin American Studies Association (though, unlike Venezuela, the Cuban government was fine with those professors coming here, which may have been sufficient proof to the Obama administration that they were all potential terrorists).

Ideas can be scary, and many governments want to suppress them, or at least discourage them. The odd part of all this is that we're talking about suppression of academics whose views are likely not terribly controversial to begin with. It's suppression for the sake of suppression.

UPDATE: Now el profesor Munger says the letter is a hoax, leaving only the U.S. government that's afraid of ideas.


The Election and U.S. Policy Toward Latin America

There are a number of news stories about the reaction in Latin America to Barack Obama's re-election and how it will affect U.S. policy toward the region. The realistic answer is that policy will not be affected greatly, and the change that occurs will be related more to domestic constituencies than foreign ones.

I expect quick action on immigration, but note that Obama never mentions Enrique Peña Nieto when he mentions the topic. Not that Peña was trying very hard either, as he congratulated Obama via Twitter. Immigration is about forcing Republicans to take a stand, not about Mexico or Central America.

Also with regard to Mexico, it's hard to see much shift in counternarcotics policy. There is some discussion about the potential effects of state-level laws on marijuana legalization, but of course that is not federal policy. The basic contours of the Mérida Initiative will remain.

We may see more liberalization of relations with Cuba, especially since Cuban Americas in Florida are moving toward the Democratic Party. A hardline stance toward Cuba is no longer a requirement to get votes from that constituency. In fact, liberalized travel is popular. However, it is difficult to see the embargo laws going anywhere, especially since they cannot be lifted without congressional approval.

We won't see much movement on trade because there's hardly any movement to be made no matter who is president.

We won't see much on Iran, because fortunately the Obama administration is not crazy and has no electoral reason to appease the numerically small but vocal voices calling for "action." Ditto with Venezuela.

In short, at this point we don't have any reason to believe there will be any significant policy shifts.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election Postmortem: Immigration

CNN has an exit poll showing 71% of Latinos voted for Obama (though I wince when I see Latino listed as "race").

There's not a lot new to say here, at least until we get some exit polls from specific battleground states to see how much the Latino mattered in each one. The bottom line is that this constituency--as diverse as it is--is slipping out of the Republicans' grasp. Many party leaders know this.

What we would reasonably expect, then, is for President Obama to push quickly for immigration reform, before he hits lame duck status. He mentioned it briefly in his victory speech last night. Obama has been claiming for a long time that it is Republicans in Congress who are blocking reform, and this would be evidence one way or another. Republicans, meanwhile, will have to decide whether they want to continue the alienation of Latino voters or get over the "gateway" issue of immigration. If they can get over that hump, then they can focus on other issues they feel makes the party attractive to Latinos. If they can't get over that hump, then increasingly they will find it harder and harder to win a number of states in presidential elections.

We would also reasonable expect very quick attention to the DREAM Act, even before tackling broader reform. Democrats will want Republicans on the record if they oppose the bill, which is very popular nationally.

At any rate, we haven't any real congressional action on reform since 2006, and this is the first time since then that I actually feel something will happen.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Civilian Expertise and Civilian-Military Relations in Latin America

An article of mine just appeared in Latin American Policy entitled "Civilian Expertise and Civilian-Military Relations in Latin America."

Even as the era of military rule in Latin America fades well into the past, empirical and theoretical questions about civilian–military relations remain highly relevant. For the first time in the region’s history, most governments have been working to manage civilian– military relations within a setting of democratic rule. This article is intended to contribute to the debate over the importance of civilian expertise in the relationship between Latin American civilians and the armed forces. Its main argument is that broader permanent defense-related civilian positions in government contribute the most to democratic civilian–military relations, whereas nonpermanent positions are also important but transitory and do not necessarily foster long-term democratic stability. The policy implication is that governments should focus on expanding the number of permanent civilian positions related to defense in both the executive and legislative branches.

The article came out of a talk I gave two years ago at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. The ideas had been percolating for a while, and then there was some really good discussion at that talk, the audience for which was largely military.


Gerson Dissing Political Science

Michael Gerson has an opinion piece that begins by attacking Nate Silver and ends by attacking political science. The thrust of his argument is that trying to be exact is a bad thing, and his way of arguing makes virtually no sense.

Politics can be studied by methods informed by science. But it remains a division of the humanities. It is mainly the realm of ethics — the study of justice, human nature, moral philosophy and the common good. Those who emphasize “objective” political facts at the expense of “subjective” values have strained out the soul and significance of politics. It is an approach, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “that stores the sand and lets the gold go free.” 
Over the past decade, there has been a revolt among political scientists against a mathematical methodology that excludes substantive political debates about justice and equality. A similar revolution is increasingly needed in political commentary. The problem with the current fashion for polls and statistics is that it changes what it purports to study. Instead of making political analysis more “objective,” it has driven the entire political class — pundits, reporters, campaigns, the public — toward an obsessive emphasis on data and technique. Quantification has also resulted in miniaturization. In politics, unlike physics, you can only measure what matters least. 
And so, at the election’s close, we talk of Silver’s statistical model and the likely turnout in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and relatively little about poverty, social mobility or unsustainable debt. The nearer this campaign has come to its end, the more devoid of substance it has become. This is not the advance of scientific rigor. It is a sad and sterile emptiness at the heart of a noble enterprise.

Lots of things wrong here. Departments of politics, or political science, or government, of whatever they are called, are not humanities. I consider myself a social scientist, not because I fetishize the natural sciences, but because I am interested in understanding causal relationships that explain political behavior (for example, why Latin American militaries react to civilians in particular ways) and formulating hypotheses about that behavior as clearly as I can with empirical foundations. For that I need to root out lots of the objective facts that Gerson finds distasteful. Those facts may be datasets on voting behavior, for example, but they may also be found in close scrutiny of case studies or derived from examining the content of laws or speeches. As a speechwriter, Gerson is especially dismissive of the latter, in a way that I think mirrors the annoyance baseball players have with sabermetrics.

Another problem is that while there is definitely a debate within political science about the relative merits of different methodologies, it is not fair to claim that those who use quantitative methodologies have no interest in justice or equality. I have colleagues publishing really interesting quantitative work that seeks to find more precise ways of understanding why justice or equality are evident or not.

And yes, it's true that Nate Silver doesn't say much about poverty or other issues. But why should he? One critical methodological challenge is making sure you're accurately measuring what you want to measure. Silver wants to know who people will vote for, not whether they are poor, or why they're poor. It's not up to us to determine what he studies. He is definitely not, as Gerson asserts, responsible for politicians' proclivity to gloss over difficult issues like poverty. Incidentally, many political scientists do research on poverty so it's not accurate to say that quantification is decreasing interest in the topic.

If Silver's analysis changes people's opinions--"The problem with the current fashion for polls and statistics is that it changes what it purports to study"--I am not sure I should blame him for that. If anything, the attacks on him are making him more visible and therefore more influential. Nonetheless, I have yet to see any evidence that someone who reads his New York Times articles are more or less likely to vote as a result. What he does is give probabilities. If you are too weak-minded to vote simply because you take probability as certainty, then I am not going to blame Nate Silver for that.


Latino Vote "Delivery"

Matt Barreto argues that if Latino turnout is high, it could "deliver" Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and Florida to Barack Obama. The Latino vote is really important, but "delivery" may be too strong, for two reasons.

First, Obama needs more than just Latinos to win these states. Since he needs votes from other constituencies, then can we not argue that they "delivered" the state? Instead, we need to look at the combination of factors that led to victory. I've written about this lots of times for North Carolina--if the vote is close, can we say Latinos were the key factor, or should we say that turnout among African Americans was the key?

Second, high Latino turnout in Florida can actually work against Obama. That's why the Romney campaign is running ads in Miami trying to tie Obama to Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro. It's a silly argument, but points to the lingering pro-Republican sentiment among Cuban Americans and now also Venezuelan Americans. So in Florida, it depends on which Latinos you're talking about.

I get it. In many ways Latino Decisions is a cheerleader of sorts as well as a polling organization, and they want to emphasize the importance of the Latino vote. And it is important, but not automatically more important than other constituencies. Nonetheless, I will be very interested to see if their prediction of 73% support for Obama (which would the highest of any election) holds up. If turnout is high, and Obama gets that level of support, then I may well be at least a bit more willing to talk about delivery.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

More Cuban migrants

There is an upsurge of Cuban migrants making their way to the United States. The reasons given in the article--that economic conditions are not improving, that there is police crackdown--seem insufficient on their own. After all, these are constants in Cuba so don't explain change.

When you add expectations, however, it may make more sense. For years and years economic conditions didn't improve much. But then Raul Castro started telling Cubans that the state was rethinking the economic model, that markets would gradually be introduced into the economy. Those reforms, however, have been slow and the results not nearly what people believed. When you're told things will change, and shown examples of reform that would actually faciliate change (rather than just talk) then you get fed up more quickly. Add economic recovery in the United States to the mix, and you get migrants.


Friday, November 02, 2012

Immigration cases

Immigration judges can't keep up. This is just crazy.

From 2006 to 2010, the number of new immigration cases rose from 308,652 to 325,326. At the same time, the number of proceedings the immigration courts completed declined about 11 percent, from 324,040 in 2006 to 287,207 in 2010.

I've written about this before, and there seems to be no solution in sight. How are you supposed to have more enforcement without any courts to deal with the effects?



Thursday, November 01, 2012

Joel Hirst's The Lieutenant of San Porfirio

I read Joel Hirst's The Lieutenant of San Porfirio. It depicts a dystopic Venezuela in the near future, and reflects all the fears of the right. It is interesting primarily for that reason.

This is a Venezuela where "all contact with America is forbidden," (how that works is left unexplained) classical music is mocked, Chavistas see Augusto Pinochet as their model, there are buses full of bearded Iranians, Chavez says he is God and should replace Catholicism, tollbooth attendants are in their underwear, Chavez is copying Nazi Germany, the Chinese are trying to take over the west through drug trafficking, the Venezuelan government sponsors African coups with drug money (while smoking Cuban cigars, natch!), there is a minute of hard core porno on state TV every night, state employees mess with women's bras and thongs, poor people sleeping packed together are portrayed a good model for the US, Chavistas say the opposition eats human beings, a box of breakfast cereal costs $25, Russians fly military helicopters around, bearded people are flying around in helicopters, old ladies in wheelchairs are toppled over, and everyone who supports Chávez is drunk all the time.

The novel is pitched as magical realism, and so I guess these politicized exaggerations are supposed to qualify. But the novel is too angrily realist to be considered anything close to magical, and I don't tend to think the exaggerations are supposed to be viewed as anything but very concrete visions of a potential Venezuela. There's not really a plot per se, but rather just people's reactions to the revolution, and for a vision of the indignant right, it's a good example.


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