Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Drago Doctrine and Syria

When I teach U.S.-Latin American Relations, I discuss history a lot and use primary documents. I try to convey that although we have to be careful not to over-emphasize how much history impacts relations today, nonetheless it is essential to understanding even current Latin American reactions to U.S. policy.

Here is an example. The Argentine foreign ministry issued a statement about Syria, criticizing the use of military force and calling for humanitarian assistance.

Argentina, junto a toda América Latina, ha sido enfática en la defensa del principio de no intervención militar extranjera. Ante la negativa de los Estados Unidos para aplicar la doctrina Monroe en defensa de Venezuela, que sufría un bloqueo naval por potencias europeas en 1902, la Argentina impulsó una nueva doctrina en contra del intervencionismo militar. La doctrina Drago, en honor a su impulsor el Canciller Luis María Drago, que comenzó atacando la intervención por tema de deudas evolucionó como principio general, ello a partir de la experiencia que indica que las intervenciones militares libradas a decisiones unilaterales es uno de los elementos más disruptivos de la seguridad internacional.

The Drago Doctrine is one I discuss in class, and I have an excerpt of it in my textbook. Notice, though, that Drago was writing in response to the United States' failure to apply the Monroe Doctrine, namely the protection of Latin American countries from European intervention (as Britain, Italy, and Germany attacked Venezuela to force repayment of debt). Drago, in fact, explicitly notes how much Argentina supported the Monroe Doctrine.

So the Drago Doctrine is indeed about Argentine leadership in asserting non-intervention, but it's a tricky one for Argentina to use because it also has a strong component of accepting and even embracing U.S. hegemony.

Regardless, my students should take note that when I make you learn what seems to be ancient history, there's a reason!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Venezuelan Legislator Jumps the Syrian Shark

A member of Venezuela's Socialist Party (the PSUV) is apparently in Syria right now fighting in Bashar al-Assad's army. This is another rather extreme example of what I wrote about recently, namely the knee-jerk reaction in Venezuela to formulate foreign policy based on doing the opposite of the United States. One of many problems with this logic is the implicit assumption that the opposite policy of the United States actually promotes peace. Obama is bad, so Assad must be good.

Update: Here's an English-language account from Girish Gupta at the Global Post.


Colombia Farmer Strike

Farmers are striking in Bogotá with supporters, in part because of the effects of free trade agreements. Some of the protests are getting violent:

The protests have united potato growers and milk producers with teachers, health workers and students. 
They all converged on Bogota's main square, Plaza de Bolivar, on Thursday to make their grievances heard. 
"Long live the farmers' strike," they chanted, holding up protest banners. 
At Plaza de Bolivar some protesters wearing balaclavas clashed with riot police, who responded with tear gas. 
Businesses closed to prevent looting.
I understand the concern about violence, but President Santos' response (which he linked to on Twitter) seems very hardline.

Anoche ordené la militarización de Bogotá y de cualquier otro municipio o zona donde sea necesaria la presencia de nuestros soldados. Ordené también que se destinen 50 mil hombres de nuestras Fuerzas Militares para que trabajen, junto con la Policía, en garantizar la movilidad en nuestras carreteras", expresó el Mandatario en una alocución por radio y televisión.

Very quick recourse to "militarization" and "soldiers." He also cut off talks and said he would only talk to "real peasants" (verdaderos campesinos). Those who continue to disagree with him are apparently not real.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Political Science & Open Access

At The Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten announced a new open access journal, Research and Politics, that sounds very interesting. There is, however, a catch. Eventually authors will have to pay to play.

An open access model always creates the fear of high author fees especially if you are working with a commercial publisher.  Let me say that Sage has been a terrific partner so far. There are substantial benefits to working with a team of professionals who understand the publication process. We are keeping costs low by only publishing on-line and relying on the free labor of a large team of academics (including ourselves). Thanks to substantial upfront investments by Sage and some support from Georgetown and Leiden Universities, there will be no fees in the first two years.  Eventually, the journal will need some income. In much of Europe, there is a strong trend towards governments requiring that research produced with public funds is published open access. Those research grants usually budget publication fees. This is much less common in the U.S., where public funding for political science research is, let’s say, “iffy.” Some universities have created funds for open access funding but it is not yet clear whether this trend will broaden.

My immediate concern is that this will quickly lead to stratification once the payment requirement kicks in, as authors at many universities do not enjoy a large pool of research funds to pay for this sort of thing. Indeed, he mentions "some universities" are creating funds for open access, but only mentions Cornell, which is hardly representative. Sage may be a great partner, but it needs to make money, especially when it coughed up a "substantial" investment to get the journal launched.

This is, of course, a major challenge for open access publication. Someone has to underwrite it. I published last year in Journal of Politics in Latin America, which is a really cool open access journal paid for by a German research institute. It has been attracting a lot of well-known scholars though I wonder how long that would last if authors had to pay an upfront fee even to submit, unless that fee was quite small.

The general idea of a different type of journal with specific aims that fall outside existing political science journals and is open access to boot is great. We need to think in new ways about publication. This reminds me a bit of an article in the Chronicle about mini-monographs, which are shorter than typical books but longer than articles, and are published as e-books. They are still peer-reviewed but are published much more quickly.


Fake Cubans

This semester I am teaching course on the Politics of Latino Immigration to the United States. In class today we talked about the weird case of Cuba. Someone asked about people pretending to be Cuban in order to get the benefits--get right in line for a green card--that go with it. Lo and behold, here is a recent story on the big business of fake Cuban birth certificates. The certificate plus transportation to the Florida Keys costs about $10,000 per person.

Investigators had found that fraudulent birth certificates were being sold to dozens of foreign nationals by a Kissimmee man who pretended to be a high-ranking immigration official.
A group, led by ringleader Fidel Morejón, 41, sold the fake Cuban birth certificates to about 50 undocumented immigrants, bringing in more than $500,000. Morejón used elaborate tactics to ensure that his clients persuaded immigration officials that they were really Cubans, even coaching them on what to say.

Read more here:

Of course, the person also needs to make sure they know a lot about Cuba and can convince people of the accent.

Just supply and demand.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Memory and the Right in Chile

Now get this logic. Chilean Defense Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter criticized UDI (the party of the far right) Senator Hernán Larraín for saying the 1973 coup was an "error" and asking forgiveness for not blocking human rights abuses during the dictatorship. It goes like this:

The only way for the country to move forward is to act unified and not divided, because division is what led to the coup. You have the right to ask forgiveness, but ultimately it is a divisive action because some people don't believe they need to ask for forgiveness.

This reminds me of the constant exhortation to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past, as if the future can exist in a vacuum without historical foundation. Asking for forgiveness for society, though it is for the right. Cracks like this in the right are especially interesting and have accelerated after Augusto Pinochet died in 2006.

Update: Javier Sajuria makes a point on Twitter that this could be interpreted differently, namely that Hinzpeter was praising Larraín for making his statement at a book launch rather than at a press conference. In that interpretation, I guess he is actually criticizing the press instead and saying it's good to have more measured opinions. If you read Spanish, then check it out for yourself and decide.

Either way, the right is trying to deal with the very idea of forgiveness.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Cheyre Controversy

I think it is fair to say that Juan Emilio Cheyre is widely considered the commander in chief (he was in the position from 2002-2006) who helped push the Chilean army to accept its past more than anyone else and to condemn human rights abuses. In a forthcoming chapter in a book, I argue that he was one of a generation of younger officers, like Oscar Izurieta, who worked to depoliticize the army and focus it more squarely on professional issues.

After retiring from the army, he went into academia (he has a political science Ph.D.) at the Catholic University. I met him last year at the Latin American Studies Association conference, and exchanged a few brief emails with him afterward. He was very intelligent and friendly. I am guessing all of these qualities led to him being named to what seemed an odd position, the president of the Consejo Directivo of the Servicio Electoral, which runs elections in Chile.

He recently resigned from that position because of events from the past that have just come to light. In 1973, not long after the coup, he was a lieutenant in Arica, the assistant to a colonel. In that capacity, he was given a two year old, Ernesto Lejderman, to take to nuns. The child eventually ended up in Argentina and was raised by his grandparents (his father was Argentine and his mother was Mexican).* Their parents, his superiors told him, were subversives who committed suicide rather than accept arrest. Cheyre says he believed that for a long time, but now knows he was lied to.

Lejderman grew up in Argentina and was told his parents died in a car crash. He later learned otherwise. The soldiers involved were given a few years in prison, but not until 2009. The bottom line, though, is that his parents were murdered, the Chilean army knew it very well, and no one said anything.

Now this is in the spotlight. The two even went on a TV show together. And it will now hover over everything Cheyre does from now on.

The past hovers over Chile too, no matter how many other advances it makes.

* given how many Argentine children of murdered leftists were given up for adoption, especially to military families, I am curious about why this did not happen in Chile, or at least in this case. Lejderman actually ended up with relatives.


Monday, August 26, 2013

FARC Talks and Illicit Drugs

You may not be aware that the FARC has an English-language website dedicated to telling its side of the story and publishing info about its talks with the government, currently taking place in Havana. It is a pretty slick site, and it seems they make a concerted effort to come across as moderate (or as moderate as you can be under the circumstances!). It even references it on Twitter at @FARC_EPeace

Today's "Joint Communiqué #22" focuses on illicit drugs, in which the FARC has been deeply involved without admitting it. Anyway, the two sides agreed to the following three points:

1. Illicit crop substitution programs. Integral development plans with participation of the communities in the design, execution and evaluation of the programs of substitution and environmental recovery of the areas affected by illicit crops.
2. Prevention programs of consumption and public health.
3. Solution to the phenomenon of production, consumption of narcotics.

I know that sensitive talks like this must tread lightly and stay vague, but my first impression was that this didn't sound too different from U.S. policy, especially since they don't seem to rule anything out from the "solution" of #3.

Point #1 is interesting because I have never read about much more than spotty and inconsistent success with crop substitution. However, if local populations are involved in the discussion--and not forced to accept certain crops--and the FARC, not to mention right-wing militia, stops harassing people then maybe it can work better. In this case, the FTA with the United States should come in handy.


Political Science Job Market

Inside Higher Ed has a look at the political science job market, and paints a fairly optimistic picture.

the job market continues to show signs of recovery from the economic downturn -- and some subfields appear quite healthy.

I would hesitate before saying so. What I tend to see in the numbers is the "new normal" of non-tenure track positions replacing assistant professor lines. The "all positions" category is close to where it was in 2008-2009.

Job Openings in Political Science

Year All Positions Assistant Professor Positions
2008-9 1,311 619
2009-10 1,080 445
2010-11 1,245 537
2011-12 1,376 586
2012-13 1,273 531

It seems like 2011-2012 was a blip. But in general universities around the country are seeing more adjuncts and fewer tenure track positions. This is bad for students, but state legislatures generally seem uninterested in addressing it.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Venezuela Mirroring U.S. Middle East Policy

Like his predecessor, Nicolás Maduro is showing solidarity with the Syrian government, blaming the United States for the violence there. It becomes a weird mirror image of U.S. policy. Whatever the U.S. supports, Venezuela opposes, and vice versa. One problem, though, is that U.S. policy in the Middle East is very inconsistent, and therefore is Venezuela's:

El primer mandatario venezolano aseveró que las fuerzas imperialistas "temen al pueblo árabe y el pueblo islámico, porque cuando ese pueblo organice una rebelión popular y se ponga de pie, ese día nos encontraremos América Latina, el pueblo islámico, el pueblo árabe y haremos otro mundo, haremos la revolución mundial".

So Maduro believes the U.S. fears the Middle Eastern "pueblo" while simultaneously denouncing that pueblo as it overthrows (or tries to overthrow) governments in Syria and Libya. Obama denounced that pueblo as it fought in Egypt, while Chávez applauded it. If the Iranian pueblo rises up, you know what Maduro will say.

Neither government cares much about those people no matter what they claim. Both care about their own interests, which means supporting friendly governments and opposing those that are unfriendly. Both are deeply hypocritical.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lake Norman YMCA Triathlon

I did the Lake Norman YMCA Triathlon this morning. The weather was great--sunny and not very hot--but for some reason I was slower than last year. That's a bummer, but I actually felt good and enjoyed it.

Anyway, it is a great race for novices like me. The lake is warm and easy to swim in, it is hilly but not crazy, and the distances are very doable. When you look around, there are obviously people in greatly varying condition, but the vibe is really positive.

Just two downsides. One is that you ride on pretty narrow roads, and cars are unforgiving. I was riding not far behind another guy when we got buzzed by a car as the driver laid into his horn. Although there has been progress, unfortunately Charlotte (or I guess even Davidson, which actually has a lot of people on bikes) is not a great place for pedestrians or bicycles.

The other was that when I finished, they had run out of water. When I asked about it, the woman at the finish asked me back if maybe I was just too slow or had taken the scenic route. Thanks.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obama and Higher Ed Privatization

On the exact same day, UNC system president Tom Ross sent out a budget memo and President Obama announced a policy for higher education.

From Ross:

For 2013-14, permanent funding reductions assigned to the UNC system total $115 million, or about 4.5% of our base operating budget.

From Obama:

“The bottom line is this: We’ve got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt,” 

The fact that Obama blames universities for increased student costs is frustrating. As I've written before, we've been cutting costs for a long time, but there is only so much you can do if you want to maintain quality. If state legislatures refuse to pay, then you get creeping privatization, i.e. students paying more.

As a parent of young children, I know the same is happening at the K-12 level. At public schools you are constantly asked for supplies and money, sometimes in large quantities, and far more than was requested when I was that age. If the schools are not given adequate budgets, then they begin de facto privatization.

If you approve of privatization, fine, but don't blame the schools for it.


Leakers and "Terrorists" in Latin America

The head of intelligence in Ecuador has asked the legislature to enact new laws criminalizing the leaking of classified information. Of course, Ecuador is letting Julian Assange stay in its British embassy for...the leaking of classified information. Let the irony begin.

Along these lines, Mark Weisbrot wrote an op-ed in the Guardian saying that Europe should take a page from Latin America's foreign policy book and remain independent from the United States. I am very sympathetic to his argument, as the treatment of both Evo Morales and David Miranda is sickening (though the idea that Europe hasn't had an independent foreign policy in 70 years forgets the reaction to the second Iraq War). But I feel like this really misses the essential point, which is that we need to universally condemn governments' uses of secrecy and terrorism laws (Miranda was held in Britain by a terrorism law) to go after people it just doesn't like.

The Chilean case is probably the most widely reported, as center-left governments (and now a center-right one) use Pinochet terrorism laws to persecute Mapuche. That's much more important to emphasize than whether Chile issues a statement in support of Edward Snowden or Evo Morales.

Indeed, what I would like to see is a study of all such laws around Latin America. How do relatively new and pretty broad terrorism laws in Venezuela get implemented? Anti-terrorism legislation in Honduras is also broad. There are concerns about a similar proposed law in Mexico. These laws are sprinkled around everywhere. Unfortunately, contra Weisbrot, they represent not independence from the U.S. but rather going along with it (or maybe even copying it).

That's a much more important story.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Effects of Blocking Immigration Reform

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post makes a point similar to one I've written about before regarding the short versus long-term electoral consequences of Republicans blocking immigration reform. The basic argument is that there probably won't be much effect in 2014 because there are too few congressional districts where there is a large enough Latino population to tip the scales. When it comes to a presidential election in 2016, though, the scenario is quite different.

The insularity of districts, often due to gerrymandering, is something I've been thinking about with regard to political dynamics at the state level. In many urban areas of North Carolina, such as in Charlotte, Latinos are dispersed in suburbia--they are neither concentrated in an enclave nor in an area with a high number of African Americans. Gerrymandered districts aimed at grouping African Americans into a single district and leaving others more white will therefore be affected over the long term. In other words, supposedly "safe" Republican districts will eventually see more Latino voters, who at least for now go very solidly Democratic.

That political effect is very long term because real change in those districts will require a) years for young citizen Latinos to become voters (and even amnesty programs currently being debated would take many years for citizenship); and b) more eligible Latino voters to actually vote.

But politicians mostly think short term, and in 2014 there won't be much of a problem. If you don't care about losing elections in the future, then you can vote against immigration reform without worrying about it.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Predicting the Latino Population

An article at Nebraska's NPR site cites a report predicting that the state's Latino population will triple by 2050. I clicked on the link for the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs but couldn't find the report.

Predicting is a very tricky business. I am giving a presentation next month at the Conference Series on Aging in the Americas in Austin, a work with my dad examining the implications of Latino aging in the South. Having some fun with numbers, we look at the 2010 census data, then make two projections for each southern state in 2040: a low one where the Latino population grows at the same rate as the non-Latino one did in 2000-2010, and a high one where it keeps growing at the same pace it did in 2000-2010.

We know, of course, that the answer will likely be somewhere in between but the comparisons are illustrative and in some cases show how much the Latino population will grow even in the low scenario. But where in the middle will it be? Back to the article:

The predicted growth of Nebraska’s Hispanic/Latino population is just that, a prediction. Experts say there are unknowns that could change the numbers, like the impact of potential immigration reform policy. But after Nebraska’s Hispanic/Latino population increased by 77 percent in the last decade, few doubt more growth is in the future.

Yes. As Donald Rumsfeld once said:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

There are many unknowns. As a result, we need to be quite careful about specific predictions, and think of them more as projections that can intelligently inform policy.

h/t Roque Planas on Twitter


Monday, August 19, 2013

Venezuela Conspiracy Theories

If you haven't already, I recommend you check out Hugo Pérez Hernáiz's blog Venezuela Conspiracy Theory Monitor. He is a sociology professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and also contributes to the Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog.

It's fascinating stuff. In Venezuelan politics a recurring theme is for José Vicente Rangel to announce how there will be an attempt on President Maduro's life, say he has proof, offer no proof, then have other government officials repeat the claim. This seems to go on more or less endlessly.

But there are also various claims that the CIA planted Hugo Chávez (!), that the CIA planted Edward Snowden, and lots of references to fascists.


Academic Fear Is Good For Business

There is nothing like fear to boost business. As we've pulled out of wars, defense contractors have naturally looked to make the U.S.-Mexico border a war zone. Now they're heading to college campuses.

When University of Maryland at Eastern Shore faculty return to campus this fall, they’ll find a new tool in their teaching arsenal. Each classroom will be equipped with a new whiteboard, measuring 18 by 20 inches and weighing a little less than four pounds. They come in snazzy colors like pink, blue and green. 
Oh, and they’re bulletproof. Couldn’t hurt, right? 
It's a potentially life-saving tool, a last line of defense in the event of an active shooter situation, and that was basically the thinking behind President Juliette B. Bell’s decision to spend $598,000 on the whiteboards/shields.

This floored me, not only for the sheer stupidity (what the hell are you really going to do with that??) but also for the cost. Public universities are badly squeezed these days, and $600K goes a long way.

Random acts of gun violence on campus are very scary, almost impossible to prevent but--most importantly--extremely rare. It is so tempting, so tempting, to do "something" so that we can tell each other we're safer even though that is a lie. If there is something to do, it is to make sure our campus police are trained to respond effectively to these very uncommon events.

What we also need to do collectively is to resist the fear that is pushing these sorts of initiatives. We're being manipulated by businesses that peddle fear:

But security experts, while not speaking directly to the viability or potential effectiveness of the whiteboards, suggested it’s wise to think big.

That says it all. It doesn't matter whether these things work or not. Be afraid, and we'll explain how to spend money to be less afraid. Campus administrators are fearful that if something happens then they will be blamed if they had rejected the whiteboards. So buy the whiteboards. Of course, that company will come back with something else later, and fear will make you buy that too.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Conference Networking in Political Science

There has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about networking in political science, prompted by the fact that a) the American Political Science Association meeting is coming up; and b) there was a controversial post about networking at the Duck of Minerva blog (see here for links).

More and more, I am discovering that I dislike suggested rules for academia. There are countless posts with such recommendations, but I find that very often I think they're not very good and at least in my case would be counterproductive. So it's better to recognize that it may well be a good idea to ignore them entirely.

In this particular case, if I viewed conferences primarily in networking terms, then I would dread them. I do not want to hang out in the hotel bar and find people to buy drinks for, buttonhole people, or otherwise grab onto other professors who might someday remember my name in some manner that benefits me. I don't care if they're old, young, famous, obscure, or anything else. At conferences I've had drinks, coffee, lunch, dinner, whatever with plenty of people, but always in ways that seemed natural to me.

For graduate students and new assistant professors (to whom, I assume, all these advice posts are aimed) these bits of advice may well not be useful at all. Do what you feel comfortable with and feels right for you and your own circumstances.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Race in Mexico

For many years, the Mexican government proclaimed that the country was color-blind, unaffected by the problems of race commonly seen in the United States. The Mexican revolution, after all, empowered both mestizos and indios.

Yet sometimes the racism is open. A Mexican blogger posted a picture of a casting call for Aeroméxico, which explicitly said "no dark-skinned people." When called on it--via the power of Twitter--the company apologized for offending anyone, assuredly just figuring they would weed out the dark-skinned people on the spot rather than get them to self-select out prior.

In the article, Julio Ricardo Varela writes:

This whole story is the perfect example of the bigger issue: how light skin will always be better than dark skin when it comes to advertising and mass media. @plauqeta’s tweet has re-opened the dialogue as to why such an embedded cultural and social construct continues to exist in Latin America, as well as in U.S. Latino communities.

Whites comprise only about 9% of the population, but dominate media images. Viva la revolución!


Friday, August 16, 2013


The Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling on Congress to pass immigration reform by the end of the year, but not with a path to citizenship.

The measure puts the core of the Republican Party at odds with the Senate Gang of Eight legislation that passed with the support of a broad array of Republicans, and was spearheaded by lawmakers including Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. John McCain. President Barack Obama has said that any immigration reform bill must include a path to citizenship.
This is one of the stickiest points of immigration reform. From a political standpoint, some Republicans do not like the path to citizenship because they are concerned that a) new citizens will vote Democratic; and b) they are rewarding lawbreaking. The latter point gets murky because granting work permits technically rewards lawbreaking since you are not punishing those currently in the country illegally.

But the party is split, and badly--just think about how immigration was framed during the 2012 Republican primaries and even into the campaign. It is rare to see such a policy shift happen so quickly.

Starting next week (!) I am teaching a course on the Politics of Latino Immigration, and so we will have no shortage of connections to current events.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ecuador and Egypt

Ecuador recalled its ambassador from Egypt in response to the military crackdown on protesters. That prompted me to see if any other Latin American country had done the same. The answer seems to be no.

This is interesting for a variety of reasons. I've criticized the many pundit attempts to proclaim that Rafael Correa (or anyone for that matter) is trying to be the next "leftist" leader of Latin America, and this seems to confirm that. Correa decided to make this move, but has kept quiet about it. There is just a short statement at the website of the Ministero de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana. If Correa really wanted to take on the mantle as regional leader, presumably he would be sure to make a bigger splash.

At the same time, though, I wonder whether this will set a precedent for other countries. It is an easy but symbolic way of expressing displeasure with military coups and, depending on the country, to show foreign policy independence from the United States.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trade and Latin American Attitudes Toward the U.S.

Andy Baker and David Cupery, "Anti-Americanism in Latin America: Economic Exchange, Foreign Policy Legacies, and Mass Attitudes Toward the Colossus of the North." Latin American Research Review 48, 2 (2013): 106-130.

Abstract (yes, sadly gated):

Do Latin American citizens admire the United States for its material wealth and the opportunities this creates for them, or do they revile the United States because of the military and economic threat it has historically posed? Both narratives have a strong presence in Latin American societies, and much scholarship on mass anti-Americanism in the region portrays the dominant narrative as one of the United States as threat. In this article, we consult surveys from contemporary Latin America and find that various forms of ongoing economic exchange with the United States—trade, aid, migration, and remittances—are the primary influence on mass perception of the northern hegemon and actually promote goodwill, rather than bitterness, toward the United States. Moreover, we demonstrate that the most powerful channel through which economic exchange does so is consumption: inflows of US imports boost pro-American sentiment more than do other forms of exchange. In contrast, the legacy of US imperialism has little resonance in mass beliefs about the colossus of the north.

This study goes along nicely with the recent Pew Hispanic Study talking about the positive image of the United States in Latin America. There's a lot of well-grounded but counterintuitive and counter-CW points as well. For example, countries closer to the United States view it more favorably (as opposed to focusing on past intervention). Baker and Cupery argue this makes sense when viewed in economic terms: transaction costs are lower, trade is there higher, and that in turn leads to goodwill. I pluck this graph from their study:

They are careful to say this doesn't mean excusing past U.S. aggression or anything else, but rather there is empirical evidence to suggest Latin Americans view the United States more favorably than generally portrayed.
They have several concluding points, and this one especially struck me:

observers have focused on rather grandiose causes of anti-Americanism (e.g., imperialism, religiosity, economic exploitation, cultural hegemony) and equally grandiose manifestations of it (e.g., terrorism, mass protests, consumer boycotts, and elite rhetoric such as Hugo Chávez’s colorful criticisms of US presidents). Yet it is also time to recognize that Latin American beliefs about the colossus of the north are shaped far more by mundane, daily instances of economic exchange, and these continually unfolding events lead Latin Americans to, on balance, appreciate their northern neighbor.

We do focus too much on the grandiose. There is a lot of positive lower-level activity going on all the time, often even with countries whose presidents are publicly criticizing the United States for domestic audiences. That lower profile activity builds bridges but is less exciting and doesn't seem newsworthy.


John Kerry in Latin America

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro quoted me in her NPR story on John Kerry visit to Latin America. The point I made, which I've done numerous times in blog posts, was that a lack of grand strategy is probably a good thing. We shouldn't keep demanding that the Obama administration shift its attention to Latin America by doing something big and bold, because those often don't turn out well for Latin America (and, indeed, not for the United States either). Latin Americans are looking for Latin American solutions to Latin American problems, and that is a good thing.


Project MUSE Fail

I was psyched when I heard that our library would get a lot of eBooks through Project MUSE. I wasn't sure how the details would work--such as how to do lending--but I figured I could easily download books onto my iPad and have instant access to them.

I spent some time messing with it yesterday, though, and unfortunately the endeavor seems stuck in a middle ground between "eBook" and "file." You have no option for downloading the book. Instead, every chapter and section of the book (TOC, index, etc.) are separate PDF files. To have a "book" you would need to create a folder and stick all these files into it. All your bookmarks, notes, highlights, etc. are therefore scattered all over the place and hard to find.

Here is Project MUSE's FAQ on the topic:

Q. Why must I download a book chapter by chapter?

MUSE collaborated with the participating publishers in UPCC to bring thousands of university press books to the MUSE platform. In consideration of publisher concerns about their intellectual property, MUSE agreed to offer books in chapter-level PDFs. MUSE also wanted to accommodate institutions in areas with low bandwidth where the smaller chapter file would be easier to download.

So the basic point is that if we make the book cumbersome and hard to organize, then you won't be able to pass it on to someone else. It will also make it very hard to use, but that doesn't seem to be the concern.

You might think I am looking a gift horse in the mouth--this is still quick access to a lot of books. However, it could be easy to envision libraries not ordering paper copies of books at all if this cumbersome PDF version is available. That would leave the reader worse off than before.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Intimidators in August

There is nothing quite like minor league baseball in the summer. Last night we went to see the Kannapolis Intimidators, single A team of the White Sox. It was a hot (90 degrees or so when we arrived) late afternoon game against the Delmarva Shorebirds.

You never know what might happen at a game. For example, out of nowhere they started throwing bags of peanuts, including one almost directly at my head. They went very nicely with cold beer.

And minor league games are great for kids because there is so much to do. The Intimidators let kids run the bases after Sunday games. My youngest daughter is the one in pink halfway between first and second.

Next year the Charlotte Knights (AAA for the White Sox) will start playing downtown, rather than over the border in South Carolina, which is really far from us. We'll then get to the Knights too, but Kannapolis is always such a great place to see a game.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Coffee Reserve in Venezuela

You know your shortage problem is bad when the government feels obligated to report that its coffee reserve is now at five months. I can't recall any government doing so, and the magic of Google isn't bringing anything up either. The government already had to import toilet paper, and now for some reason decided to needed to head off concerns about coffee.

Usually you hear about reserves of dollars or gold. On the latter point, the government would prefer to keep more quiet because Hugo Chávez bought up a lot of gold, the price of which is now falling.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Conflict Resolution in Latin America

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua was talking about regional stability in Latin America. He attributed it to regional organizations, focusing of course on the ones Venezuela likes:

Asimismo, acotó que el continente cuenta con instrumentos para conservar la paz y la estabilidad tales como la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (Unasur), la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Celac) y el Mercado Común del Sur (Mercosur) con los que se pueden aplicar “métodos de resolución pacífica de conflictos”.

I was just writing about the lack of wars in Latin America, and how to explain them. Jaua's reasoning is logical but empirically makes me wonder. What conflicts have UNASUR, CELAC, and MERCOSUR helped to resolve?

At least as far as I know, they have not contributed to resolving some of the more serious disputes, e.g.Chile-Peru, Chile-Bolivia, Colombia-Ecuador, Colombia-Venezuela, or Argentina-Uruguay.

It could be true that a proliferation of international organizations like these fosters cooperation before conflict can ever surface, such as through defense transparency. On the other hand, there was regional stability even when those new institutions did not exist.

I'd like to see an analysis of how 21st century disputes have been resolved once they have already surfaced, and what conclusions we can take from that with regard to international institutions, the role of the United States, and the effectiveness of bilateral vs. multilateral negotiations.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Blacklisting Bolivia

In September 2012 the Obama administration kept Bolivia on its "black list" of countries that had "failed demonstrably" to fight drugs. That was the fourth year in a row it had done so.

Fast forward to now, as the United Nations announced that for the second year in a row, coca cultivation had dropped (down 7% from a year ago). In other words, the Obama administration is clueless, trapped in the mindset that countries must be failing if their efforts are not being directed from Washington.

In a sense, there is too much focus on the legalization controversy. Instead, we all should be talking more about exactly how existing strategies work. Evo Morales employed a combination of dialogue with the rural population and eradication. The U.S. strategy, meanwhile, is much more militarized and generates a lot of local resentment.

Regardless, right now the Obama administration could do a lot for its image by admitting that the Bolivian strategy is working even though its support comes from Brazil, not the United States. Thank Evo Morales for his successes, and acknowledge that solutions come in many different forms, tailored to national and local contexts.

That, we can all agree, is not what you'd call likely, though if I go outside and see any pigs flying I will let you know.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Bachelet Government book offer

If you want to know more about Michelle Bachelet and Chilean politics, you can buy our book for $25. That is actually an affordable price for academic hardback. Discount code below.


Gap Between Public and Congress on Immigration?

The Monkey Cage has a guest post by Gyung-Ho Jeong, based on his recent article explaining the gap between public opinion and immigration reforms in Congress.

According to Gallup polls, less than a quarter of the American public supports expansive immigration policies, while more than three quarters of people prefer the status quo or more restrictive policies. However, as illustrated by the past legislation (and recent debates) over the legalization of undocumented immigrants and increased level of legal immigration, immigration reforms tend to produce legislative outcomes that are not consistent with public opinion. Why?

He argues the following:

my overall conclusion is that the seeming gap between public opinion and legislative outcomes cannot be completely explained by the dominance of pro-immigration interest groups. Rather, immigration legislation should be understood as a result of multidimensional negotiations in Congress—with both public opinion and interest groups having an influence on legislators.

But here's the thing. I don't think such a gap exists. The Gallup poll he links to shows overwhelming support for both a guest worker program and amnesty of some sort, which are the two most controversial--for a very vocal minority--parts of reform. Over the years I've cited tons of polls showing the same (here is a recent post) even for Republicans, who are typically framed as opposed to reform.

The problem here is interpreting polls. People will often say they do not want to let more people into the country. However, they are amenable to individual policies that will do just that. In other words, one question about whether you want the level of immigration to increase is not necessarily indicative of opposition to immigration reform. Further, support for amnesty does not mean letting more people in, but rather letting people already here stay.

In my opinion, and I've expressed it here in various way as well, the opposite is the case. The gap is not between a reluctant public and a centrist Congress, but rather a willing public and a Congress fearful of what many members see as a powerful minority.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Challenges for Bachelet

My edited book with Silvia Borzutzky on the Bachelet government was published in 2010 by University Press of Florida. With this election year in Chile, we think the book is quite relevant and so UPF kindly agreed to let us do a guest post at their blog talking some lessons it offers. It is only in expensive hardback so we are trying to convince them to put it out more cheaply in paperback or ebook form. Do me a favor and click!


Latin America and Rouhani

Rebecca Lullo at the Council for Hemispheric Affairs has what I think is a solid take on the future of Iranian-Latin American relations.

Rouhani’s election will likely cause Iranian-Latin American relations to again change course, as he appears more interested in increasing constructive engagement with Washington than further solidifying Iran’s alliances with the United States’ southern neighbors.

In short, dealing effectively with the United States is more important to Iran than deepening ties in Latin America, which of course the U.S. government is sensitive about. Hassan Rouhani would have to make a concerted effort to make the same personal connections that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and at this point it's not likely he will. On the other hand, if the U.S. pushes him away, then like Ahmadinejad he will have reason to find allies.

And here is an interesting tidbit I didn't know.

Symbolic of the changing nature of Iran’s relationship with the hemisphere, no Latin American head of state attended Rouhani’s inauguration, even though all were invited by the Iranian government. 

Clicking on the link for that bit of news (Radio Free Europe), though, we see that it seems Bolivia and Venezuela will send someone, just not their president:

Iranian allies Belarus, Venezuela, and Bolivia have yet to announce whom they will send.

But did any Latin American head of state attend one of Ahmadinejad's inaugurations? I remember that he came to various ALBA inaugurations, not the other way around. So this isn't necessarily a sign of change. But the overall logic makes sense.

Nonetheless, we are seeing more pressure to identify Iran as a major threat in Latin America, so even if Rouhani pulls back to some degree, expect lots of hot air.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Border Madness

This article by Todd Miller is worth reading: the existence of a Border Security Expo (this year was the 7th annual) with all kinds of expensive gadgets tells you that the immigration debate has descended into pure madness.

Here is the basic outline. The government goes to war and spies on its own citizens for years, then introduces those technologies to the border. In the process, it milks American taxpayers for billions, with incredible amounts going into the pockets of big defense contractors. Add privatized prisons to the mix. You end up with what he calls a "military-industrial-immigration" complex.

We need to ask ourselves what this is achieving. If you think it is making you safer, then you need to think again.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Garcia-Roza's Blackout

Last month I read Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza's The Silence of the Rain and wrote that it was nicely written but with a terrible ending. I decided to give the second book in the series, Blackout, a shot. And there was a similar problem (though the ending was just very mediocre rather than terrible). It is the story of a homeless man murdered in a wealthy and steep Rio cul-de-sac.

You've got this great writing and wonderfully clear images of Rio de Janeiro. Chief Inspector Espinosa is something like Columbo--not flashy, a bit rumpled, dogged, and always with one more question. Garcia-Roza's Espinosa mysteries are also like the Columbo show because he reveals things about the crime(s). The problem is that you end up pretty much knowing who is the murderer. Audiences accept that with Columbo because they like watching how cleverly he figures things out. But that doesn't really happen with Espinosa. There's good tension but then it falls flat with events that just aren't likely and unsatisfying logic.


Friday, August 02, 2013

Anarchy and War in South America

Ahsan I. Butt, "Anarchy and Hierarchy in International Relations: Examining South America's War-Prone Decade, 1932-1941." International Organization 67, 3 (July 2013): 575-607.


This article questions the validity of anarchy as an assumption in International Relations theory. Powerful states often provide public goods to smaller states in return for their acquiescence on matters of interest. This transactional provision of public goods is analogous to how central governments behave in domestic environments; thus the hierarchic structure of domestic politics is replicated in international politics. The anarchy-hierarchy distinction, which rests on a neat separation of international and domestic structures, is therefore highly contentious. One public good that great powers provide, largely ignored by the literature on hierarchy, is justice. Powerful states can provide a forum for aggrieved parties to settle their disputes, and thus contain conflicts before they escalate to war. If such a forum is no longer provided, the system reverts to anarchy, where escalation—and therefore, war—is more likely. South America's war-prone decade can be explained by the variation in structural conditions on the continent. Due to the Depression, its Good Neighbor policy, and the onset of World War II, the United States was less interested in South American affairs in the 1930s, resulting in a more anarchic structure and a higher propensity for war.

This is an interesting article, which I am immediately drawn to because it makes extensive use of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, which is a cool resource, and I love the use of historical cases to test theories.

What seems problematic, though, is the application of this argument to the past decade or so. After 9/11 countless people have argued the U.S. has shifted its attention away from Latin America, focusing more on a shadowy War on Terror and the Middle East. Further, since 2008 the United States has been suffering the worst economic crisis since the Depression. The 2001-2013 period thus appears to be very similar to 1932-1941, which means we would expect war.

But beyond the Colombia bombing over its border with Ecuador to strike at the FARC, which was aggressive but one-time and aimed at a non-state actor, we aren't seeing that. In fact, Hugo Chávez and Alvaro Uribe didn't go to war despite rumblings and a deep mutual hatred. Peru is up in arms about its border, but it took the complaint to the International Court of Justice.


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