Sunday, November 13, 2005

Venezuela and its missions

Recently, I have read an Economist article titled “Oil, missions and a chat show” (May 12th 2005) which basically looked at Hugo Chavez’s new twenty-first century socialism. I would post a link but you have to have an online subscription in order to see the article.

Chavez has created missions, which are social programs and worker’s co-ops, in order to realize his idea of the Bolivarian revolution. This means setting up health institutions, creating programs that teach adults how to read, building subsidized state shopping centers, and establishing co operatives that make shirts and what not. The state has also steadily increased its intervention into the market, creating a state owned airline, phone company, and TV channel in addition to the state owned oil monopoly. Politically, Chavez also has essentially expanded his power greatly. The article claims that “Mr Chavez now exercises complete control over all the institutions of the state.”

I am not sure if Chavez’s intentions are good or bad, but it seems like Chavez is going to run Venezuela into an economic disaster. Since the economy and thus the missions are based off of Venezuelan oil, the economy is subject to any sort of price fluctuation in the oil market. A good example of this would be a crude-oil exporting country in Africa which bases its budget on oil revenue, and thus experiences huge fluctuations in its budget due to changing oil prices. Although I am not completely sure about this, my belief is that Venezuela outside of the oil industry does not have much to offer economically, thus they are very vulnerable.I also feel that this huge spending binge on workers co-ops and what not is a waste of money. I highly doubt that they will work in the first place, despite how nice they seem. It would be more beneficial for Chavez to wean his country off of its oil dependency through the development of another industrial sector. All of these social programs would be for nothing anyway if the state runs out of oil money to fund it, so instead of spending tons of money on programs that probably will fail, Chavez should focus on developing a stable domestic economy that can survive independently from Venezuela’s oil revenue. Perhaps Chavez believes that creating these worker’s co-ops would strengthen the domestic economy, but I would assume that these co-ops would lose money and would require state subsidies to survive.

The article also points out the 1970s abysmal failure of General Juan Velasco in Peru who established many co-ops and expanded the state role in the economy. I guess I would assume the same thing would happen in this case too. However, with all of that stuff aside whether or not socialism does or doesn’t work and if Chavez is a dictator and what not, such high spending on the faith on a fluctuating oil revenue to the neglect of strengthening domestic industry will eventually ruin the Venezuelan economy.

Also perhaps on a somewhat related note:

What does anybody (if the Jefe is still moderating or anyone else checks up on this site occasionally--and hopefully they do because then I would feel like less of a nerd) think about direct import substitution? I believe this means that (in the spirit of Gunder Frank's dependency theory) that these economies need to excise themselves from the exploitative international economic structure that only seeks to extract all the wealth/resources from these Latin American countries. As a result they tried to subtitute imports with their own domestic industry to become independent. The context I heard it in seemed to suggest that this was bad. To the extreme, I suppose it is pretty bad. A single economy can't possibly produce all of the goods that they import. However, I do think that Gunder Frank's dependency theory has a lot of merit (although it may be a little defeatist) and at least some import substitution needs to happen, at least in critical industries. I mean, US steel is artificially propped up by the US government, isn't it? Hardly anyone is more vocal about free markets than the US. So the same can apply to these countries too. Or perhaps I am misinformed (which is entirely possible).

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thomas Shannon: State's New Latin American Affairs Chief

Andres Oppenheimer introduces the Bush Administration's new chief of the U.S. Government's Latin American policy thus:
Thomas A. Shannon, President Bush's pick to become the head of the State Department's Latin American affairs office, is a low-profile career officer who is likely to conduct a less strident U.S. foreign policy in the region. But, from what some Republicans say, he may speak softly and carry a big stick.

Shannon, whose current job is White House chief advisor on Latin American affairs, was nominated this week to replace Ambassador Roger F. Noriega -- a political appointee -- as assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs.

''We are likely to see a change in style, in favor of greater moderation, multilateralism and quiet diplomacy,'' says Michael Shifter, a Latin American expert with the Inter-American Dialogue, a middle-of-the-road Washington, D.C., think tank. ``He understands the need for a different style to be effective.''
As a student of Latin American International Relations and US-LA Relations, I think Shannon's appointment is a much better and more pragmatic choice to take on this job than either of his two predecessors (Roger Noriega and Otto Reich). Shannon, as a career State Department officer, will understand the nuances of the Latin American reality much better and will certainly be much less ideologically-driven in his approach to the region. Noriega and Reich seemed to have difficulty getting "unstuck" from pre-Cold War mentalities that defined US-Latin American relations. This should not be the case for Shannon.

To the extent that Shannon can keep Bush and the higher ranking foreign policy politicos of his Administration from meddling in his work, I think he could do a decent job in repairing relations and advancing positive connections with the region. But I have to say that the current Rumsfeld tour of Latin America bodes ill for this possibility.

Good luck, Shannon. You're most certainly going to need it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TeleBush vs TeleChavez

Rep. Connie Mack (R) of Florida has proposed that the U.S. Government create and fund a state-sponsored TV broadcast (similar to TV Marti) to counter Venezuela's TeleSur Network, which was funded and sponsored by the Venezuealn government as a pro-Chavez network in that country. Is this a good idea? Andres Oppenheimer thinks not. Already, the global press is cynically referring to this initiative proposed by Mack as TeleBush, with the not-so-far-fetched notion that this broadcast will be nothing more than a U.S. Bush Administration propaganda machine against Chavez. Furthermore, why would the U.S. want to do this in a country where press freedom and alternative TV networks are still functional? Personally, I think it is a boneheaded move strategically, and will only strengthen Chavez in power and confirm the already-embraced idea of the U.S. as the bully of the Western Hemipshere.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

CAFTA is approved

I generally recognize the potential benefits of free trade policies. However, I am also of the opinion that unregulated free trade does not necessarily improve the quality of all lives, even if it increases overall wealth. I guess you might call me more of a "fair" free trader -- someone who wants more open markets and understands the benefits that can be gained by creating more open markets, but who also wants the benefits to be spread out evenly and fairly among all involved.

That said, I am not at all convinced that CAFTA, in its current formulation, is structured to bring benefits to all affected parties.

The fact that the CAFTA as currently formulated is opposed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, as well as by the Central American Catholic Bishops, is enough to give me pause. Free trade without justice is not worthy of support; and how can justice be present if workers have been excluded from the crafting of the CAFTA.

My two cents. I'd love to hear yours.

Are the PRI Dinosaurs Making a Comeback in Mexico?

Andres Oppenheimer is hinting maybe so. As a student of Mexican Politics for a long time now, I've often wondered if the Fox victory was part of a long-term political strategy by the PRI to shed its image as an anti-democratic Party but to create the conditions for its return to power without really substantively changing the way the machine operates. I've also been of the opinion that the true test of whether democracy has finally arrived in Mexico will take place in the wake of the 2006 presidential elections, especially if the PAN loses control of the Presidency, as it seems poised to do. Will the post-Fox Mexican political system return revert back to its PRI-dominated authoritarian past? Or will it turn into a PRD-style authoritarianism? In either case, will Mexicans prefer the certainty and security of authoritarianism or the continuation of democratic gridlock and uncertainty? We shall see.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Steak n Shake

I work at this illustrious fast food joint called Steak n Shake, holding the coveted position of drive-thru operator. Anyway, I usually get pretty crappy hours, working usually at nights and through the night, and I was talking to one of my co workers who mentioned that it used to be only him working through the whole store. He mentioned the fact that there used to be two Latin American guys; however, they got in trouble with the law and were deported back to their respective countries. I heard some other things about it, and I think what happened was that they were illegal immigrants. They were caught speeding or something minor like that, and they were sent back.

I know that this is probably a pretty common story, but I found it a little strange. First of all, I don't see how they could fill out all that documentation for taxes and what not without some sort of green card, and I don't see how Steak n Shake could have hired them if they had no documents. Also secondly, I was surprised at how perilous an illegal immigrants position is in America. I mean, they were sent back, probably losing thousands of dollars to get here, over something as minor as a traffic ticket.

EDIT: This is also on the subject of illegal immigrants. It is written by a surprisingly extensively read blogger (I guess if you could call it that) who calls himself Maddox. He is caustic, irreverent, and offensive, but he is definitely interesting. One thing is for sure, he always has an interesting, if sometimes conflicting perspective on just about everything. Anyway, he wrote a short piece on illegal immigrants that many people have at least read. Here is the link:

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bolivian Rap

I was reading through the New York Times and I found an interesting article that reminded me of a hip hop article we read for my Latin American Studies class.

The article speaks of the indigenous people of El Alto, Bolivia where a burgeoning rap culture with a political message has been slowly growing. They criticize the injustice of the rocky political history of Bolivia in an attempt to inspire revolution and change within their country. It is especially interesting in this area because the rap culture (baggy clothes and what not) contrasts sharply with the traditional indian dress of the indigenous people.

Here is the article:

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Fernando Botero and Abu Ghraib

One of Latin America's most prominent, living visual artists, Colombian Fernando Botero, has produced a series of arresting, graphic portraits of the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib. The New York Times has published an article on this new work by Botero. Here's one example of Botero's Abu Ghraib portraits:

[Click here for an enlarged image of this portrait.]

The fact that Botero has considered himself to be an admirer of the United States drives the point home even more of how this torture scandal has damaged the reputation of the United States abroad. It amazes me how oblivious the U.S. public is to the rotten image that our country has crafted for itself across the globe because of the Iraq War and all its attendant nastiness.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot

Click here for a link at to a book titled, "Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot," that offers scathing 'insight' to the "idiotic" methodology of Latin America's leaders and people who, according to the authors, erroneously blame their region's problems on outside sources. If you go to the link you can actually read the first section by clicking on the book logo, and I HIGHLY reccomend doing so.

Overall, while I do feel that there are some people that resort to pointing fingers when it comes to Latin America's problems, the authors try to say that the U.S. among other nations and groups has never done any significant damage to Latin America's workings, which is completely false. Even more, just reading the first section, "The Family Portrait," provides more than enough proof that the authors are bitterly biased against Latin Americans...

There's really no point in explaining it all, because it's a few short and interesting pages long. Check it out and see if you agree or disagree.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Ecuador's ousted president finds safety in Brazil

Ecuador's recently ousted president was accepted by Brazil on Sunday, April 24 ... here's the link.

Local Discussion about Hugo Chavez

In today's Times-Picayune there is an article entitled "With Venezuela 'problems' expected: Democracy faces test in Latin America," along with a picture of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The article is about a recent meeting during which, New Orleans' appointed consul to Venezuela asked members of the State Department why the United States does not support the democratic government of Hugo Chavez. The answer was that Chavez has not done anything to "endear" himself to the United States, especially because Chavez's government has close ties to Castro's Cuba. Also cited was a recent announcement that Venezuela plans to purchase 100,000 assault rifles. Tulane's diplomat in residence, Joseph Sullivan, was mentioned in the article in defense of U.S. attitudes towards Chavez for reasons such as Venezuela's recent limitations on freedom of press.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

OAS in Ecuador

The Organization of American States has sent a delegation to Ecuador to investigate why and how ex-Prez Gutierrez was kicked out of office. Gutierrez is saying that the Congressional vote that removed him was illegal. After its investigation the group is expected to make a report to the Permanent Council. Uh-hunh. I'm not sure why the OAS is even bothering to do this since it can't do much more than shake its collective finger. Anyway, here's the article.

Benicio Del Toro

I watched the movie "Sin City" in which Benicio Del Toro plays a bad cop who eventually gets killed. I was interested in finding out more about this actor, who I think in some ways is unappreciated, and found some information at IMDB.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

South American Recipies

The Recipe Source has compiled recipies from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, the Carribean and Peru. Check them out here.

The Environment, Plan Columbia and the U.S.

I thought that this article published in the Macalister Environmental Review (September 25, 2001) was really interesting. The article discusses (among other things) the danger that the herbicide used to erradicate coco plants under Plan Columbia.

The Guyana and Caribbean Political and Cultural Center for Popular Education

Here is a link to a blog-like website that provides a unique forum for conversation on Carribean society sponsored by the Center for Popular Education. I especially liked the post about West Indies Cricket...I had no idea that was a popular sport in the West Indies.

Children Experiencing the Harsh Realities of Colombia

I found this article on, that focused on the children's experience of war in Toribio, Colombia. The article talks about how school has been cancelled for three weeks now because of FARC uprisings. The FARC has bombed homes and buildings in this town, leaving some people dead, which has forced the school to close. What is really sad is that these children are experiencing the realities of war at such a young age and the article cites that some of these children can distinguish between the sounds of a gas cylinder bomb and a mortar round. What is interesting though is that this article talks about bilingual education in this region of Colombia, where both the indigenous language and Spanish are taught at school, and this has attracted many more students to this particular school. However, the article cites that many of the children prefer to speak Spanish rather than their indigenous language and that their parents only force them to take some classes in their indigenous language. I found this to be interesting because we just read that essay by Rodriguez about bilingual education.

Mexico's New Populist

It's beginning to look as though Mexico's current administration is going to have some competition in this next election. While Vicente Fox's election was seen as good for democracy in Mexico, this next election will really show how well democracy is working for our southern neighbor. With Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador a serious contender for the presidential seat, we'll have to see if free and fair elections will continue even if that means Fox will have to concede defeat. And if Obrador wins, will he be committed to democracy or can we expect him to following Hugo Chavez's footsteps and teeter on the edge? It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Click here for a Washington Post article on the subject.

At It Again

The U.S. has been forced, again, to deny Chavez' accusations.

U.S. says: U.S. officials were asked by a woman who was linked to the U.S. military to help her find her purse, which had her ID.

Chavez says: U.S. officials detained a woman who was linked to the U.S. military in Venezuelan territory.

Innocent enough. Chavez could probably send people to talk the situation over with U.S. officials. Together, they could come to learn what happened. Maybe the U.S. could take Venezuelan sensibilities—and sensitive, they are!—into account the next time they bend down to tie their own shoes. This entire situation could have been resolved.

Instead, Chavez took to the pulpit, proclaiming that the U.S. plans to invade the country and topple his government in order to take control of Venezuelan oil refineries. He claims this new evil plot being masterminded by Washington comes as a result of his announcement on Sunday that he is terminating the 35-year military exchange program Venezuela had with the U.S.

I don't suppose Chavez ever heard the story of the boy who cried, "Wolf!"

Monday, April 25, 2005

"The New Wave" in L.A. cinema

I'm sure most people, even if they have not actually watched these movies, are familiar with such breakaway Latin American cinema hits as Y Tu Mama Tambien, City of God, The Motorcycle Diaries, or Amores Perros. This site and article describes this progressive movement called "La Buena Onda" that is successfully distinguishing the Latin American region's films from those of the U.S. and gives brief synopsises of the better movies. I figured this would be especially relevant in light of this week's screening of Mi Familia, though the aforementioned film was made in the USA and not Latin America.

On a side note, albeit a "social justice" and politics-related one, I just saw the Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman movie "The Interpreter" about trouble in the U.N., and it was excellent.

Condoleezza Rice Beings Latin America Tour

Secretary of State Rice begins her tour of Latin America tommorrow, April 26. In her five day tour, Rice will travel to Brazil, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador. The emphasis of the trip is said to be on the failing democratic process in Latin America. This rhetoric is appropriate in the immediate aftermath of the removal of the democratically elected leader of Ecuador. Rice has called failing democracy and poverty the twin challanges facing Latin America. She has futher stated that democracy will help to alleviate poverty. This has not proven to be true in the Latin American context.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ecuador's new government

Here is an article about Ecuador's new government and their new spending.

Mexico City's Mayor Charged

As a followup on one of my previous posts about Mexico City's Mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, being faced with charges of abuse of authority, as of this Wednesday, Mexican prosecutors did in fact files these charges against him. This is the first step towards putting him on trial, and possibly knocking him out of the presidential race in 2006. Authorities also said that they would not seek an arrest warrant after a 2,000 peso bail was posted in advance so Obrador would remain out of jail while the trial proceeded.

For more information, click here for the article.

Latin America rejecting the U.S.?

Sorry for the late post. According the article linked below, the U.S. is rapidly losing its hegemonic power in Latin America. It mainly cites the growing support of antagonist such as Hugo Chavez, the lack of support for those allied with U.S./neoliberal policies (Gutierrez in Ecuador) and the rejection of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. However, the article is from Green Left Weekly is biased to the point of being blind. How many people really believe "Cuba is a beacon of hope for the masses of Latin America"? Cuban soveriegnty from the U.S. is great, but I don't see hope in poverty, corruption and the repression of freedoms.

Click here for referenced article.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The outcome of Gutierrez's presidency

To continue on Ecuador, I came across an interesting article published in today's edition of the Washington Post which retraces the career of Gutierrez as a President. I found this article interesting for it tries to give comments from both sides of the story and does not focus only on the very last moments of his presidency.

Here is the link to the article.

Friday, April 22, 2005

New Pope, new issues?

As we all know, the most attention-grabbing issue of the Roman Catholic Church in the last few weeks has been the death of John Paul II and the voting in of a new Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, or as he is known now, Pope Benedict XVI. Due to the large population of Roman catholics in Latin America, the hope was that the new Pope would be from the region. However, since the choice has been made for Pope Benedict XVI, there is a feeling that a real chance for change has been overlooked. Pope Benedict the XVI is very similar in ideals to John Paul II, which means that he will be a dutyful successor. The problem arises however, in the fact that some feel there are needs for revision in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI represents a continuation of the previous Papacy. This continuation may mean a stability in the catholic church, but could cause a feeling of rejection of adaptation for Catholicism in the twentieth century.

Here is an article referring to this issue.

Following up on Ecuador

In a follow up to Amanda's story on Ecuador, I just read an article that Alfredo Palacio was named as successor to Gutierrez. Palacio is a cardiologist and was vice president under Gutierrez.Today Palacio named his new Cabinet including a left leaning economy minister which hasn't been a very popular choice. He also plans to hold a referendum to refomr the Constitution in the next few months. It is also important to note that neither the US or the OAS recognize his goverment as legitimate yet, a. The Organization of American States has declined to support Palacio's administration until it explains how the change in government meets constitutional standards. Condolezza is quoted as saying that the there need to be early elections which could help diffuse tensions.

Ecuador's President Gutierrez awaits flight to Brazil

After Ecuador's Congress voted unanimously to oust President Gutierrez, thousands of people flooded the streets to show support of the decision. Gutierrez has been in limbo since the decision, trying to avoid angry Ecuadoreans. Most believe that Gutierrez should be held accountable for the crimes he committed during his presidency. Lula has come to his rescue, however, by allowing Gutierrez safe refuge in Brazil. This has only angered Ecuadoreans more. Well, here is the link...

Brazil, Education and Inequality

Reading about Brazil, I was surprised to learn that the country has no national system of education. As a result, the quality of education and how much children learn in school varies tremendously from state to state. Many believe that this "uneven character of education has been a major factor in the maintenance of a society that is profoundly unequal." In high school, my English teacher read to us from "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian activist who was eventually exiled from Brazil by the government. He tried to educate those who were not receiving a fair education, saying "the first step to knowledge is that you must know you do not know." Do any classmates have examples of the inequality in distribution of wealth or standards of living in Brazil?

Chavez and Fear

Once again, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has taken to spouting anti-U.S. rhetoric in order to rile up the common people and shock the North.

His reaction and his speeches are exaggerated responses to what is, put simply, a disagreement between him and President Bush, whom he humourously dubs "Mr. Danger," on two issues: the FTAA and the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

It's possible to disagree without the need to alienate others, but perhaps Chavez never learned this particular skill. As for calling Bush "Mr. Danger," I don't like Bush much either, but that name's not even catchy. Mr. Danger sounds like a comic book character, not like the enemy of the Cuban people who doesn't want [them] to eat, as Chavez puts it.

I realize we can't all get along, but can we at least leave the namecalling at the schoolyard?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Gutierrez removed from offce

Lucio Gutierrez, Ecuador's President has been removed from office today due to "abandonment of the position". The military removed their support to the President and the Congress has placed the Vice-President in charge. There are many details, so check out this report.

New Pope as Seen by Latin Americans

For anyone attuned to the Latin American world, I think we all felt a bit (or a lot) of disappointment at the cardinals' choice for the papacy. I don't know much about him but one would think that in this day and age, the Catholic Church would realize that it's time to get a bit of diversity in there. Even worse for Latin American-Vatican relations is the new pope's history in Latin America as the following excerpt shows (the rest of the article's at the bottom):

"Some Argentines recalled that Ratzinger had disciplined Latin American priests who embraced liberation theology in the 1970s to fight social injustice and military dictatorships. 'This is a triumph for the dogmatic, capitalist right,' said Ruben Dri, a professor of theology at the University of Buenos Aires. "

Hopefully, the new pope will continue John Paul II's legacy and work at bettering the lives of not only Latin Americans but all of the poor and needy especially throughout the developing world.

Click here for details.

Fujimori's Return

Acccording to a recent article in the Al Jazeera, the exiled former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, is planning to return to Peru later this year. Fujimori has been in Japan since 2000, after he fled his 10-year presidency because of corruption charges. Fujimori claims that he is innocent of charges and plans to run in Peru's next presidential election. Peru's current government would like to take the case against Fujimori to the International Court of Justice.

Radio La Luna blamed for unrest in Ecuador

I found this article in the Washington Post, which shows how the government is trying to silence the voice of a particular radio station, Radio La Luna, and blames it for the civil unrest of the last couple of days in Quito, Ecuador. Although some protests have turned violent, last week there were many "innovative" protests that show how truly concerned the people are about the country's status. Some protests, for example, included "el globazo", in which people went out on the streets with balloons and then let them go; or "el tablazo" in which people went out with wooden boxes and made loud noises, etc. The involvement in some of these peaceful demonstrations I think shows a new attempt from the people to get their voices heard. Radio La Luna encouraged protests like these against the present, very unstable, government and emphasized that these should be carried out with no interference whatsoever from politicians (opposing parties, for example), that only the voice of the people should be heard. The director of the station has received several death threats, forcing him to relocate his family away from the capital, claiming that such threats are coming from Lucio Gutierrez's government.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Chavez's Quixotic Rhetoric

There is an article in the BBC today stating that the Venezuelan government has printed one million free copies of Cervantes' masterpiece Don Quixote. President Chavez urged the Venezuelan people to read to book and to "feed ourselves once again with that spirit of a fighter who went out to undo injustices and fix the world".

beauty pagent culture in Venezula

This is probably my most off-topic post and my first delve outside the area of high politics. However, a recent New York Times article, entitled A Bevy of Teeny Beauties, Minds Set on Being Queens, brings up a host of questions on the cultural similarities between Latin America and the United. This article in the Caracas Journal section of the New York Times focuses on the emerging beauty schools for young girls, aged five to ten, in Venezula and comments on the country's obsession with pagents and beauty. My question regards the nature of the cultural transfer. Is this an import from the United States? Is there a western hemisphere cultural element that encourages a focus on appearance? I really don't know and would love to hear with others think.

Ecuador and Globalization: War or Peace?

In a recent article in the New York Times, it was reported that Lucio Guittierrez will not resign despite rampant political criticisms. Guittierrez claims that his opponents are trying to remove him “because of his struggle to create what he called an independent, corruption-free judiciary.” However, international constitutional experts call Guittierrez’s actions an illegal take over of the Supreme Court. Many, from students to housewives are asking for his removal, which in Ecuador wouldn’t be a surprise. In both 1997 and 2000 the leader was forcibly removed from office.

What I found unique about this article was that the attention and criticism the global community was giving to Ecuador’s political crisis shows the extent to which information on the internal state of a country’s affairs in broadcasted globally. With the effective dissemination of information on internal affairs, it seems natural that sovereignty is more likely to be infringed upon. This is contradictory to theorists such as Thomas Friedman (the “golden arches” theory) who seem to see globalization as a means of preventing conflict and war. I would be interested to know other people’s thoughts on the effects of globalization on state relations.

Ton of Cocaine Found in Canned Fish

According to this article there was a ton of cocaine that was found in canned fish confiscated in Peru. This cocaine was believed to be going to the United States.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Pope still affecting LA

Here is another article on how much the pope issues are affect Latin America and their thoughts on it.

"Latin America's Terrible Twos"

I was sitting in the library studying, when I saw a National Review Magazine (April 11, 2005) sitting on a table. On the picture it says "The Axis of Evil....Western Hemisphere version" with a picture of Castro and Chavez on the cover.

Intrigued I opened it up to read about it. I didn't know that the National Review was a super conservative magazine (if it isn't, this article certainly was). What it basically says is that Chavez gives the utmost support to Castro, both of whom are rabidly anti-American. With Chavez's planned military buildup and their ability to push their dangerous leftist Castroite influence to other regions of Latin America. Therefore since these two despotic evil leaders represent a threat and a hindrance on all peace-loving nations in the area, the US must step up and confront these problems else they pay the price later.

The article was more propaganda and inflammatory than it was factual or reasonable. The author, Otto J. Reich, skewed the facts and used cold war rhetoric to inspire fear and hatred towards Venezuela and Cuba more than anything else. I thought it was interesting that he claimed "In South America, a 'dirty war' of left-wing violence in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay had led to an equal and opposite reaction by right-wing military rigeimes. At the hands of both sides, untold thousands were murdered, tortured, or 'disappeard,' under horrible conditions whose consequences are with us to this day." That just isn't true. I don't think the left-wing violence doers had nearly the capacity of the military. Stuff like that just made this article a load of crap to read. I mean this writer is the paternalistic, xenophobic, sovereignty violating sort of guy that needs to take a Latin American Studies 101 course before he serves as the assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere.

Value of Private donations to Latin America from Latino workers in America

This article presents some interesting info about aid to Latin America, namely with respect to the aid sent by Latin American migrants in America to their families below the border. This aid apparently outdoes Japan's aid to the entire region.

The state of emergency in Ecuador

Although the Ecuador President revoked his decision to declare the state of emergency on Saturday, he stuck to his decision to dissolve the Supreme Court. Opposition politicians and protesters have been demanding that the members of the new Supreme Court be removed, calling the appointments unconstitutional.

Click here for details.

Unrest in Latin America

There's a forum on the NYTimes website dealing with unrest inb Latin America. The topic is about the latest shootings in Rio de Janeiro and to what extent these shootings could spur Brazil to increase efforts to crack down on violence and corruption; however, the posts deal with all Latin America. Check it out!

Saturday, April 16, 2005


The President of Ecuador has declared a state of emergency.....

Click here for details.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Chile: Saving For The Future

The financial advisor’s mantra: don’t sacrifice today’s wants for tomorrow’s needs. Wednesday’s class lecture was about Chile, a country that in many ways serves as a paradigm of economic development in Latin America. Over the past 10 years, Chile has had an average GDP growth rate of 6%. Did you know that since 1981, all new members of Chile’s work force are required to contribute 10% of their monthy gross earnings into a private pension fund account (which they own) ? 14 years later, in 1995, 93% of the labor force is enrolled in such accounts. This has increased the domestic savings rate of Chile to 26% of the nation’s GDP! I just thought this was very interesting considering current talks of social security reform in the United States.

Daniel Ortega's Comeback

There was a recent article in the New York Times about Daniel Ortega's fourth bid for the presidency of Nicaragua. The Bush administration is strongly opposed to Ortega for fear that he might align Nicaragua with Venezuela and Cuba to undermine U.S. influence in Latin America. As a result of this fear, the U.S. suspended military aid to Nicaragua last month. Daniel Ortega is an old foe of the U.S. from the Cold War and he is currently running for the presidency under the Sandinista party. If he does win, it will be interesting to see if the U.S. will in fact, continue to lose influence in the region. You can only read the article if you subscribe to the NY Times online, but there is a (somewhat biased) synopsis of the article here.

Roman Catholic population declining in Latin America

The Roman Catholic population used to be around 90% in Latin America (around 50 years ago). Today, however, Christian Evangelical Churches are appealing to millions with the promises of better lives and prestige, and the current Roman Catholic population is around 70%. Latin America contains about half of the billion Roman Catholics around the world, but now, evangelical churches are gaining more and more members, and the Catholic church is losing more and more. A large portion of the people switching churches are the poor, attracted to the promises given by the Christian Evangelical Churches, although expansion is taking the church into wealthier areas. Some think that Catholics, both priests and followers, are losing their enthusiasm and their beliefs. One of the challenges that will face the new Pope will be to try and regain the interest and the religious enthusiasm in Latin America, and try to re-strengthen the population.

Here is an article containing statistics about the two churches in Latin America.

American news about Venezuela

I went to Americas section of The New York Times website today to see what was going on, and two of the headlining stories were about Venezuela. One was about oil and how in the next six months private oil companies must create a joint venture with the government. Its purpose is to generate more income for the government. Right next to that article was another one about Venezuela. It was about how young girls in the country are trying harder and harder at an increasingly younger age to become beauty queens. It is about beauty schools that open their doors to girls as young as 5. Part of the article described Venezuela as having a society in which looks are more important that in other countries. The author explained vanity as being everything. I had no idea that was an issue, but then I realized that contemporary culture is something my Latin American Studies classes have not included very often. I guess it shouldn't seem so strange to me since I live in the United States and very often the headlining stories are about the same- oil and the importance of good looks.

This is the link to both articles. It may not work if you don't have an online membership with The New York Times (which is free by the way)
Americas section

IDB sets growth agenda

The IDB held it's annual meeting and discussed the need to tighten fiscal discipline in Latin America. It also noted that despite economic growth this past year, many Latin Americans are still in the throws of poverty. Here is the link.

The Ecuador saga continues

In the continuing dysfunction that is Ecuador a new twist has been added. Several months ago, President Gutierrez managed to completely stack the Supreme Court in his favor, and it was this new court which dropped the charges against ex-president El Loco Bucaram and allowed him to return from exile. The fallout from the court stacking has caused the Congress to grind to a halt. Now, apparently, El Loco has publicly asked the government to dissolve Congress and declare a state of emergency, saying that it is the only way to end the deadlock, which has stalled several vital economic laws. Gutierrez has denied that he plans to dissolve Congress and is trying to find a compromise on the issue of the Supreme Court. Here's the article.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

War Against Colombian Rebels is Being Won

According to an article on, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said that the war against Colombian rebels is being won, and the pressure exerted against them must persist until victory is final.

This assessment came despite rebel attacks that have killed about 70 Colombian soldiers in the past 3 months, and an attack occurring as recently as last Wednesday.

For more information on the article, click here.

Contraception and the Church

Many people in rural Latin America, where the Church is the most rigid, have begun to leave the Catholic Church. Not because they don't believe in God. Because they disagree with the Church's traditional stance against contraception.

Pope John Paul II's stance against contraceptives such as condoms and birth-control pills have forced many traditional families to have large families. Many already poor families would end up with 12 or more children, all of whom would have to compete for already scarce education and alimentary resources. Many Catholic families hope that things will change with the new pope.

While anyone can understand the importance of tradition to an organized religion, the recognition of basic needs such as contraception for families, especially considering the problems of poverty and AIDS, is imperative if the Church wants to retain any sort of constituency. Abstinence does not resolve all of the problems the Church would like it to, and certainly abstinence within marriage is a ridiculous thing for the Church to expect from its laypeople.

It is important for the Church to appreciate that in places such as the Third World, where overpopulation is a tremendous problem, it must begin to play a much more educative and less restrictive role. Otherwise, a great many Catholics will begin to consider the weakening of the Church not so terrible a thing. If Catholicism wants to survive, it will have to adapt to the problems that exist in the world today.

For more information, see the article this post is based upon on

US influence weakening?

Today's Oppenheimer Report suggests that the OAS stalemate may be portraying a weakening of US influence in the Western hemisphere. I don't necessarily agree, but the column provides an interesting and new point of view, check it out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Colombian Human Rights

UN Says Human Rights in Colombia "Critical"

The UN has issued a report on the human rights situation in Colombia and deemed it very critical. I found it interesting because we were talking about Colombia in another class and about how little media coverage it gets. The report has criticized both the military and the guerillas for its human rights abuses. The current govt of Alvaro Uribe has a very high approval rating, but it also has close ties with the paramilitaries. The popularity of this administration is because of its hard line against the guerilla. The UN also called for the guerillas to cease all activities and lay down arms, as well as let the kidnapped victims go.

the long latin american region

The latest story emerging from the OAS demonstrates the that the geographic ends of the spectrum often represent the political ends of a spectrum.
A New York Times Article, entitled Chilean and Mexican Are Deadlocked for O.A.S. Post, discusses the deadlock in the OAS over the next secretary general. After the resigniation of the ex-president of Coasta Rica over domestic financial charges and the dropping out of the US's El Salvadorian choice, Latin American countries were left to decide between the a secretary general from the northern most country or one from the southern most country. Three votes later and a two hour recess later, thirty-four ambassadors were still deadlocked. This attest to sharp political and ideological divisions between the two ends of the region.

Woops! Forgot to include the link...

Here is the link for the Haiti article.

Police Kill Prominent Haitian Leader...Then What?

In a recent article in New York Times, the Haitian police have killed a prominent rebel leader, Rémissainthe Ravix, who was instrumental in the revolution against Aristide. While this obviously is probably good news for Haiti, it seems that stopping the rebel leader is minor in solving the countries problems. Economically, the country is completely decimated and there seems to be little hope for adequate social reform. I'm curious about the potential outlets that a country like Haiti has for growth. What can Haiti do?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Illegal Aliens at Universities?

California now allows illegal aliens to pay the same tuition as citizens and legal residents of California to attend California colleges, while citizens and legal residents from other states are forced to pay out-of-state tuition. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Doesn't seem too fair.

A Possible Latin American Pope

The next pope could possibly be Latin American or African. I think this could be a good developement because according an article at, "A non-white pope might also spur greater discussion of public policy issues that often intersect with race, including education, health care, and jobs and equity." If you want to read more, here is the link.

A Brown-Skinned Pope?

Broken Dreams

In response to the comments of my last post...

The assertion that the problem regarding illegal immigration lies not only along our southern border but in Washington, D.C. is right on. Out of the official ten million plus illegal aliens who are thought to be within our borders (personally, I think that figure tops twenty million), only 124 companies were fined in 2003 for hiring them. More than anything I would wish for significantly greater enforcement and justice (including significant jail time and soaringly stiffer fines) against such employers because they hurt everyone - illegals through exploitation and Americans through unemployment.

We diverge however on how the Minutemen should carry out their goals. There’s a love triangle between the White House, big business & illegal aliens and I doubt that several hundred volunteers from the southwest could generate as much attention to the topic as they did last week if they tried lobbying in our capital or protesting outside a manufacturing plant - the players who like illegal immigration are just too big and powerful. Patrolling the fields of corporate farms would also be to tresspass, something the Minutemen aren’t doing now. But by taking their efforts to the field, the Minutemen have (legally) proven that with enough agents, the government can very well drastically cut the number of border hoppers making it across successfully. Now it’s up to the rest of us to press the issue on Washington, against both illegal aliens and their employers.

We should also keep in mind that illegal-aliens would come north with or without the prospect of work. Even if we did curb the hiring of illegals (which we could and should do in less than twelve months according to Social Security Administratio experts), they’d still come anyway and join the underground instead to further contribute to what is a $1trillion black market. For those reasons, I feel like dotting troops along the border might not be such a bad thing.

"Since when did the rights and privelages of non-citizens become more important than our own?"

Last but not least, open borders do violate the rights and privelages of every American. Tied in with that same paragraph were recent examples of security threats posed by criminals and terrorists. It is the right of every American citizen to be safe, especially on home soil. That (security) and freedom are the most inalienable rights one can have and never should an American citizen have to forfeit either, which porous borders ask us to do (& Patriot Act, too). Being an illegal alien is still to have commited an illegal crime which in the eyes of justice is to forfeit at least one of your “inalienable” rights - liberty. Try telling the victims and their families of the first WTC bombing in 1993 that weak immigration controls didn’t violate their rights went Ramzi Yousef slipped through the system.

Interesting Article

I found this article on It is about the AUC's dissatisfaction with the Justice and Peace Bill, which would require any members "who have committed atrocities to spend five to eight years in prison." Many find that their opposition is a major threat to the current peace talks in Colombia.

OAS Election Battle

For a great example of regionalism in the Western Hemisphere, we need only look at the current election battle at the OAS. With North and Central America pulling for the Mexican candidate Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez and South America pushing for Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, it's turning into quite an ugly fight. Hopefully the OAS member states can resolve this situation before it undermines the strength and legitimacy of the institution too much.

For a Washington Post article on the topic, click here.

John Negroponte

You would think that with all of the trouble that John Negroponte's causing as a result of his involvement in Honduras and his current confirmation battle that he would just step down already. Relations with Latin America are as bad as they are without having to throw this mess into the fray. While I earlier cautioned about jumping to conclusions about his knowledge and role in human rights abuses in Honduras, more than enough evidence has come to light to brand him as far too shady for continued public service. Recently, the Washington Post uncovered more documents regarding his role.

Journalist Killings in Mexico

It seems that now that since Mexico is really cracking down on the drug cartels, the cartels are fighting back. The recent string of murders, kidnappings and disappearances of influential and outspoken journalists is the cartels' attempt to silence their critics. Hopefully Mexico won't back down.

For a Washington Post article on the topic, click here.

The Importance of an "Outlet to the Sea"

We were talking in class today about Bolivia and how its landlocked geography limits its capability. I am curious about the opinions of fellow classmates: how importance is it (in the year 2005 and onwards) for a nation-state to have prominent seaboard/port cities? So many great cities (from Osaka to New Orleans to Havana) owe credit to the fact that they were accessible by ship. And while ships have historically been the main vessel for trade of goods and ideas (and still continue to play an important role) today planes are what allow people to cross international borders and interact with cultures around the world on a mass level. (We also talked about Panama and how the importance of the Canal has diminished) Air travel has never been more available to people and it will only continue to do so. Everywhere from the UK to India to Southeast Asia, "Southwest Airlines" like businesses (complete with do-it-yourself online bookings!) are springing up and making travel affordable to the masses. Will these airlines be the catalyst of serious cultural/regional integration? Or will the "head start" that seaboard cities have had always give them an advantage over cities that lack access to the sea? (Brasilia...)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Deforestation in Rondônia, Brazil: Frontier Urbanization and Landscape Change

The readings this week discussed the many failures of dams in Brazil and the problems that these dams lead to. I found this dissertation by James Kezar IV Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D. which "presents research into deforestation and the growth of urban places in Rondônia, a state in the western portion of the Brazilian Amazon that is widely know for its burning forests, cattle ranches, and gold rushes, but whose urban places are little-known, even within Brazil"

So if anyone is interested in the environmental issues associated with this area of Brazil, check this out!

Mexico City mayor

This is an article about the Mexico City mayor being stripped of his immunity and accused of many things.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

John Paul II and Latin America

With the late Pope John Paul II's recent death and funeral there have been many televised specials celebrating his many life works, including those of acting as a peaceful mediator among warring parties and a voice of morality among injustice. He stressed that priests should not be political but was definitely the most political of all the popes. One thing I was wondering about, however, was his lack of influence in Latin America, a predominantly Catholic region of the world. He rarely visited and made no attempts to protest authoritarian regimes there or the human rights violations taking place, despite his repeated denunciations of similar violence in his homeland and Europe in general. Pope John Paul II even visited Archbishop Romero in El Salvador shortly before his death, and still refused to offer his help, even in light of the "be a patriot, kill a priest" propaganda prevalent at the time, all under the guise of not being "political." It is widely understood that John Paul II had an intense phobia of communism and its works, so maybe the slight threat of it made him disregard Latin America, but it is still perplexing as to why he didn't do more. Anyone have any thoughts or ideas?

"The News From Paraguay"

I recently finished reading a historical fiction book called "The News From Paraguay" by Lily Tuck. The book begins with Francisco Solano Lopez, the future dictator of Paraguay, courting an Irishwomen in Paris. Ella Lynch, the Irishwomen, moves to Paraguay with Franco as his mistress. The novel tells of story of the two main characters, the people surrounding them, and the political turmoil in Paraguay from the perspective of many different characters. The most powerful of these perspectives being that of Ella. Though the book is neither academic nor completely factual it is interesting and often telling of the nature of dictatorships and the many ills they burden their people with.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mexico City's Mayor May Face Jail Time

Mexico City's most popular politician, Lopez Obrador, and the mayor of Mexico City, was accused in 2001 of disobeying a judge's order to stop work on a road to a hospital through a disputed plot of land. In the next few days, a judge may order the mayor's arrest, thus possibly causing him to be fired, and go to jail.

For more information, here is the article.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Colombia Drug War Failing

I read an article at about how the U.S. efforts to fight cocaine production are failing. Even though the U.S. has spent $3 billion on the drug war, cocaine production has stayed the same if not increased. Peasants constantly replant their cocoa plants after the areas are sprayed because they have few other choices. If you would like to read the article, here is the link:

Report: Colombia Drug War Failing

Real American Heroes

As an “anti-immigrant, pro-Minutemen” xenophobe, I’m obviously dissapointed that the Minutemen aren’t getting their due support from fellow Americans - the legal citizens at least. Personally, I think that the notion of referring to them as vigilantes is ridiculous unless you’re also willing to label every neighborhood watch group just the same. It just so happens that many of these volunteers have made home along the border. The fact that they’re not actually setting out to break any laws either is another testament to the silliness of that assertion. They are volunteers and heroes, sacrifing their time and putting their safety at risk for our benefit.

I also despise being called “anti-immigrant” when infact I’m anti-illegal immigrant - and the two are very different. I’m willing to concede that US agriculture is dependent on migrant workers and that social security is getting a helping hand too, although not to the point that they actually help us more than drain us. Nor are most illegal aliens lazy but quite hardworking infact. But if illegals are so helpful to our social security system, that should mean we ought to find ways to fix the program (like reverse Bush’s ridiculous tax cuts) not bring in more illegals to sustain it. Agriculture is also an industry that produces five times the amount f food we need, constantly receives subsidies, destroys abundant overharvests and is severely overvalued, so maybe we really don’t need as many migrant workers as we like to make excuses for.

As an avid Bush skeptic, I’ll admit to having a tendency to question anything that he does or says and this case is no different. While I pretty much agree with him (a rarity) on free trade, I’m against huge companies hiring illegals at home, especially since they can afford the higher labor costs of having to hire domestic workers. Bush likes illegal immigrants because they help big industry fat cats get rich who in turn help him and his cohorts, financially and politically. And if his south of the border counterpart Vincente Fox is so worried about the safety of “his” people, perhaps he should take more care to keep them within the safety of his own country. The last time I checked, North America wasn’t the borderless European Union, which has had its own special issues in dealing with a similar issue - gypsies.

Nonetheless, there remain some pretty hefty costs that supporters of illegals conveniently forget to mention when evaluating the cost-benefit analysis of the issue. They are fully eligible for expensive taxpayer-funded benefits like Medi-Cal. Their children take up more room in school than they are able to pay back in taxes. Everytime an illegal gets into a car accident, it’s you and me who has to make up the difference in our insurance premiums because there’s simply no money to collect at the other end. Illegals are also the fastest growing segment of our prison population and the reason why you don’t hear about these skyrocketing costs (almost $30,000 a year per) is because the Fed drops the tab on already financially-strapped states. Deporting and keeping them out would save us the higher costs of having to re-catch, reincarcerate and redeport.

Then there is the very real matter of national security that seems to be brushed aside. Have people forgotten we have troops fighting a War on Terror (in Afghanistan) and that there are extremists and radicals out there just itching at a chance to strike us again on home soil? Did the pro-illegals just happen to miss that news story a few weeks back when an overcrowded classroom-sized group of Mexicans tried to smuggle in heavy Russian arms across the Rio Grande? Isn’t anyone worried about the latest bouts of brutal drug violence sweeping through the border area? Or what about just keeping the drugs out? Since when did the rights and privelages of non-citizens become more important than our own?

I can’t blame anyone for wanting a better life for one’s self or one’s family. It’s also unfortunate that you’re having a hard time feeding your family but things probably wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have five kids. On the other hand, don’t expect me to welcome you with open arms and take care of you, either. I will say that to those who find a way in and beat the system should come the fruits and spoils of their efforts, espcially if they’ve been paying taxes after several years. All in all though, we don’t need Mexico’s (or anyone else’s for that matter) problems at home in the US and we’re lucky and blessed this week because we have five hundred more patriots doing all they can to make that happen. Be grateful and be proud about that.

Annnd some more....

Just to add some details to my previous post regarding Ecuador... here's an article I found on The Washington Post in which some more details about the current President, Lucio Gutierrez, are presented. Apparently, Gutierrez had ties with Bucaram and his supporters while he was in Panama with whom he negotiated the firing of judges in order to drop Bucaram's charges in exchange for votes that blocked his impeachement last year. Wow, that's all I can say...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bucaram back in Ecuador?!?!?!

When we were talking about Ecuador earlier this week we discussed how corruption has affected its political system so harshly. Bucaram, also known as "El Loco", who was president in the 90s, was promptly removed from office due to "mental incapacity" and many corruption charges. He went into exile in Panama, where he was granted political asylum and where he has spent his life since 1997. However, late last week, Adbala Bucaram returned to his native Guayaquil, Ecuador where he warmly received and celebrated. How is it possible that people don't see where this is all going?!!?! He aspires to run in the next election and upon his return to Ecuador said that he was coming back "crazier than ever to break the souls of the Ecuadorean oligarchy". The corruption charges he was accussed of have been dropped by the Supreme Court as well as Noboa's and Dahik's charges. It's just amazing to me how people are so willing to welcome back this man into the country, are they not tired of such incapable and incapacitating leaders??!
Check out the article from The Miami Herald for more details.

The Failure of the Drug War

The White House has recently put out a report that the war on drugs in Colombia is failing. As it is, US-financed aerial fumigation offensives have failed to curb the supply of cocaine in Colombia. Today's drug producers are more enthused. They replenish as quickly, or quicker, than the government can fumigate crop. Critics of the war on drugs have called it a failure.

The US has spent over three billion dollars fighting cocaine and heroin production in Colombia since the turn of the century. Since then, many initiatives have tried to slow or halt the production of drugs; all the while, the price of cocaine and heroin in the US continues to drop, indicative of the fact that the supply is not diminishing.

If the war on drugs is a failure, would supplying more money help? It seems to me that the war on drugs is being fought incorrectly. With so many people in Colombia convinced that cocaine is their only means of sustenance, the war on drugs would do well to focus more on initiatives to better the quality of life in Colombia and to offer alternatives to coca cultivation. The war on drugs, a substance within which some of us have trouble seeing the intrinsic evil, can only be fought in ways that provide incentive to do something else.

The war on drugs, the US and Colombian governments must begin to realize, will not be won with planes and guns.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Rio police officers arrested for killings

According to this article eleven officers in Rio have been arrested for the massacre of thirty people in poor areas of the city. This is only the latest example of Brazilian police killing poor people for little or no reason. The article mentions that the motive for the killings perhaps relates to the fact the the officers were mad because several other officers were arrested for being caught on video disposing of a body. There are so many things wrong about the situation that I don't know where to start. It's sad to think that poor people in Rio are as likely to be preyed on by police as protected.

Latin American Ties With Asia

Our class discussion on Peru's past Japanese-Peruvian President Fujimori made me think of something a Chinese national once told me whom I met while travelling. He was living abroad for a set period of 3 years. He told me that as China continues to grow economically and look for opportunities to expand at the global level, the Chinese government may soon be asking a number of Chinese to voluntarily relocate permanently (through tax or other economic incentive) outside of China to nations where China would like to establish greater economic ties. He told me China has plans to do this for countries in Latin America as well as in Africa. With over a billion people in China, even a small percentage of volunteers would equal huge numbers. If this actually happens, I wonder how the Asia-Latin America relationship would evolve, given the numbers of Chinese Latin Americans who would be born. While 2nd generation kids definately have love and loyalty towards their new countries, the attatchment to the "mother" country does not disappear. President Fujimori is an example of someone "having maintained strong ties to Japan...where his son Hiro and his sister live," ( Of course not all of them will grow up to be President, but their influence and participation in society cannot be denied.

Oil in Latin America: Potential to further Development?

I recently received an email forward about the oil dependence on the Middle East which suggested that Americans not buy oil from oil companies whose oil is from the Middle East. Among those companies who don’t are Citgo, Sonoco and Conoco. Most of these companies oil comes from Latin America. If the United States American people began to consume oil predominantly from Latin America this could have various interesting implications on economic development. Thus, it could be very beneficial to US foreign policy to cultivate positive relations with those Latin American countries which are oil producers. This is exceptionally interesting in lieu of Thomas Friedman’s recent article in the New York Times (I wrote about it about a month ago but no longer have the link) which suggests that the quickest way for economic reform in the Middle East is through an oil boycott. He claims that economic incentives are the most effective. It is true, that the US has successfully implemented economic sanctions in the past which have had dire effects on the country which was sanction (cf. Nicaragua 1980s).

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Taxpayer Justice for Illegal Immigrants

Eduardo Porter has written a revelatory article in the New York Times about the real contributions Illegal Immigrants make the the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid programs in the United States and the exploitation that they face in never being able to benefit from their contributions. His article explodes the cost/benefits myth that illegal immigrants take more from the US public coffers than they contribute to it. After you read this article, if you aren't moved by the injustice of the situation, you might be inclinded to get on your knees and thank the illegal immigrants for their selfless sacrifice on behalf of the U.S. Citizen's welfare in retirement. For instance, read this little bit from the beginning of Porter's article:
Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.
How is this possible, you might ask? Well, employers demand that potential employees provide a Social Security number to prove that they can work legally in the United States. Then, without verifying or checking the accuracy of these Social Security numbers, many of which are fraudulent, employers deduct payroll taxes from the earning of these employees and turn this over, along with their own matching contributions, to the U.S. Government. This money just sits there, adding to the available pool of resources that help to keep Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare solvent. Current and future retirees in the United States will benefit from the contributions that these illegal immigrants make to the system by their hard work, and these illegal immigrants will never see a dime of their contributions in their own retirement.

Not only does this demolish the claim by the anti-immigrant, nativist crowd that illegal immigrants are leeches on the U.S. welfare state, but it also shows, once again, the double exploitation illegal migrants face in our country. They contribute mightily to the local, state, and federal treasuries of the United States by way of paying taxes (and not only payroll taxes, but also sales taxes, and property taxes via rents), but they are facing efforts to exclude them from receiving the benefits that their tax contributions have earned them.

The next time you hear anti-immigrant, pro-Minutemen, xenophobic blowhards bring out this reason to justify their border vigilantism, feel free to mention this little fact to them.

Read Porter's whole article for the full extent and ramifications of this reality. It will give you a new appreciation for the value of the illegal immigrant.

Anti-Drug Conference in Chile

This week representatives from 70 different countries gathered in Chile for an Anti-Drug conference. The goal of this conference was to find solutions for the numerous drug trafficking and money laundering problems. Some cite that the major danger in drug trafficking is its connections to terrorist organizations. Here is the article

Cardinal addresses Latin America

Today, while speaking to the media on issues that the new pope will have to address, U.S. Cardinal Justin Rigali (Archdiocese of Philadelphia), actually mentioned the importance of Latin America not only to the Catholic Church but to the rest of the world as well. I just thought that was cool. Too bad it isn't likely he'll be the next pope.

Appointing a new Pope

Comments based on this piece in the New York Times.

The Church must in the near future elect a new pope to run its business, so to speak, and the article says that the Church could really benefit from an appointment from the Latin America or Africa. Among the variety of other problems facing the church in Latin America, the article addresses how the Pentecostal Church is gaining ground in Latin America and how the Latin American church is trying to fight against such malleable Christian practices.

I think a Latin American pope (or an African pope) for that matter seems like a highly unlikely scenario for the Church. My impression of the Catholic Church seems to stick with tradition, and I wager that most likely a European cardinal will be picked. However, I do feel that if a Latin American pope gets picked (provided it is the right one who believes in liberation theology, or at least the need to give the indigenous/poor people some political power), perhaps that pope could address the social inequality that exists in Latin America.

I also found it very interesting that the Pope was wary about legitimizing the roots of liberation theology because he lived under a Marxist-Leninist government. I was surprised because I always thought liberation theology had some sort of doctrinal teaching support of the church.


In class we discussed the dollarization of the Ecuadorian economy. I found a link to the Senate Banking Committee, which has an article highlighting the benefits of dollarization in emerging market economies, as well as some resulting issues for the Untied States. The article says that Panama is officially dollarized and Argentina and El Salvador have both considered dollarization of their economies. Cuba is dollarized, as well. The purported benefits include lower inflation, faster growth, "deeper" financial markets, budget discipline, and lower interest rates. Some possible problems for the United States would be that dollarized countries may depend on the U.S. for financial bail-out and the United States will be lobbied to consider economic conditions abroad when setting monetary policy. The Senate did not discuss the negative effects that dollarization will have on the Latin American countries. I don't claim to know much about economics, but my feeling is that while dollarization may be beneficial for Latin American countries in the short run, it will have negative and irreversible consequences in the long-run. It seems like it would only be a wise move if the country was in dire straights. The link to the Senate Banking Committee hearing is here.

Catholic Church Mourns

As Catholics around the world mourn the loss of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church finds itself having to deal not only with his death, but with the loss of faith and numbers within its congregation. As evangelical Protestants continue to make inroads throughout Latin America, there increased numbers are the Catholic Church's loss. Recently, the Washington Post ran two articles highlighting the increased disaffection that many Latinos have with the church. It is often viewed as impersonal and disconnected with the people, especially the poor. Hopefully, the new pope will be able to address Latin America better than the last.

For Washington Post articles on the topic, click here and here.

Daniel Ortega Makes a Comeback...

I read an article in the New York Times today about Daniel Ortega’s potential re-election in Nicaragua. I am actually writing my research paper on Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution and though this article was interesting for a number of reasons. The article claims that in the “global struggle against communism” the United States had a face off with the Sandinista revolution, a “Marxist government” who had “allied themselves with the Soviet Union.” What I found interesting is that neither are actually true. The Sandinista regime was a member of the nonaligned movement and therefore not formally aligned with the Soviet Union and the Sandinista regime could hardly be considered a Marxist regime. I felt that this article shows the ways in which the media can use propaganda to garner domestic support for arbitrary political foreign policy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tlateloco Massacre

I was writing a paper on the history of Mexico and I became very interested in the 1968 Tlateloco Massacre of hundreds of students involved in the pro-democracy movement. Here is a link if you are interesting in learning more about this massacre which was the first such public protest in Mexico!

Venezuela-U.S. Relations and Oil

"CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he wants to "turn the page" on past hostility and improve ties with Washington, including guaranteeing long-term oil supplies, a U.S. senator said on Saturday."

Venezuela is a leading oil supplier to the United States, but Chavez, who has repeatedly accused U.S. President George W. Bush of trying to topple or kill him, is known in the Bush administration as a "negative force" (to quote Condoleeza Rice) for his ties to Castro and his "increasingly authoritarian regime."

The hyperlinked article above details the issue of our dependency on Venezuelan oil and Chavez's repeatedly articulated fears about alleged secret CIA ops to oust him from power because of Venezuela's oil wealth, among other things. What do you think about this?

The Nazi Connection

A New York Times Article entitled Half-Century Later, a New Look at Argentine-Nazi Ties examines the scholarly work on the relationship between the Peron's Argentinian government and Nazi officals, companies and individuals. The article highlights the refuge Peron gave Nazi officials. Moreover, the article reports on a new book that looks at the relationship between the Perons and Nazi companies. According to Gaby Weber, companies with Nazi connections, most notably Mercades-Benz, funelled money from Germany through Argentina back into Germany. "The German Connection: The Laundering of Nazi Money in Argentina" examines the Peron's role in the process and concludes that the Perons recieved a substantial cut. The information presented in theis article has implications not only enlightening for historical International Relations between Argentina and Germany but future relationships between Argentina and Isreal.

Mourning of the Pope

Here is another article about the vast influence of the pope on Latin America and across the nation.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope's Latin American Legacy

Click here for an article about John Paul II's substantial influence in Latin America, which is home to the largest number of Catholics in the world.

Minutemen: Vigilant but not Vigilantes?

I just loved this little gem from Time magazine about the new anti-immigrant Minutemen border patrol movement led by Chris Simcox:
Simcox bristles at the term vigilante, saying that his group is not detaining anyone but only fulfilling the President's post--Sept. 11 request that all Americans remain vigilant--and, in the process, providing a release valve for popular outrage. [Emphasis added.]
Tell me if I'm missing something here, but how can Simcox bristle at being called a "vigilante" when he apparently describes his actions as nothing more than heeding Bush's call to be "vigilant"? The two words aren't almost exactly the same for nothing. Perhaps when he "bristles" at being called such, Simcox is bristling with pride like a strutting peacock; but I doubt it. I would have imagined that a man seriously heeding the call of his President to be "vigilant" would be proud to be called a "vigilante"!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chavez Flip Flopping....

Chavez Doesn't Want To Be US Enemy

According to this article in the Washington Post, President Hugo Chavez has toned down a bit on his recent discourse against the government of the United States. He states that he just wants the US to leave them in peace. He also states that they don't want to be enemies with the United States or anybody else. At the end of the article I found it interesting that a congressman of the opposition had this statement "In the United States, Chavez has found an external enemy that helps maintain the confrontation for his own political purposes". I thought it was funny that it could be said that the United States uses or has used this same technique of maintaing an external enemy to serve its political agenda.


This trying time for the Roman Catholic community is especially impacting Latin America, home to forty-six perccent of the world’s one-billion plus Catholics. As one myself I appreciate and am proud of the legacy that the pontiff will leave behind and am lucky to say I’ve had the oppoertunity to be in his eminence’s presence twice - Central Park 1995 & this Easter. While I’m glad he was able to make it through Easter, I now more than anything hope for an end to his suffering for both his sake & that of everyone else.

As we will have to look beyond the third longest papal term ever (serving since 1978) comes a global (134?) Cardinal vote to pick the 265th Pope and the pickings are more diverse than ever. It’s been said that the next Pope will surprise the world as he could be African, Hispanic, American or even Jewish. Of the candidates from Latin America that I know of, there is no clear consesus yet but there are at least two and both are among the youngest (as in not 70 yet) of those being considered.

They are attractive not only because of the concentration of Catholics in their respective geographic locations as mentioned before but because of the alarmingly growing Pentecostal market share in LA. Leading the way for the Third World is Andres Rodriquez Maradiaga from Honduras, former head of the Latin American Bishops Group. Only 62, he is one of the most vocal advocates for international debt relief and decentralization. His comments against the media with references and comparisons o Stalin and Hitler during the pedophile-priests scandal may hurt him however and he may simply be just too young. Six years his senior is Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino from Cuba. However, I figure that since Pope John Paul II is from Communist Poland, his chances are probably shot.

Spain in war against drugs in Colombia

Since we have been recently been covering Colombia in class, and especially the war on drugs, I found this very relevant.

Spain has said that it will loan three military planes to Colombia. The Colombian military will use these plans for troop transports all around the country. In addition to the planes, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Spain is willing to mediate between the Colombian government and the guerillas and paramilitary fighters. Zapatero insists that the planes are to be used for controlling the drug trafficking, not hostilities against the guerillas. He also placed a condition on the mediation, that the guerilla groups stop engaging in combat. Zapatero said that he wants Spain to be an ally for Colombia against drugs, but that violence is not the goal.

Spain Lends Planes to Colombia, May Mediate in Peace Talks

Clean Develpment Mechanism and Brazil

When Russia signed the Kyoto Protocol this past fall, the signatures on the internatonal agreement to combat global warming met conditions to be implimented. One of the mechanisms by which developed nations (which must meet new carbon dioxide reductions quotas) can meet expected emissions levels is through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows developed countries to lower emissions in developing nations, rather than within their own boarders. One of the rules of CDM projects is that they must not only create emissions reductions, but also promote sustainable development. Here is an outline of one CDM project that is being proposed for Brazil.

Brazil: Plantar Sequestration and Biomass Use

Project Summary
In September 2002, the PCF entered into an agreement to purchase emission reductions from the Plantar Project in Brazil. This project will create emission reductions by avoiding a fuel switch from charcoal to fossil fuel in pig iron production; it will also promote sustainable development by reducing pressure on the native forest and conserving biodiversity under the Clean Development Mechanism.

In addition to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the Plantar Project will reduce the pressure on endangered native cerrado forests, currently being decimated for charcoal used in the Brazilian pig iron industry. Traditional small-scale producers of pig iron in Brazil use charcoal in blast furnaces with an annual output of about 100,000 tons of pig iron per year. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the Brazilian pig iron industry boomed, several million hectares of native dry “cerrado” forests were cleared to produce charcoal--greatly reducing drylands forest ecosystems, and significantly expanding the area under low yielding pasture, resulting in degraded soils and hydrology. Subsidies for fuelwood plantations were introduced in the 1960s to take the pressure off native forests, but proved to be expensive and economically inefficient and were discontinued in the 1980s. As a result, fuelwood plantations are being depleted and pressure on native forests has increased again. The shortage of planted biomass is causing small-scale pig iron mills to close down, leading to increased rural unemployment.

The PCF’s support for the Plantar Project aims to demonstrate how carbon finance for well-managed forests--made possible by the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism--can reduce destruction of native forests, help conserve their unique biodiversity, help preserve local community use of forest fruits and other non-timber products, and secure high-quality employment in rural areas with few other employment opportunities. In this context, sustainably managed and harvested plantations, established on land which was not forested before, can help to conserve and to take the pressure off the unique ecosystems of native primary forests.

Without carbon finance such plantations are neither economically viable nor is it possible for small-scale pig iron producers to obtain financing. More importantly, there is no other financial incentive to set aside large areas of native cerrado forests. In fact, recent economic growth in the area is leading to further legal and illegal clearing of native cerrado forests in Minas Gerais and neighboring States. The Brazilian Government has reported that there is a shortage of around 200,000 hectares of plantations that would have to be planted annually to satisfy the national demand for wood. Because of that, Federal and State environmental authorities strongly support the establishment of new sustainable plantations to reduce the pressure on native forests. PCF support is in accordance with this strategy and is enabling Plantar S/A to become completely independent of native forest charcoal by 2008.

Permanent Climate Benefits
The PCF project reduces atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions in the following ways:

1. Supports the establishment of 23,100 hectares of fuelwood plantations that are independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)as well-managed.
2. Uses climate-neutral charcoal to replace coal coke in pig iron production.
3. Reduces global and local emissions from charcoal manufacture.
4. Restores native forests and forest biodiversity on pasture land and ensures the permanent conservation of an additional 478.3 hectares of natural forest.

The PCF will purchase about 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in emission reductions from the Plantar Project through 2012. Although the Plantar Project delivers sequestration reductions (removals or Sequestration Emission Reductions) from the plantation and biodiversity component of the Project and mitigation reductions from the industrial mitigation and carbonization component, the agreement foresees the possibility that the full amount of the purchased emission reductions will eventually be transferred in the form of emission reductions generated by the mitigation activities of the project. The contract distinguishes between the sequestered reductions and the mitigated emission reductions. The Sequestration Emission Reductions are used to insure the reductions the PCF will receive from the mitigation activities; “permanence“ of sequestration reductions is assured by the contract.

The contract with Plantar S/A encompasses the following two mechanisms to guarantee the “permanence” of sequestration reductions:

1. All Sequestration Emission Reductions can be replaced with emission reductions generated by the greenhouse gas mitigation components of the project (carbonization and industrial processes).
2. Upon delivery of the mitigation emission reductions that replace the Sequestration Emission Reductions, the PCF will return the sequestration emission reductions to Plantar S/A which will consequently permanently retire them and they will not be sold again.

This means that the PCF has built into the contract a system of double insurance against the risk of permanent loss of sequestered greenhouse gases. Even if any Sequestration Emission Reductions are permanently lost or not eligible under the Clean Development Mechanism, these reduction units can be replaced with emission reductions generated by a mitigation activity. Additionally, the PCF has the right to return all Sequestration Emission Reductions to Plantar S/A as mitigation emission reductions are generated. Sequestration Emission Reductions will subsequently be permanently retired.

In addition to the climate benefits, the Plantar Project contributes to the sustainable development of the region in the following ways:

Sustainable Development Impacts
Independent Certification of Environmentally and Socially Responsible Production- Plantar S/A was the first Brazilian pig iron company to receive certification that its plantations are well-managed under the principles of the Forest Stewardship Council. Plantar S/A agreed to maintain FSC certification as a condition of PCF support.

Plantar S/A also maintains certification under the independent NGO Foundation, ABRINQ, as an employer that provides exceptional employment benefits, including child day-care facilities and educational benefits for its workers and their children, and as an employer that does not use child labor. Plantar S/A must maintain ABRINQ certification as a condition of PCF support.

Plantar S/A has also agreed as part of the PCF Project to monitor and report on preventative health measures and health care provided to charcoal workers.

Plantar S/A is establishing a community relations function to ensure that concerns of local communities about Plantar S/A’s operations are heard and addressed in a timely and effective manner. Such community relations will be closely monitored by the World Bank and the Forest Stewardship Council.

Rural Employment Benefits- Plantar has created around 1,200 secure full-time jobs in the rural area of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and leverages additional social welfare programs. In the absence of the Plantar Project, Plantar would be unable to maintain charcoal-based pig iron production and would be forced to close its blast furnace operations when its current plantations are exhausted (by 2008), resulting in loss of jobs in plantation maintenance and pig iron manufacture.

The World Bank’s sectoral analysis demonstrates that without the benefit of carbon finance for small-scale pig iron producers, this “independent” sector of the pig-iron industry would gradually yield its share of pig-iron production to large integrated iron and steel producers which use coal-coke as the reducing agent. As a consequence, employment would decline markedly in the rural areas where the independent pig-iron producers currently operate and there would be little incentive to restore endangered cerrado forest ecosystems.

The Minas Gerais State Environmental Authority, Municipality leaders, several national NGOs, regional unions and social organizations (a total of 380 signatories)have endorsed the project as a contribution to sustainable development.

Yesterday's Presidential Symposium

Before yesterday's presidential symposium I had never been to an event like that. There were a few things that stood out for me, specifically one statement made by one of the speakers. He had pointed out that part of the reason for so many coups in Latin America are due to the fact that so much responsibility is place on presidents, who become easy scapegoats when things fail. It made me wonder about the possibilities for institutional change and whether or not problems can be dealt with in that manner rather than ousting the president. I'd be interested in anyone else's ideas. The book Audacious Reforms: Institutional Invention and Democracy in Latin America by Merilee S. Grindle illustrates some specific examples of institutional transformations that were both creative and successful, in case you are interested.

El Chalten, Argentina

Well, as I sit outside enjoying the sunshine, I can't help but think that summer is right around the corner. Ahh vacation...but where in the world to go? As we all know, Latin America is full of beaches and exotic beauty (and beauties), but often people forget that not all of Latin America is a tropical paradise...they've got glaciers too. My favorite excursion thus far has been a trip El Chalten, Argentina, a little hippy town in the middle of the Andes where my friend and I hiked out from to start our two week backpacking adventure in Argentina's Glacier National Park. To my dismay, El Chalten actually has a tourism website ( Check it out to find out more about hiking the Andes Glaciers...or just to cool down as things get humid here in the N.O.

Chavez's "Success"

I was reading yesterday's Oppenheimer Report and it touched on many of the subjects we discussed in class a couple of days ago regarding Venezuela. In it, Andres Oppenheimer discusses how Venezuela's own National Institute of Statistics has reported extrememly high percentages of poverty in the country. Such figures indicate how "poverty in Venezuela rose from 43 percent to 54 percent of the population during Chávez's first four years in office. And extreme poverty -- the percentage of the population that lives on less than $1 a day -- grew from 17 percent to 25 percent during the same period". Also mentioned in the column is the fact that in the recent past Venezuela has experienced a huge economic rise. However, the fruits of such "successes" are obviously ending up in the wrong, and very few, hands of a priviledged class. Much of these proceeds have been used to acquire preposterous amounts of arms as well as to buy votes for the recent referendum, among other corrupt issues. It's just sad, really...

Colombia Journal Online This is an interesting website with a stated mission "to promote political, social, and economic justice in Colombia by creating a greater awareness and understanding of U.S. foreign policy." I thought this mission was vague because to create greater awareness in Colombia, shouldn't the website be in Spanish rather than English? Perhaps I misinterpreted the goal of the website, but the photo gallery is worth looking at. There are photos FARC guerillas, going about their normal activities, including playing soccer, studying political economy, and raising funds through kidnapping and extortion. There are also photos of the AUC paramilitary with large weapons and captions, such as one about how they receive their funding from the drug trade and wealthy businessmen. There are a few photos of the U.S Army, including my favorite with a caption that reads, "A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier armed with a stick takes the offensive against a politically subversive Colombian cow." Other photos in the gallery show each step in the process of cocaine processing. The website describes "Plan Colombia's" aerial fumigation of coca crops and the damaging effects of the drug wars on the indigenous population. Besides great photos, the website also has news reports, a list of books, Colombian history, and other links. Check it out.