Monday, January 31, 2005

Fidel Castro Documentary on PBS

Just finished watching a very good documentary on Fidel Castro, which details his rise to power and his reign until the present day. I found it to be a very complete documentary, tries to be objective in its exposition of his government. Key word here is "tries", but it is very complete nonetheless. I had never really seen until now what a powerful speaker he truly is, which can be appreciated if much better if you are fluent in Spanish. They show a lot of footage of old interviews and speeches. It was very interesting. PBS will repeat it on:

Tuesday, February 1, 12:00am
Tuesday, February 1, 3:00am
Wednesday, February 2, 10:00pm

Also more information can be found at tehir website:

American Experience: Fidel Castro

Trouble in our backyard

After today's class discussion on the United States playing the role of the "big brother" and Latin America being the US' backyard, I came across this column from the Washington Post that illustrates precisely this issue. I just wonder if any attention will be paid in the close future to the crises that Latin America seems to be undergoing and what approach is to be expected. Additionally, if there is any major outreach from the US, what do you think the likely response from Latin Americans will be?

Buenos Aires Club Fire

I was reading articles on CNN and came across this one about a fire in a Buenos Aires club that killed 192 people in December, which is now considered one of Argentina's worst tragedies in decades. The club owner, Omar Chaban was indicted after authorities investigated reports that the emergency exits were locked to stop people from entering without paying, thus also preventing people from leaving when the fire broke out. Here's the article if you want to read more about it.

dying for water

While this article focuses on the lack of clean water in many developing countries, it also highlights the inefficiency of many aid organizations. It makes me cynical about donating money to all these charities that pop up because even if they're legit, who's to say the money's being put to good use? One of the things that I liked about this article was Gary White's emphasis on the need for community involvement in aid efforts. Good reading.

EU restores normal diplomatic relations with Cuba

Interesting article about the EU restoring normal diplomatic relations with Cuba. Perhaps it signals the start of a change in relations with Cuba around the world. Probably not in the US for another 4 years, but elsewhere it looks hopeful.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

how young is too young?

So I was watching ESPN on friday and they had a story about a brazilian child who was being scouted by real Madrid, and a few other European soccer teams. So even if this kid is a prodigy how young is too young to start playing professional sports. I understand that soccer is the biggest sport in the world but still there has to be some kind of age limit. If this kid really did go pro within a few years he would have so little education, how could he function if he got hurt, or something? What do you all think too young? or if he is good enough let him play?

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

I decided to look more up on the Aztec calendar since we talked about it last class, and I found a cool link :

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Tulane ESL students

Just recently I met a couple of Latin American students enrolled in the ESL program from Argentina and Peru. Although one of them could only speak very limited English, the other one, from Peru, could communicate very well in English. It was interesting just talking to him, so exciting! I told him that I learned about Vargas Llosa and Fujimori, but it was very interesting to hear him talk about Peru from his perspective. He told me how most of the population is focused around the cities and how Cuzco (sp?) was mainly a tourist spot for native american culture more than anything else. He is from Lima (go figure), and he said that there were many different types of people there, a lot of Chinese people. In fact, he was 1/4 Chinese.

One thing that struck me about our conversation. We somehow started to talk about hip hop and pop culture, and we tried to name all the Latin American names we could thing of: Shakira, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Selma Hyak, etc, etc only for him to say: "Yep Enrique Iglesias and Penelope Cruz are from Spain. Selma Hyak is from Mexico. Shakira is from Colombia. Jennifer Lopez is from the Bronx (oops hehe), etc, etc." It definitely goes to show how we just place the phrase "Latin America" over any sort of pop culture icon that makes it big in the US without carefully looking at which country they come from. I think that conversation on some level deals with Latin Americans and their struggling idea of a collective sense of idea imposed from outside and from the different conflicts inside Latin America. He said that as soon as they try to make themselves marketable in United States, such pop music artists lose their touch and style that appeals to the Latin American pop culture in order to cowtow to US tastes. As a result, Latin American artists cease to be representations of Latin American artists. Interesting....

Friday, January 28, 2005

Oil in Cuba?

Recently, oil was discovered off the northwest coast of Cuba. Although it is still too soon to tell how much oil is there, Fidel Castro claims that there is as much as 100 million barrels. Miami Cubans say this would not affect their strong stance on maintaining the US embargo of Cuba. However, President Bush has secured his second term and no longer needs their vote. If anything can affect the longstanding embargo it is oil. If a significant amount of oil does exist, I think Bush would readily sacrifice the support of the Cuban-American constituency and reduce trade restrictions. Then again, I believe he would sacrifice his own mother for a large oil reserve. For more on Cuban oil, not Barbara Bush go to

Future of immigrants in the US

I was reading over today's The Miami Herald and came across an editorial on immigration priority. I find it interesting and I'm very curious to see what the future of the millions of immigrants in this country will be throughout George W. Bush's second term. The promises made at the beginning of his first term were never fulfilled, and quite honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the same was the case for this second time around. On a side note, yesterday's Oppenheimer Report poses some alternatives for certain issues regarding immigration in the the coming months. Any opinions?

Brazil: A Good Case study

Today in the New York Times an article was published discussing the growing criticisms of President Luiz Inacio by the left on what appears to be a continuing inability to eliminate Brazil’s large wealth disparity. What was fascinating about the article is that it exemplified the idea articulated in Atkins book Latin America and the Caribbean that in Latin America, foreign policy is often an extension of domestic policy (Atkins 95). In this particular article, President Luiz Inacio was answering and defending claims against his social policy by not only claiming that he was “laying the foundation to eradicate Brazil’s social ills” but also used the “inauguration of a global campaign to eliminate world poverty to answer the growing chorus of critics on the left.” This article provides a perfect example of both foreign policy and domestic policy being intrinsically linked and interchangeable as a response to criticisms.
Another aspect of the article serves to provide a good example of the difficulty in discerning idealist from realist policies. The article points out that Brazil has attempted to position themselves as a champion of poor nations, which would suggest, a very idealist perspective in regards to world poverty. This commitment to world poverty involves sacrificing some wealth and power to cooperate with other countries for moral reasons. While some cynics could argue that Brazil’s tendency to partake in free trade and neo-liberalism is not being altruistic in its aid to developing countries, but rather ensuring its power is on the same level as the United States.

Advertising in Latino Films and Television

It seems that the market for Latino Films is influenced by the market preferences of US Hispanics and especially Hispanic youth. Latino film makers are taking into account research on the buying trends of Hispanics in America, and using this as an edge in their films. Knowledge of the market seems to give a sizeable advantage. Product placement and advertising is giving young Latino film makers an edge over their competition in Television as well as feature films.

Here is an article that deals with this issue and talks about an upcoming conference in Miami on the subject.

Assassination plot against Honduran president

Recently a Nicaraguan man was arrested in an assassination plot agains Honduran President Ricardo Maduro. Tensions between Nicaragua and Honduras, as well as international tension among all Central American states is a post-mark of their histories. Further, the man who was arrested is alledgedly a member of the Sandinista National Liberation front, an organization that has been prevelent in Central American history as well. This is the article about the assassination plot: Click Here

The USA and Cuban artists : link

Here is the link to the article of The Village Voice I mentionned :,blumenfeld,60410,22.html

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Apparently, the Mexicans are pissed because our State Department remarked about the growing violence targeting Americans along the border and further south of it. It seems that the drug war in Mexico is overwhelming the agents of their law enforcement agencies and justice systems, while taking a sharp turn to target Americans.

As the Mexicans are proclaiming the quantity and quality of their recent arrests, it seems that incarcerated druglords and kingpins have lost little control through a prison system infested with corruption. They’re still able to wage turf wars against the rising drug players who wish to fill their shoes, which has only intensified the violence.

These problems just further illustrate the inadequacies of our drug war policy. While I do believe in the War on Drugs and that it’s not at all throwing good money after bad, new approaches do need to be taken. While I ponder some possibly more effective schemes, read the article at the NY Times website.

The USA and Cuban artists

The weekly new Yorker magazine The Village Voice published this week an article about the Cuban embargo affecting the Cuban musicians who had planned to make performances in the USA; indeed, many well-known artists, including Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Chucho Valdes or Los Van Van, had to cancel their performances due to their impossibility to get a visa for the USA as Cuban citizens. That consequence of the embargo policy had already been denounced in February 2004 when 45 Cuban artists couldn’t attend the Grammy Awards ceremony for the same reason. According to the Village Voice “The security crunch following 9/11 has given immigration authorities the excuse they've long sought to exclude many foreign musicians from the United States.” The magazine also notes that with that policy the Bush administration is moving backwards in comparison with the Clinton administration which tried to promote cultural exchanges and “people-to-people-exchanges”. The article quotes Bill Martinez, an attorney at law based in San Francisco who has worked with many Cuban musicians: “"This was an affirmative act […]The Bush administration is using artists' visas as an offensive tool to implement foreign policy.”

The article points out the huge cultural loss due to the lack of full access to that kind of music and shows how damaging consequences some drastic policies can have in terms of cultural diversity and open-minding aspects; it also makes us think about how absurd some policies can become when they are enforced to all areas without being necessarily adjusted to each of them.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

I thought that this article might be interesting to those who were interested in joining the Peace Corps or to those interested in the past and current affairs of Colombia. Both of my parents joined the Peace Corps after college where they met and were married. They were stationed outside of Bogota, Colombia. One of the volunteers in their group was kidnapped by the FARC and remained hostage for three years. The article chronicles his story and what happened to him after he was released. My parents told me that his situation was always in the back of their minds while they lived in Colombia, but at the time they were not particularly scared of the same thing happening to them. It is interesting because the story reminded me of what is still occuring today and can even be seen in the movie Proof of Life. The Story of Richard Starr

World Social Forum

Yesterday Brazilian leader, Lula spoke at the World Social Forum held in Brazil. There had been controversy earlier because apparently Lula wanted to sjip the Forum in favor of atending the economic forum in Switzerland. The Social Forum was created, in one sense, as a sign of protest of what the leaders of the world should be talking about as opposed to the economic forum. This is why they are held at the same time. This and some of Lula's recent policies have alienated some people on the further left in his party. Here is the link to the article in the New York Times on his speech:

World Social Forum

Levels of Analysis

In order to understand the things that affect our world, we often look at however much we see affected. If we are talking, in fact, about the world, we tend to look at how actors at the systemic level interact in order to make a difference. If we are talking about the internal politics of a country, we tend to see the situation in terms of leaders, constituencies, groups, or other such intranational units.

While it is funny to think of Prof. Huck's example of a systems-level analyst having a brain freeze when asked to consider the effects that an internal political constituency within a nation-state has had on international realities, this is something from which a greal deal of us suffer. Our brains may not explode, but we do have a tendency to ignore the non-systemic aspects of international relations.

Observing international relations in terms of levels of analysis may differentiate what may be, in practice, indifferentiable aspects of policy-making. Nevertheless, it forces us to think about non-systemic situations that may obtain international reprecussions. It is useful because it gives equal importance to both the theocratic make-up of a country's government and the insanity of a local warlord in the effectuation of international politics.

P.S. The Miami Cubans may serve less to explain why the U.S. can adopt a hard-line policy against Cuba and more to explain why it does. I believe the distinction to be important. ^_~

Thursday, January 27, 2005


In class we discussed the theory that the nation-states of the Western Hemisphere share a distinct hemispheric identity due to such shared factors as geography, European colonial legacy and economies driven by capitalism. May I ask, to what extent do fellow classmates agree? Being educated in the United States, are we taught that the United States is somehow unique, if not superior to - from Canada to Chile - our hemispheric neighbors?

Maybe it's just realism at work. But in 8th grade we all memorized the 13 original "colonies", only why in this case does the word not conjure up the same feeling as when applied to Latin American countries?

How much do we have in common with Latin America? How much do Latin American countries think they have in common with the United States?

Chavez's Land Reform

There is an article in this week's economist, http://, about Mr. Chavez's land reform policies. On January 8th the Venezuelan government seized the El Charcote cattle ranch owned by the Vestey Group (British). After a three month period the state will decide whether the ranch is unproductive or illegally held ( a decision that seems sealed considering Mr. Chavaz's influence over the judicial system) and should be handed over to a peasant co-op. The government justified this action by pointing out that 75% of the countries land is controlled by 5% of the population. While this is true, The Economist points out that due to massive urban migration, the government itself is now the largest rural landowner. Furthermore, considering Mr. Chavez's adherence to crony politics is seems likely that new favorites will constantly be shuttled in and out of the ranch. This will only increase Venezuela's food imports (already at 70%) and their dependence on oil.

Social and economic reforms are clearly needed in Venezuela. However, alienating the private sector merely for the sake of "the revolution" will get the country and - in the long run- Mr. Chavez nowhere.

Woman gives birth to giant baby

Some poor woman in Brazil gave birth to a baby that was 16.7 pounds. According to the hospital director he was "obviously" delivered by C-section. I would hope so. There's a picture along with an article here. Apparently, he's the size of a 6-month old, and he looks it.

More on South Com in Colombia

I just found another article, this one from the U.S. government site, about Colombia. In this case the South Com chief seems to be confirming the Z-magazine article by expressing a need to increase involvement to beyond just halting narco-traffic.

Colombia and U.S. Miami South Com

Earlier in the year I rememeber coming upon this article about U.S. military involvement in Colombia. It's dated 1999, but I don't know anything more about the situation. I was wondering if anybody knew more about South Com's plans or actions in Latin America since I would really like to learn more. Here's a link, it's a short article from the liberal "Z Magazine" online.

Fog of War

I just got through watching the documentary Fog of War. The film is a commentary/interview with MacNamara, who was Secretary of Defense during, (among other events) the Cuban Missle Crisis and Vietnam War. I was really impressed with what MacNamara had to say. And as a side note, I couldn't help but notice that clips of Linden Johnson speaking about the Vietnam War sounded almost identical to our current president talking about the War in Iraq. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

City of God

The movie City of God is based on true events that occurred in a housing project outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The movie is very good and also very intense. The movie is entirely in Portuguese and subtitled in English, but it is not difficult to follow the movie. What is really unique about this movie is that most of the actors were not professionals, but they were people taken out of the real City of God and put into the movie. It is definitely a must see movie. Here is a link on for more information and a summary about the movie. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Aztec Calendar

I found the acticle we read this week on the Aztec Calendar very interesting so I researched it some more. Here is a good site I found for anyone else who is also interested.

Aztec Calendar

Boycott Taco Bell?

I saw a bumpersticker the other day that triggered my curiosity, so I decided to look into it. I could not get the image to upload, but you can view it and the article below. Apparently immigrant workers that work the tomato farms that Taco Bell uses are not able to earn a decent living with their wages. This group claims that if Taco Bell Raises its prices by one cent, they would be able to pay the immigrant workers enough to raise a family and live off of. Full Article

non-regional subsystems

Nations Ranked as Protectors of the Environment, an article in the New York Times, discusses a study conducted by Yale. This study ranks countries by their environmental sustainable-- an index which ranks nations on conservation issues such as air quality, biodiversity and international environmental cooperation. This study placed Norway, Finland and Uruguay at the top. While these three countries are usually not linked in the international arena, their common policies and beliefs regarding the environment may allow them to come together in international environmental negations and create an sub-system based on environmental-friendly policy, albeit this sub-system might be temporary.

Chileans Flee False Tsunami

I was reading the New York Times when I came across this article which really made me wonder about the ability of the Chilean government to communicate with its citizens. On January 18th in Santiago Chile, a false tsunami alarm caused thousands of people to flee their homes in terror! Apparently 3 young men ran through a beach around 2am screaming that a huge wave was coming and caused the entire city to panic. The article said that an estimated 12,000 people fled their homes and caused over 4 car accidents, not to mention the many people who had to be taken to the hospital because they went into shock. It made me wonder about the forms of communication in this part of Chile because the authorities were not able to calm the citizens down and tell them that it was a false alarm until thousands of them had already fled to the mountains!

Here is a link to the article in case you are interested:

Latin America's Voice at the Washington Post

Marcella Sanchez is a columnist at the Washington Post who holds a column every Thursday on Latin America entitled “Desde Washington”. Her column is published not only in English but also in Spanish. With her weekly columns, she is a little sign of recognition of the numerous Latin American community living in the United States. She also embodies a part of the voice of the expatriate Latin American community by delivering her committed and ruthless view on Latin American policy (this week she dealt with the controversy on the legitimacy of Uribe’s policy) and also on the relations between those countries and the big brother American (2 weeks ago she entitled her column “ Bush looking every which way but South” to denounce Bush’s lack of interest for Latin America since 9/11 and the fact that the only times when Latin America was listened to were when its opinion or action benefited the USA). Click here to read her column.

Cultural Perceptions of Time

Last week when posting answers to our questions on the discussion board, many students of the LAST 101 class could not understand why the Latin American perception of time was so different from ours in that they do not take times, schedules, and dates as seriously as us. I actually hadn't heard of their perception of time being different, so I was really surprised when I came across a paragraph in my Organizational Behavior book that also talked about it. Since I don't have a link to the book - here is the paragraph that talks about it...taken from Robert Kreitner's 6th edition of Organizational Behavior, which describes that the US believes time is monochronic, and Latin America follows more of a polychronic time schedule:

"In North American and Northern European cultures, time seems to be a simple matter. It is linear, relentlessly marching forward, never backward, in standardized chunks. To the American who received a watch for his or her third birthday, time is like money. It is spent, saved, or wasted. Americans are taught to show up 10 minutes early for appointments. When working across cultures, however, time becomes a very complex matter. Imagine a New Yorker's chagrin when left in a waiting room for 45 minutes, only to find a Latin American government official dealing with three other people at once. The North American resents the lack of prompt and undivided attention. The Latin American official resents the North American's impatience and apparent self-centeredness. This vicious cycle of resentment can be explained by the distinction between monochronic time and polychronic time:

The former is revealed in the ordered, precise, schedule-driven use of public time that typifies and even caricatures efficient Northern Europeans and North Americans. The latter is seen in the multiple and cyclical activities and concurrent involvement with different people in Mediterranean, Latin American, and especially Arab cultures."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sick and in bed

So this weekend, I was sick and was forced to stay in bed and watch tv. The movie zoro came on with Antonio Banderas, and I got to thinking. Is this Zoro character a completely made up person or does it have any truth to it. Zoro reminds me of our Robin Hood, they have a lot of similarities. Other than that the movie was great, and very entertaining.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

How religious are Latin Americans?

A couple of years ago, our family decided to get our roof re-shingled after a particularly devastating hailstorm. The workers of the company were from Mexico, I believe, who came up to work in America and send money back to their families. However, my brother spoke in Spanish with them to practice, and he told me that although many of them used to be quite religious back home, in America they had yet to go to church once. In fact, my brother said with some amusement, they were planning to go to strip clubs that weekend or something to that effect.

So I am wondering if Catholicism is more of a culturally imposed practice more than any sort of real belief in Latin America, and if this is true, wouldn't this belief limit the flexibility of Latin America as it tries to industrialize, deal with diseases and whatnot?

Friday, January 21, 2005

US position on Chavez

In the latest The Oppenheimer Report he discusses recent statements given by the Bush administration on President Hugo Chavez. After the incident with Colombian rebels, Venezuelan negligence has apparently become an issue. My father was visitng Venezuela at the time this happened and apparently Granda, the man kidnapped, had been a Venezuelan citizen for a year. Not only that but he was staying at the Hilton Hotel in Caracas. While I understand the concerns that the United States may have with Venezuela harboring "terrorists", I believe this is hardly something they need to get into.

Class Discussion and Imperialism: Benevolence or Self Interest?

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

Sorry about the blank post before, I guess I'm still figuring out how to post.

After our in class discussion today about modern imperialism in reference to world powers shaping smaller and less powerful states in their own image and with their own ideals through development, I decided that I would like to continue that discussion online.

When a more advanced state aids in the development of a lesser state, the question has to be asked, what is in it for them. It is hard to believe, in the political sphere, that a state is helping another out of simple benevolence, especially in a power struggle situation like world sphere politics. In class we also discussed realism in terms of international relations, and I think we are currently realizing a very strong realist Presidential administration. In the specific but still very broad example of Latin America, an region so close to the US is obviously seen as important to the US in regards to trade relations, political relationships and stability. If the US helps in the aid of an underdeveloped Latin American State under our current administration, which as previously stated I believe as being very realist in nature, I can not help but assume that we are keeping our own interests in mind as much as the interests of any state that we would help to develop.

I'm looking forward to this hopefully sparking more discussion.

[EDITOR'S UPDATE: I've deleted the blank post that Jim is referring to above.--Jefe Maximo]

Liberal Developmentalism

It is dangerous to link or equate the words "Western" and "Modern". If this happens, Non-Western regions will forever be linked to the opposite of modern, "traditional"(or "backwards" in the worst case scenario). Latin American countries continue to make tremendous political and economic strides and gain clout on the world stage. Development doesn't have to come at the expense of losing native culture and tradition. The influence of Western values and institutions are inevitable in our globalizing world, but that does not necessarily mean they should be held as a paradigm of perfection. We want to see Brazilian Modern and Mexican Modern, based on each nation-states own unique terms and values.

Will the PRI Be Re-elected in 2006?

When Vicente Fox of the PAN was elected president in 2000, many thought that the true democratization of Mexico would now begin. However, opposition in the Chamber of Deputies and Fox's failure to implement many campaign promises have put a damper on democratization.

At the midterm elections, PAN lost seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRI was once again the majority. The PRI has been very vocal in challenging many of Fox's proposals to change government.

Also, many of Fox's promises, such as a more open immigration policy with the United States, have failed to take off. Fox was quite dependant on President Bush for this initiative; however after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, that policy was quickly taken off the table.

Many Mexicans have become disillusioned with this new "democracy" and are predicted to vote for the PRI candidate in 2006. I believe that, although Fox failed to make many changes, these were in fact becuase of outside factors that could not have been helped. Does anyone else believe that the PRI will take over the presidency in 2006? Was Fox's victory just a blip on the virtual hold the PRI has in Mexico?

[NOTE: This post was submitted by Desiree Dominguez.]

Popping Costa Rica’s Cherry

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

I love Costa Rica so much it hurts to say this – but Tico politics just aren’t what they used (or thought) to be. While Costa Rica still soars above all its Central American neighbors in terms of everything good and remains the envy of the whole isthmus, it no longer enjoys an unblemished and squeaky clean political record.

In the second half of 2004, allegations of bribery rocked the San Jose capital. Minus all the smaller people (of which some are not so little), the degree of the corruption rippled all the way to the office of at least two former Presidents – newly elect Secretary General of the OAS Miguel Angel Rodriguez (1998-2002) and Rafael Angel Calderon (1990-1994). Claims even reach to a daughter of current President Abel Pacheco.

For improprieties dealing with the Taiwanese government and French Alltell, and the Finnish government respectively, the two former Presidents have mired their country’s reputation and now find themselves in incarceration awaiting trial. However, give credit to the Ticos for holding their leaders to a high standard. I find it laughable that our own “model” justice system fails to notice or lacks the integrity to go after Rodriguez’s and Calderon’s American counterparts – Bush and Dick.

No, I am not talking about oil. Yes, I am talking about the Carlyle Group’s profiteering off the blood and sweat of our troops. Yes, I am also aware that Costa Rica is a partner in the so-called Coalition of the Willing but since they have no standing army they also have no one to send and hence no one to die or get maimed. Maybe one day we’ll get an Attorney General as courageous and righteous as that in Costa Rica before Cheney’s bad heart catches up with him. Hope you had a Happy Inauguration Day.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Drugs in Mexico

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

I realize that Mexico's role in the trade of drugs to the United States is important because of its neighboring location. After reading an article in the Americas section of The New York Times online, I also realized that a lot more is going on than I had origianlly thought. President Fox had cracked down on the drug cartels in Mexico in previous years and many leaders had been arrested. I learned from this article that those successes have attributed to more problems now as a result of some cartels joining together to create more power since many of their leaders were jailed. Even more interestingis the fact that jailed leaders have been able to communicate, and in some instances give orders for death, through corrupt gaurds and lawyers. I was amazed that such a triumph (or a supposed one) could crumble so easily within the span of only a few years. The article mentions that some of the cartel leaders have even been able to escape. I wonder what the best steps to take to avoid such merges and violence directed from prison from happening in the future would be. It is a very deadly field for both the drug cartels and the law officials working to get rid of them. Does Mexico and possibly the U.S. need to work on the law enforcement side? Here is the link to the article:

Forgein Policy In Focus

Forgein Policy in Focus is a great website which features policy briefs and speciel reports on international relations stories throughout the world. Check out the Americas link.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Discussion on Chilean Atrocities

A new movie, "machuca", about the 1973 military coup by Pinochet has just been released. A review can be found at Recently, there have also been court cases and protests about all the atrocoties committed by Pinochet and his regime. I think that all the discussion, both political and social, is a good sign for Chile. States that facilitate discussion about their past abuse seem to progress faster. For example, Russia which has had little conversation about Stalin's gulags continues to operate in an atmosphere of secrecy and abuse. Whereas Germany which in the 60's started nationwide education programs on Hitler and the Nazi's has had much more success in the world. I think that the current trends in Chile are cathartic for both the people and the political system.

Costa Rican Volunteer programs

All that talk about Service Learning in class today made me think of my favorite Latin American country, the only one I've been to, Costa Rica. This website is one of many that offers an opportunity to lend a hand to worthy causes in the region. Another relevant site is the Panamerican Center of Languages Site of Costa Rica, or CPI for short. CPI is a school I went to this past summer for students and adults of all ages wishing to study Spanish. You can even get college credit for your time there, and I highly recommend checking it out. Costa Rica is a gorgeous country with some really great people, and my trip was as much recreational as it was academic. There's also opportunities for community service through the CPI site.

Cuba Bans Smoking in Enclosed Public Areas

I found an article on Cnn about how Cuba, the place most well known for cigars, is going to implement a no-smoking policy in many enclosed Public Areas, which goes into effect starting February 7. It seems that people are finally realizing that Cigars and Cigarettes are actually harmful to the human bodies of those people not doing the smoking too.

Colombia hires bounty hunters?

Colombia seems to be a popular subject this week so I thought I'd add to the topic. When I saw this article I was amazed. It says that the Colombian president has issued an open invitation to bounty hunters to come in and search for rebels. If I hadn't seen it on I'm not sure I would have believed it. My first thought was, does Colombia really need even more groups of armed men running around the country?

The Illicit Drug Trade...

While reading an article on a recent helicopter crash in Colombia on an anti-drug mission, the article reminded me of the complexity as well as ambiguity associated with illegal drug trafficking. The issue encompasses international actions which surpass state boundaries but are not exclusive problems of International Relations but complex social and economic issues of each state. This article on the UN's website discusses the economic implications of drug trafficking if anyone is interested

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Mexico's Political Future: Transition To What?

I was reading up on the political history of Mexico when I came upon this quote that really struck a chord:

"The obvious truth about that one system is falling apart on us, but we have no other system to put in its place" - CARLOS FUENTES

I liked this quote because when discussing developing countries it is so easy to criticize thier political situations without taking all factors into consideration. Especially in the past few years, even in countries not in Latin America like Iraq or Afganistan, it is important to realize how hard it is to change a government and what it takes to make a change that drastic!

Everything in Moderation

There are so many different views regarding the way in which the international system is supposed to function. Realism, idealism, neoliberalism, and world systems theory all appear so different that it's difficult to imagine the people who hold those views of the world live in the same one.

I want to go farther than Atkins to say that the system as a whole involves such a breadth of cultures and persons that no overarching theory can function to explain the whole of it. One must select from the theories as applicable in order to understand the world as a whole. There is no reason for a person to, say, cling to realism when it is obvious that, for the benefit of the community, states can be fully willing to abandon their struggle for power and give some of it away (i.e. the European Union as of Nice). At the same time, post-modern idealism may be a poor choice when attempting to explain China's economic policies vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

In order to obtain a fuller, more hollistic view of the world system—and this must, I'm certain, apply also to subsystems such as Latin America and the Caribbean—, a pluralist mind-set should be adopted.

Relations within the Latin American Subsystem

An article in the New York Times, Colombia Admits It Hired Agents to Abduct Rebel in Venezuela, looks at example of IR within the Latin American subsystem. The Colombian government employed bounty hunters, operating in Venezula, to seize a Marxist rebel. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has described the actions of Columbia's government as a violation of his state's soveignity. The article explores the differences between the left-leaning Venezulan government of Mr. Chavez and the right-wing Columbian government. The contrast shows the diversity of domestic and international policy of Latin American countries. The role of Ecquador in this situation show the complexity of Latin American politics. Multiple actors within the Latin American subsystem are often involved.

Mexican Restaurants in New Orleans

I love Mexican food so I thought I would look up some good places to go in New Orleans...

Nacho Mama's
721 Common St

Superior Grill
3636 St. Charles Ave

Taqueria Corona
5932 Magazine St

4938 Prytania St

Vera Cruz
7537 Maple St

Juan's Flying Burrito
2018 Magazine St

Feel free to add to list or comment on these restaurants!

Friends of Cuban Libraries

Due to Cuba's communist government and the US embargo of Cuba, the flow of information between the two countries is limited. In 2003, the friends of Cuban libraries spoke out against US regulations which were delaying the editing process of works from Cuba, as well as the Sudan and North Korea. More recently, the US has reaffirmed its policy, "which exempts informational materials from embargo regulations." This policy is based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guaranteeing everyone the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." This policy is ignored within Cuba where all materials considered "counterrevolutionary" are banned and librarians who disregard the ban have been jailed. Two examples of banned materials that were cited are the aforementioned Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the novel "Animal Farm," by George Orwell. More information on this subject can be found at

Venezuelan-Colombian oil pipeline

I stumbled upon this article when I was reading some of the recent news releases for Latin America. It's short, but interesting. A Venezuelan-Colombian oil pipeline is a hot topic because of the risk involved due to the overwhelming presence of the FARC in Colombia. However, many good things could result from this inter-state pipeline. I tried to find out if the Andean Corporation of Promotion voted on this issue, but I could not find anything on the internet. If you have any news please let me know. Also, I wonder if and how this issue was affected by the recent abduction of a Colombian citizen by Venezuelan authorities and the resulting "tiff" that arose between President Chaves of Venezuela and President Uribe of Colombia. Anyway, here is the link...

Monday, January 17, 2005


Last night as I was watching Blow, one of my favorite movies, I kept in mind the two articles we read for class from the Global Studies book. Many of the explanations from the "Myth and Reality" article were proved in the film. It shows how strong the bonds of family are, the cultural trait of machismo, the role of women, and also the political culture. So while it might seem that the film only deals with drug aspect of North American/Latin American relations, it goes much further into many different areas. If you havent checked this film out, you should.

The Siesta

I want to reference El Jefe Maximo's post about Spain and the debate about ending the Siesta, which can be found here. I think that if the Siesta was done away with and businesses stayed open from 9-5, it would help the businesses. There have been many times when I have wanted to go to a mexican restaurant for a late lunch, early dinner, or just a snack and they have been closed.

Informative Website

I don't know if anyone has already posted this website, but since I was interested in learning more about Paraguay, which is the country I have to do for the Country Profile Assignment, I decided to get a head start to learn info about it. So, I was searching the web and found this website, which I really liked. I hope this helps other people - there's actually a bunch of really interesting links if you just wanted to learn more about Latin America in general too.

I just clicked on the countries link to find info - hope this helps someone else too!
There are soooo many depressing articles about Latin America all the time that it's not often that you find something positive. Well, here's an analysis of Columbia's progress towards a more stable, democractic country that's one of the more hopeful articles I've read in a while:

Reports see Latin American influence falling

Lately I've been following the Oppenheimer Report through the Miami Herald. I found Andres Oppenheimer's last column, Reports see Latin American influence falling, quite interesting. Not surprisingly, the constant rule of caudillos and their "government ineffectiveness" in Latin America seem to hinder its progress. I found great parallels between what we discussed in class regarding why we should study Latin America and its international impact and this report. Agreeing with certain aspects of this column, I don't see Latin America rising as a region, but rather as very few select countries on their own. So where does Latin America go from now in the globe's way to "Easternization"?

Spain, Siesta, Work, and Time

The New York Times printed a fascinating little article about the conception of time and work in Spain. It appears that the Spaniards are debating whether to eliminate the traditional "siesta" so as to align the Spanish work day with that of the more common 9-5 Western work week tradition. As it stands now, Spaniards take an extended 2-3 hour lunch during the "siesta" hours (2-5pm) and return to work until late in the evening. Some are questioning whether this traditional pattern is efficient, not to mention healthy. And, of course, since Latin America is culturally linked to Spain and particularly the concepts of time and work that are linked to this "siesta" tradition, I would imagine that the debate in Spain is relevant to Latin America as well. I, personally, like the siesta tradition. But it does seem to me that it is slowly headed for gradual extinction.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

wannabe mariachis

This is a bit off-topic for Latin American international relations but I thought it was interesting.

While it's great for cultural diversity and understanding that we keep moving towards a more integrated, global community, at the same time, too many traditional individual communities are being watered-down and distorted for mass consumption. Even worse, opportunistic outsiders are infiltrating these communities so they can cash in on the latest cultural fad. I know I get pissed by all the money those hokey "traditional Hawaiian" luaus make selling "traditional Hawaiian culture." Anyway, it seems in Mexico City, they have the same problem with an influx of fake and wannabe mariachis:

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Bitter Education of Vargas Llosa

In Alma Guillermoprieto's article called "The Bitter Education of Vargas Llosa" an interesting fact sort of struck me. Vargas Llosa was married to his aunt, divorced, and then married his first cousin. That immediately reminded my of Garcia Marquez's 1oo Years of Solitude in which many of the Buendias inter marry.

What confuses me: Do Latin Americans view marrying family members as incest? Is there any particular reason for inbreeding like the aristocratic class of Europe? In 100 Years of Solitude, inbreeding had a particular danger for the Buendia family, resulting in the destruction of Macondo (it has been awhile since I have read the book, so please correct me if I am wrong). The first Buendia's (Jose Arcadio Buendia I believe) wife (Ursula?) vainly attempted to prevent the inbreeding of the Buendia family and thus the deformed child with the extended spinal cord. However, in the account of Vargas Llosa, these facts of marriage to his aunt and his cousin were presented almost as normal profile data. What is the view of inbreeding in Latin America?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Lessons for Latin America from China

Last November, Andres Oppenheimer wrote on the heels of the Chinese Premier's visit to Latin America that Latin America should break out of its insularity (and its usually Western orientation) and should look towards the East, and particularly China, for examples on how to shake the current doldrums of economic stagnation. Is China a good model for Latin America? Oppenheimer thinks so, but I'm not so sure. Yes, lessons can be learned, but the last time Latin America took lessons from the east (i.e. the Asian Tigers), the result was not so positive. Is Oppenheimer barking up the fantasy tree of wishful thinking, or does he have a point?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Learn more about Latin America trade agreements at GlobalEdge

The IR readings have mentioned ALCA, MERCOSUR, NAFTA and other multinational and regional trading agreements that affect Latin America. GlobalEdge is a great online reference to learn more about these important agreements. The site has links to trade laws, Latin America stock exchanges, current events affecting trade, and websites that debate issues surrounding the trade agreements like globalization, sustainability and social responsibility.

St.Kitts and Nevis

So over winter break I spent a week on St.Kitts which lies off the coast of venezuela. This island was one of the most beautiful islands I have ever seen in my life. But some of the things that were happening on this island were disheartening. First the hotel I stayed at has driven all government owned hotels out of business which hurts the island. Now that the island is spoiled by an americanized Marriot. This hotel has driven up prices on the island a ridiculous amount. For one meal per person it was close to 30$ US, that is outrageous. The island is also kind of backwards in regards to its citizens. Some people on this island do not even have running water, they have public restrooms but have enough money to have satellite TV, and computers. That is just backwards. Other than that this island is beautiful, it has a rainforest and has a sister island, Nevis, which is a volcanic island. This island was great but very expensive, I recommend visiting it!

Argentine debt default

I've been reading more and more about the current events in Argentina because I'm moving there in a few months. Heresay is that the currency will hold at 30 cents per dollar, which helps me a little, but as far as Argentina goes....well, go ahead and read this little tid-bit...

If you get any new information, or anything that seems more correct, let me know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mexico and the United States

The media in the United States operates under the assumption that Latin American foreign and domestic policy show serve US interests. An article in the New York Times suggests that Mexico is remiss for placing the survival needs of its citizens over US concerns over a porous border. However, the mainstream press and the general populace would revolt if the United States government put foreign policy needs over the needs of its own citizens. I think this double standard should be acknowledged and hopefully fixed.

U.S. involvement in Argentina

I'm sure that most people know about the infamous "Dirty Wars" in Latin America, especially Argentina's Dirty War in the seventies. I recently found this online at the National Security archive. Newly declassified tapes from LBJ's presidency reveal that the U.S. actually knew about the Argentiniean Dirty War and basically turned a blind eye to this blatant terrorism. It all somewhat reinforces the notion that the U.S.'s interests in Latin America have been solely for one-sided gains. Also declassified is evidence leading to the conclusion that the U.S. had a role in overthrowing legit President Goulart of Brazil in 1967.

Latin American Nightclub Fire

There was recently a large fire at a nightclub in Buenos Aires, killing and injuring hundreds of people. This seems to parallel the Great White concert fire a while back here in the States. It's an interesting article, more on the pop-culture/current events side of things.

An Interesting Article

I found this article on today, and it seems to be very relevant to our Latin American Studies Course. It is about the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Although we have not talked about him, he seems to be a very important part of Chilean History. Here it is, Enjoy

Disaster Relief and the Developing World - Lessons from Honduras

New York Times reporters Ginger Thompson and Nazila Fathi give us a sobering accounting of how the international community responds to natural disasters in other parts of the developing world. The memory is short-term(and so is the help), but the devastating consequences are long-term.

Thompson and Fathi start out their piece accordingly:
The people of San Miguel Arcangel know all too well what it is like to be struck by disaster, and they have watched the world rush to Asia's rescue with sober eyes.

Elder Nahum Caceres said his entire community was swept off a hillside six years ago by Hurricane Mitch. In his wallet he keeps a handwritten list of the dozen international aid organizations that have come and gone since then.

'I don't know how much they sent, but they tell me this is a million-dollarvproject,' Mr. Caceres said, looking down over an unsightly patch of flat gray houses in different stages of completion. 'I would like them to see what has happened with all their money.'

Eric Moscoso, a neighbor of Mr. Caceres, was more succinct: 'We are abandoned.'
What drives the international system to engage in a "rapid response" to global crises, but then ends up leaving folks high-and-dry once the dust settles and the conditions and lives of the devastated are no longer front page news?

Monday, January 10, 2005

Current Events on Latin America

There are a lot of great resources to dig into current events on Latin America. Some of the best, in my estimation, are to be found in the "Americas" section of the New York Times. The Washington Post also has a very good section on the Americas. Some other good news resources on current events in Latin America include The Miami Herald (which has the absolutely essential Oppenheimer Report); and the Los Angeles Times. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Explore, report, and comment!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - The Latin American Notebook

This blog is an effort to explore and comment upon that world region known as Latin America. The contributors to this blog are students at Tulane University who are interested in Latin American Studies through a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts. The first group of student bloggers came from my "Introduction to Latin American Studies" course and my "Latin American International Relations" course in the Spring of 2005. Students in nearly all of my courses since then have participated in the exercise.

The goal of this blog, which is also an experiment in educational pedagogy, is threefold: (1) to develop an intellectual community of student scholars on the region of Latin America; (2) to foster communication and conversation among students who are studying the same region and whose intellectual paths may never otherwise cross; (3) and to serve as a provocative and public clearinghouse of information and opinion on all things Latin American.

It is my hope, as the moderator of this blog and as the instructor of the relevant, participating courses, that this experiment will result in a lasting and continued conversation about Latin America -- a conversation that will involve not only current and future students at Tulane interested in Latin American Studies, but anyone who has a passion for and an interest in Latin America. It is also my hope that students will continue to contribute to this blog long after their obligations to it as students in my courses end.

I invite anyone interested in Latin American Studies to also join in the discussion by adding your comments in the comments section at the end of each individual posting. I hope you will visit the site often.