Friday, June 14, 2013

We Need Better LASA Resolutions

I just received two proposed resolutions from the Latin American Studies Association. One is on Bradley Manning, which is pretty much irrelevant to our organization, and yet it calls for an end to bases in Honduras, which is irrelevant to what happens to Manning. Who wrote this stuff?

The second is about Obama's foreign policy toward Latin America. It is a kitchen sink thing with a number of poorly made arguments and about ten different issues all mixed together.

Resolution on Obama Policy
Whereas: The Latin American Studies Association (LASA) is the largest professional association in the world for individuals and institutions engaged in the study of Latin America and the Caribbean. With over 7,000 members, forty-five percent of whom reside outside the United States, LASA is the one association that brings together experts on Latin America from all disciplines and diverse occupational endeavors, across the globe. For decades, LASA members have spoken in defense of democracy and human rights in the Western Hemisphere and in support of peaceful and respectful relations among states in the region. 
Whereas: President Obama’s policy toward Latin America has so far failed to fulfill the hopes engendered by his appearance at the Summit of the Americas in 2009 that the United States would strongly and consistently support democracy, human rights, social justice and national sovereignty; and 
Whereas: the embargo of Cuba has not been lifted, despite the unanimous call by the members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to end it, Cuba is still listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens remains severely restricted; and 
Whereas: the Obama administration has demonstrated persistent hostility toward progressive governments in Latin America, particularly toward Venezuela and Bolivia, and has pursued close relations with governments with poor human rights records, such as Mexico, Colombia and Honduras; and 
Whereas: the militarism of Plan Colombia and Plan Mérida and the deployment of the Fourth Fleet have been reinforced with the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and construction of new military and police bases as part of counter-narcotics policy, especially in Central America; and 
Whereas: a number of current and former Latin American presidents as well as significant civil society organizations in the most affected countries oppose current U.S. counter-narcotics policies as ineffective and counterproductive with devastating consequences for the civilian populations; 
Therefore be it resolved that: 
1.) The Latin American Studies Association urges President Obama to reduce the U.S. military presence in Latin America, to reverse the militarization of U.S. regional and border policies, especially counter-narcotics operations, and to suspend or reduce aid to military and police forces in countries with on-going human rights abuses, especially Mexico, Honduras and Colombia; 
2.) The Latin American Studies Association urges President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba, including eliminating as many travel restrictions as possible by executive order, making the certifications necessary to end Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and actively working to obtain Congressional lifting of the embargo and restoration of full freedom of travel for U.S. citizens to Cuba; 
3.) The Latin American Studies Association urges President Obama to fully respect the sovereignty of Venezuela and Bolivia and to actively pursue improved relations, including resumption of full diplomatic relations; 
4.) The Latin American Studies Association urges President Obama to reject all direct and indirect United States participation in or support for actions or policies that undermine democratically elected governments in Latin America. 
This resolution will be mailed to President Barack Obama, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State John Kerry and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.

I dislike lumping tons of unrelated things together. Get one issue alone and drive it home. Even if this is approved, it is a jumbled mess, with parts of it perhaps written a very long time ago. Anyway, some specific comments:

1. I actually agree that we need to end the Cuba embargo, and have written so a million times, but CELAC should not be cited as a reason, since even within Latin America it is not viewed as terribly relevant. If there was a well-worded resolution about ending the embargo and getting rid of the ridiculous terrorist label, I would love it. So why can't the LASA wordsmiths handle that?

2. The Obama administration is not terribly hostile toward Venezuela. John Kerry is talking to the Maduro administration, and all the rhetoric of the Bush administration is long gone. It is fair to say that Maduro's statements are 1,000 times more crazy than anything Obama says. Questioning the outcome of the election is not unreasonable. In any case, the U.S. isn't doing much to Venezuela's sovereignty, or Bolivia's for that matter. Was this written years ago? Point #3 should just be removed entirely.

3. They mention the Fourth Fleet. There was a flurry of discussion about this in 2008, but I can't find anything more recent. Is this really a 2008 issue in a current resolution? Remove that and don't mix up Plan Colombia, the Mérida Initiative (even calling it Plan Mérida is pretty loaded) and Central America. These are all different issues--militarization is a real concern, but the contexts are better addressed separately. In particular, I think Honduras should have its own resolution that specifically tackles the unique problems there.

4. Resolution #4 is pretty much incomprehensible. Don't support anything that's akin to anything indirectly or something that's indirectly directly undermining democracy. That should be removed and replaced by something very specific and direct.

As a combination, then, these resolutions are not worth passing. Looking back, I see I blogged about annoyance at a resolution in 2008. Mike Allison has also cringed. In 2012, a similar set of resolutions failed to pass because only 12% of the membership voted, and 20% is required. This should have alerted the authors to the need for refinement.


Anonymous,  9:48 AM  

100% agreed. I am seriously thinking about cancelling my membership if these pass, given what a ridiculous statement they make about our professional priorities.

Defensores de Democracia 7:44 PM  

Abandoning U. S. bases in Honduras ??

Warning :

The Panama Canal is being encircled, surrounded and besieged by hostile nations to the USA : China, Nicaragua and Venezuela. They are dispossessing Colombia of its seas and islands

Don't be fools please ! ... Don't be innocent and naive ! .... This is what is going on and that is the reason of the constant aggression against Colombia from the dictators of Venezuela and Nicaragua. They are constantly harassing Colombia, ... and the FARC Narco Terrorists and Murderers are their pawns

The president of Colombia is being saddled like a horse to be mounted ( communist style ) ....

Nicaragua and Venezuela are communist oligarchies and they are going to be allies of China in building and interoceanic canal in Nicaragua.

Panama and Colombia are very strategic to defend militarily the Canal and are close allies of the USA, they have Free Trade Agreements with America.

The Alliance of the Pacific ( Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile and probably Panama ) are market economies and friends of the USA. Canada and USA are observers, always invited to meetings and sympathize with this Eastern Pacific Alliance.

Vicente Duque

Justin Delacour 7:53 PM  

"The Obama administration is not terribly hostile toward Venezuela. John Kerry is talking to the Maduro administration, and all the rhetoric of the Bush administration is long gone. It is fair to say that Maduro's statements are 1,000 times more crazy than anything Obama says."

This is not a very well-reasoned argument. First off, the point about Maduro being undiplomatic is a red herring. Even if we suppose it's true, his undiplomatic remarks represent no threat to the United States. Conversely, when U.S. officials call into question the legitimacy of an elected government, this can be interpreted by certain sectors of the opposition that they don't have to play by basic rules of the political game. Given the ways that U.S. political signals have at certain points exacerbated domestic political conflict in Venezuela, it should be transparently obvious as to why many Venezuelans will become concerned when the United States exaggerates the Venezuelan government's breaches of democratic norms or refuses to recognize an election in spite of no concrete evidence that it was fraudulent. The simple fact of the matter is that American power and influence make its position-taking toward Venezuela a much bigger deal than whatever comments Maduro makes about the United States.

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