Thursday, March 31, 2005

Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America

Over the weekend, President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox met in Texas to form a "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America". President Bush hopes the agreement will "generate momentum for an expanded hemispheric trading partnership in both North and South America...a particular focus will be improving implementation of the 12-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been subject to disputes," according to the Wall Street Journal. The three North American economies want to band together amid growing competition from other regions of the world. Security was also a topic of discussion. Working groups from the three countries will now meet to solicit ideas from businesses and governments at the state and local level.

Coca and indigenous culture

Since we've started talking about Colombia and the problem of the drug trade I thought I would recommend a book, even though none of you will probably read it. The book is The Hold Life Has: coca and cultural identity in an Andean community by Catherine J. Allen. It's an ethnography about a traditional indigenous community and the centrality that coca has in their culture and cosmovision. I don't think that most people realize that, before being processed into cocaine, coca is no more potent, or harmful, than a cup of coffee.

Assimilation policy and salad bowl

I am not egocentric enough to tell you about my whole life but I find it interesting to tell you that little episode to show you how I came seriously to the thoughts I put forward at the end.
For Spring break I went to Los Angeles. Before I left, I was told that I would improve my Spanish rather than my English. I thought it was overestimating the influence of the Spanish language in that city and I thought it was nothing but cliché. Now I must admit that I was wrong! When you walk in many neighborhoods you can hear people speaking Spanish around you. When you take buses, Spanish-speaking people surround you. In every neighborhood you can see ads written both in English and Spanish. Very often, you can read casual warnings in both languages.

We all know objective facts about Latin-American immigration to California. We all know how huge is the Mexican population living in Los Angeles. But, it is hard to realize it until you are confronted to it directly.

When I came back I couldn’t help thinking about the concepts of immigration and integration. It became obvious for me how different the conceptions of immigration were in Europe and in the United States. Indeed, in Europe it is commonly said that immigration was successful when the immigrant became completely converted to embrace the culture of his new country of residence; it is even sometimes considered, though not always acknowledged, that the immigrant should lose a part of his native culture in order to make the immigration successful and to become fully integrated. The dominant policy concerning immigration in Europe is turned to assimilation while in the United States it is blatant that the “salad bowl” became the rule and that a kind of assimilation policy didn’t occur.

I don’t know which policy is the more appropriate. Both the European and the American policies have defects but it seems to me crucial that the immigration policy should be more discussed for the years to come. It is obvious that the immigration policy was designed decades ago for the society of that time and it did not evolve much since then, contrary to society. And that becomes all the more in a city like Los Angeles where, as soon as you arrive there, you can no longer ignore the huge Latin-American community and you realize that policies need to be adjusted to such realities.

Cuba Emboldened

In an article entitled "Mission Improbable" the Economist talks about Castro's increasing confidence and his harsh crackdown on dissent. Castro has numerous reasons to pleased with the current political atmosphere.

China and Venezuela have given Cuba's economy, which is showing minimal signs of recovery, a boost. The EU has abandoned its tough stance on Cuba and suspended its sanctions for 6 months. A EU commissioner for aid even visited Cuba last week. Finally, the left-of-center governments in Latin America have also been more sympathetic to Cuba

The US is however still vehemently opposed to making any concessions to Cuba.

The depressing conclusion of the economist is that neither the openness of the EU nor the challenge posed by the US will persuade Castro to loosen his iron grip on Cuba. Considering the current state of things they seem to be justified in saying so.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Killing over Environmental Dispute in Brazil

According to an article on, a rancher accused of hiring men to kill an American nun in the Amazon rainforest about 6 months ago finally surrendered to police, and declared his innocence. The killing occured because of a dispute between the rancher and the nun - the nun wanted a portion of the rainforest to "be declared a sustainable development project for poor settlers" while the rancher wanted to develop the stretch of rainforest and log it.

For more information on this, here is the article.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Human Rights: The Universal Justication in Latin American International Relations

Actions regarding Latin American-US Relationships, whether by a Latin American actor or by the United States, are often justified in human rights terms. An article in the new york times, U.S. to Lift Ban on Military Aid to Guatemala , illustrates this point. This article discusses two actions -- the downsizing of the military by Guatemalan president Óscar Berger and the U.S.'s decision to lift ban on military aid to Guatemala. The Guatemalan president has cut the military's troop strength by close to half, to 15,000 soldiers from 27,000 in the wake on massive human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan military. This action has been applauded as a step forward for human rights. The United States has decided to reward the improvement in the human rights situation with American arms. U.S Defense Secretary Rusfeld said, "I've been impressed by the reforms that have been undertaken." Thus, the rhetoric of human rights is loud and bilateral in US-Latin American International Relationships.

Latin America tensions

Here is an article from the USAtoday website discussing the border disputes and other military issues.

Monday, March 28, 2005

News in Costa Rica

Since it is my duty to research about Costa Rica for class this week, I started early and found this website just in case anyone wanted a good place to look for current news in the nation. A quick overview as of this post: There was a small tsunami off the Cocos Islands, Costa Rica's soccer team defeated Panama's, 2-1, A Royal Palm Beach, Florida manslaughter fugitive was recently found and captured in Costa Rica, and a major fire damaged some buildings in San Jose this week.

Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads"

In our readings this week about art and politics in Latin America, Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads" mural caught my attention. In California in 1933, Rivera's patron, John D. Rockefeller, ordered his "Man at the Crossroads" mural to be destroyed because Rivera refused to remove the figure of Lenin from an allegory of progress in the modern age. Here is a link to a picture of the mural before it was destroyed.

Born Into Brothels

I saw a documentary about the children in the Indian red light district called Born Into Brothels. I really enjoyed this documentary a lot and I recommend all to see it. This documentary didn't have anything directly to do with Latin America, but while I was watching the movie I couldn't help but think of Latin America, particularly the movie Men with Guns. Watching the documentary gave you a sense of absolute injustice and anger, but it also gives you a sense of perplexing confusion and helplessness. These children seem doomed despite their goals and desires to repeat the same destructive life that their parents have. Men with Guns has that same feeling, that no matter what the outsiders attempt to do, the situation is so terrible that nothing can help them. Furthermore, I sort of felt that feeling of cycles in Latin American political and economic past sort of echoes that sort of feeling.

Just some thoughts. Go see the movie if you get the chance.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Chile's Easter Island

It being Easter and all, I thought I could tie in Latin America to the holiday, and see if they celebrated any differently. However, I decided to go the more interesting route and researched a little on Easter Island, off of Chile. I found a fascinating webpage that tells about the history of the island, and many of its mysteries, including many links to other webpages with more useful info.

Here's the website.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On the flipside...

Venezuela needs to learn from its southern neighbor, Chile, and elect a more moderate president. Once again, President Hugo Chavez is gearing up for a fight. As he continues to alienate the rest of the world by allying with radical regimes around the globe, thinks continue to look worse and worse for Venezuela. Although Chavez has largely remained within Venezuelan law (or has at least appeared to), his increasingly rabid rhetoric seems to demonstrate a move towards a new authoritarian regime. For the stability of Latin America and the world, let's hope not.

Washington Post article on the subject.

Hasta Luego Presidente Lagos

I disappeared for a few days thanks to a broken computer but now I'm back! Anyway, the Washington Post recently ran an article that chronicles the term of outgoing Chilean president Ricardo Lago. It's sad to see him go after the economic and social turn around brought about by his policies. Hopefully, he'll be re-elected later (consecutive terms aren't allowed under the Chilean constitution). But even more importantly, Chileans must be vigilant in order to continue the successful, moderate policies begun under Lagos and to keep the country from devolving into another dictatorship or other kind of extreme regime. His presidency should be one that other Latin American countries emulate.

Washington Post article on the subject.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Motorcycle Diaries

I saw the motorcycle diaries this weekend, and it was a great movie. Here is a link to the movie review.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Chavez backing his discourse

We all know Chavez sentiments on the current administration in the United States. It wouldn't be realistic to think that Venezuela would stop exporting oil to the United States, but still Chavez seems to be exploring alternate options like India and China, and intends on cutting oil exports to the US. HE appeared on Al-Jazeera seeking support and allies to unite with him against American imperialist policies. Even if Chavez were to cut oil exports to America, how much would this affect the US, wouldn't another oil exporting country increase their exports? Here is the article from the Washington Post:

Chavez Casts Himself As the Anti Bush

"U.S. Efforts Seen as 'Against Freedom'"

I found this article on the Washington Post regarding Mexico-US relations. As we discussed in class, Mexico's primary goals and objectives in foreign policy and international relations are to expand and ameliorate it's relationship with the United States regarding issues such as immigration, economic advancements, politics, etc. The article touches on very recent negotiations and discussions on the issues, check it out.

Costa Rica and Caricom

Today in class, for all of you that were elsewhere, we discussed Caricom, or The Caribbean Community Secretariat, which is an organization of several small island countries in the Caribbean Sea (you can find out which countries here).

I couldn't help but draw a parallel between Costa Rica and Caricom. Dependence on the US is a common theme, in one way or another, throughout the Western Hemisphere. Costa Rica and Caricom are in need of US for different reasons, but it manifests itself in the same way. Because Costa Rica has no substantial military, it has to make sure not to make any policy, or engage in any relations, that will upset the US too much. This same behavior is true for Caricom, for the same reason, but also because it is dependent on the US for markets in which to engage in trade. I know there are many parallels that can be drawn between many Western Hemisphere states, but I find this particularly interesting, because Costa Rica and the Caricom states are very different in almost every way.

Fidel Castro Listed in Forbes Magazine as Worth $550 Million

According to CNN, Fidel Castro, 78, has been listed in Forbes Magazine as among the wealthiest world leaders. "Once again, they have committed the infamy of speaking about Castro's fortune, placing me almost above the queen of England," Castro said in Havana. "Do they think I am Mobutu or one of the many millionaires, those thieves and plunderers, that the empire has suckled and protected?" The empire that he is refering to is of course the United States.

Forbes believes Castro “derived his fortune from a web of state-owned companies that include retail conglomerate CIMEX, pharmaceutical company Medicuba and a convention center near Havana.”

The Cuban government immediately issued a press statement, dismissing the story as a “campaign of lies". "The revenues of Cuban state-run companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people. Cuba has the fairest income distribution in the world.”

This is the second year Castro has appeared on the list. Last year, his worth was an estimated $150 million.

Cuba Diaries by Isadora Tattlin

Cuaderno Latinoamericano
My parents recently gave me a book entitled Cuba Diaries by Isadora Tattlin that was published in 2002. I just finished it and want to recommend it to anyone that is even slightly interested in the current affairs and standard of living in Cuba. It is a true account of life written by the wife of an American diplomat posted in Cuba in the 1990s. I found it interesting because she points out the many disparities between the socioeconomic classes of Cuba, especially the differences between the elite/foreigners and the mostly poor citizens. She points out at one point that beggars ask for soap instaed of money. USA Today's review of the book says, "Cuba Diaries leaves fascinating and indelible images of the everyday reality for the inhabitants of Fidel Castro's fiefdom...and pointedly illustrates the impact of what Cubans refer to as el triunfo de la revolucion." It was a good read, and I'd be happy to loan it out if anyone is interested.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

M-13 arrests

This is an addendum to the earlier post about M-13, the gang made up mostly of illegal Central American immigrants. This article gives a little background of the gang and information about the nationwide crackdown that resulted in over 100 arrests. The article mentions that one of the leaders of the gang was nicknamed El Culiche, which the article translates as "Tapeworm." I suppose I have to trust the article, but seriously, what kind of gang leader names himself after an intestinal parasite?

Inter-American Prejudices

Despite the Anglo-Germanic's world willingness to lump Latin America into one large whole, the Latin American region is wildly separate. Nearly two centuries of animosities have created lasting prejudices between different nationalities; these are so deeply ingrained that they have become difficult to overcome.

These animosities are passed on from generation to generation in a very casual way. Children are trained to hate certain groups simply because of the national labels that they take up. Colombians end up looking down at Peruvians, Cubans at Dominicans, Mexicans at Guatemalans, and Argetinians at everyone else. While these have softened over the years, they are still quite strong. Latin-Americans are a very nationalist and proud people, and it will be difficult for these strong detachments from their neighbors to wane and vanish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cuban Cigars

Because we were discussing Cuban cigars in class (or at our late lunch?), I decided to research a little about their origins. Cigars and tobacco in general were a New World phenomena, and the first "sikars" were crudely made from plantain leaves and tobacco by indigenous tribes like the Mayans. Columbus' crew got addicted to the Indians' tobacco, and soon it was being introduced to Europe and then shipped from the Americas. The popularity of the cigar, however, rose markedly after merchants realized that tobacco in cigar form better retained its freshness. Previously everyone smoked from pipes despite monarchs and leaders like Phillip of Spain, for example, that early on condemned the practice probably for its addictive and therefore un-Catholic qualities.

For much more info about Cuban cigars, go to this really good site that's kind of a cuban cigar aficionado ratings log as well.

pegging to the dollar

So I was reading on the USAtoday website about how the dollar is doing. It alsosuggests places to visit where the dollar is strong and it started talkingabout some Latin American countries pegging their currency to the US. I thoughtit was very interesting to see something we talked about in class in a newpaper. Here is the link.

Bolivian President calls for elections

Bolivia has been in the limelight lately due to recent events surrounding the actions of President Mesa. After submitting his resignation to Congress due to protests and blockades, Mesa announced that the Bolivian people are not allowing him to do his job. Thousands of Mesa supporters flooded the streets, and Congress unanimously rejected Mesa's resignation. Now, Mesa is calling for presidential elections two years ahead of schedule, a request that many feel is unconstitutional. Overall, President Mesa is trying to forge a compromise between all sectors of civil society. Perhaps the only way to accomplish this seemingly impossible task is to call attention to difficulties Mesa faces in his position.

Here is the link.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I'm watching CNN while playing/working/attempting to write my thesis on my computer. "Newsnight with Aaaron Brown" just aired an interesting segment on the gang, MS-13. MS-13 is apparently one of the fastest growing gangs in the United States. The level of violence is high; the gang apparently engages in killings without mercy, drug trafficing, arms trades and auto thefts. The gang is extraordinary tight-knit and the relationships are reministant of the old mafia ties. At the beginning of the segment, the gang was purported to have ties with El-Salvador. By the end, the gang was connected to all of South America. Every time the extraordinary level of violence was mentioned, Latin America was invoked. This shows how prevelent this racist attitude is in the American media.

Monday, March 14, 2005

What's worth the risk of illegal immigration?

Today I read a fascinating article in the New York Times about the smuggling trial in Houston, TX in May 2003. A trucker smuggled at least 74 illegal immigrants, 14 of whom, died. This article provokes the obvious question – why the United States. In another recent article I read on the role of Latino Americans and their role in the work force they pose some interesting questions, mainly that while native-born African Americans are unable to find employment in large metropolitan areas, immigrants often are. I recently read book on the economic role of immigrants in the economy. The book, entitled Strangers at the Gates, edited by Roger Waldinger, looks at the role of Latin Americans in the work force in the US. The article analyzes why employers often prefer immigrants is that they are willing to work in jobs which have been previously stigmatized by Americans, for example, manual labor. Also, “ethnic economies” have developed which are sectors of the economy, infiltrated by a certain ethnicity and then dominated by. I would recommend the book to anyone who might be interested in what entices Latin Americans to the US.

Chile and The Protection of Nazi's

The BBC reports that Paul Schaefer- an ex-Nazi medic, preacher, and cult leader - has finally been arrested in Argentine. Schaefer was convicted in absentia for the sexual abuse of young boys. He faces jail time in Chile for these crimes. Schaefer moved to Chile in 1961 fleeing accusation of sexual abuse in Germany. In Chile he set up the "Colonia Digdad". The colony had about 300 members and is said to resemble the Germany of the 1930's. Defectors of the colony have claimed that Schaefer was elevated to the status of a God within the colony. Furthermore, they accuse Schaefer of sexual abuses and the repression of the people within the camps. This narrative also relates to our previous class discussions about the close relationship between Nazi war criminals and former Latin Americna dictators. Sources in Chile have revealed that Schaefer and Augusto Pinochet shared a close friendship. Many of Pinochet's political prisoners maintain that they were tortured in tunnels under the colony with Mozart and Wagner playing in the background.

There is still a debate in Chile about the wisdom of full disclosure in matters such as this. Critics have accused the ruling Chilean elite of wanting to keep the atrocities committed by Pinochet under wraps. One can only hope that the critics and the independent commissions will prevail and help the country and its people come to terms with their past.

Simpsons Go To Brazil

I downloaded an episode of Simpsons called, “The Simpsons go to Brazil.” Usually, most of the stereotypes portrayed by the Simpsons would just pass right under my nose with a laugh and a second thought, but after learning about some of the stereotypes that America has of Latin America, nearly the whole episode revolved around negative stereotypes of Brazilians.

Basically the plot of the story is: Lisa is sponsoring a poor Brazilian boy who was disappeared. So the Simpsons decide to go to Brazil to find him.

Here are some of the stereotypes:

1.This boy lives an a horribly desolate orphanage which until recently was doorless, so the boy would get bitten by monkeys.

2. Homer concludes that Brazil is opposite land because of the opposite seasons. Therefore, crooks chase cops and cats have puppies.

3. The airline pilot says that the temperature in Rio De Janeiro is “hot hot hot with a 100% chance of passion”

4. The bell boys play soccer with the luggage

5. On the children’s show, a well-endowed giggling woman dances in a bathing suit

6. The dress code on the beach is a thong.

7. A “Samba School” they visit is developing the Penetrada, making “sex look like a church”

8. The vending lady distracted the Simpsons so her children could rob them

9. Homer gets captured in an unlicensed taxi

10. The policeman hits on Marge when she reports Homer’s kidnapping

11. Carnival’s music is has an “irritating, intoxicating beat that sends your inhibitions packing.” Carnival is described as “the drunkenness, the ambiguous sexuality”

along with others......

I have to admit that the stereotypes are blatant and unfair, but in the context of the episode, its pretty funny. I am not sure if that is a good thing. Well, on second thought, its probably a bad thing because it portrays Brazil as this horny, wild, and dangerous slum. And probably, only through these types of media that stereotype Latin America do Americans get any view of Latin American life.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Brazil on the way?

I came across an article about Brazil's recent successful economic figures. This article is particularly interesting since it tries to balance this good omen and warns about the need to take adequate measures to consolidate that trend. This very good article was published by The Economist two weeks ago. Check it out!

Caribbean dependency

Two weeks ago, a post was published on the blog about Puerto Rico, its dependency to the United States and the possibility that Puerto Rico should be granted statehood in the future. I came across an article related which seemed to me interesting regarding Puerto Rico’s dependency.

Last Monday, the governor of Puerto Rico asked for a closer relationship between the FBI and the authorities of Puerto Rico. Criminality is indeed a major problem in Puerto Rico and the government elected last year pledged to bring some order and struggle against crime. Puerto Rico is part of the commonwealth associated with the United States.

The request from Puerto Rico perfectly exemplifies the situation of complete dependency of many small countries and islands of the Western Hemisphere towards the United States. Even though Puerto Rico is not considered as a sovereign country, it is still an island which has its own constitution and enjoys a certain degree of autonomy at least in domestic affairs; however it cannot provide its citizens with the minimum means to fight crime and needs to rely entirely on US capability for that.

Here is a link to the article on that topic.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A united Latin America?

The idea of a united Latin America, or at least united South America, is being greatly aided by the development of two new tv stations dedicated to regional news. These news stations will aid peoples of different countries in keeping up to date with what's going on with their neighbors. Now, instead of the option of foreign-centered broadcasts like CNN and BBC, or local news broadcasts, they'll have better coverage of what's going on with their neighbors.

Click here.

Friday, March 11, 2005

News From A Latin American Perspective

Apparently South American news stations are attempting to partner up and form a 24 hour Latin American news station that covers. They want to bring a South American perspective to the news that comes out form the region. The station is going to be called Telesur. Some people fear that it may be a tool for Chavez rhetoric or Brazilian propaganda. Still most people think that they are looking for international legitimacy, so they will try be independent and objective. They are modeling the project after Al-Jazeera. If you guys want more info on it, here is the article.

Iran and Venezuela

The presidents of Iran and Venezuela met this week to discuss oil. They want to use their leverage to keep oil prices high. The US is not happy as they are a major buyer of Venezuelan oil but President Hugo Chavez has been looking for new partners. He doesn't want the US to have so much international influence.
If you want to read more about this, here is the link.

Iran's president set to visit Venezuela

Ay Caramba!

With the release of Forbes’ richest list today, Mexico can lay claim to the world’s fourth richest person - telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu. Behind only Gates, Buffet & Mittal (an Indian steel consolidator), Slim, 65, is estimated to be worth $23.8 billion (& growing) after climbing thirteen spots and gaining $10 billion since last year.

To put this into perspective, Slim beat Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, European leader IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad (who the Europeans tried to claim several months ago as the world’s richest person based on the continuing devaluation of our dollar) and all five of those bearing the Walton name. Canada cashed in eleven spots behind at fifteenth with one Kenneth Thomson worth $17.9 billion.

Despite diverse holdings in retail (Sears de Mexico, bought out J.C. Penny’s Mexican operations), banking, insurance, dining, auto parts manufacturing and even cigarettes, his main business is in telecommunications where shares of his wireless company América Movil have soared more than 75% over the year. Additionally, his landline unit TelMex which already controls 95% of fixed lines is preparing to double its number of subscribers through broadband services.

His philanthropic efforts are best known for the joint private-government restorations being undertaken in the historical downtown section of Mexico City, which he heads as the founder of the Foundation of the Historic Center of Mexico City. After that, he’ll probably line everything with his stores and ATM’s. I wonder how much he has to shell out for his security detail.

Sovereignty vs. Fairness

In response to Jovo, and on my own, I would like to continue the discussion on sovereignty.

As I said in class, I do not think that the US is impinging on the sovereignty of other nations. The fact that the US is an economic super-power does not make it responsible for the financial security of the rest of the world. If the US wants to end its relations with another state, that is a sovereign right. It is not the sovereign right of the rest of the world to engage in trade and economic relations with the US. It is important, considering that sovereignty is the single most important factor in international relations, not to get it confused with what others would call “fairness.”

The way the US deals with the rest of the world is often unfair. In class, Lee mentioned that the US is a big baby, and that’s sometimes correct. If the situation was reversed, and the EU, for example, was placing some kind of economic embargo on the US, there is no doubt that the US would fight it or retaliate in some way. This would be an attack against the sovereignty of the nations of the EU, just as it would be an attack on the US if we were forced to trade with others. The US would feel as though it were being bullied, just as other nations no doubt feel they are being bullied. But there is no law against using your power to put pressure on others. Lets face it; the entire embargo against Cuba is an act of bullying. There is no way for the US to force Cuba to allow democratic elections, just as there is no way for them to force other nations to not deal with Cuba. The US is simply using its economic power, legally, to try and promote its ideals of democracy, which could be considered bullying.

If there comes a time when a worldwide organization of some kind forces countries into relations with others, this will be an attack on sovereignty. Until then, the US, as well as every other country in the world, has the right to trade freely. This includes having the right to choose. Every state has the right to deal with others as they see fit and to choose whom they deal with and whom they do not, as long as they are within the parameters of international law.

Helms Burton

Sovereignty's Quandry

The Cuban embargo brings forth many interesting issues that, I believe, draw into question the entire idea of sovereignty. How can any nation-state be sovereign if the exercise of its own sovereignty will inevitably lead to violation that of another?

In the Cuban embargo, the U.S. is exercising its right to do—or not to do—business with whomever it wants—or does not want to—do business. That is obviously its choice as a sovereign nation. As a sovereign nation, presumably, it is also entitled to do whatever it wants within its own borders. Of course, if we accept that extreme sort of sovereignty, then we allow for bloodthirsty dictatorships and U.S. expropriation of properties belonging to foreigners who come from countries the U.S. does not like.

Clearly, sovereignty has some caveats. When the world was far less interconnected, what one country did certainly affected another. If France and Spain seemed as if they might ally and join together, Britain got its shirt in a knot. In our more interconnected world, pretty much every action that a country entertains can affect another country. If the U.S. subsidizes farmers, the Third World barrages the WTO with a gnashing of teeth.

Sovereignty has become an outdated concept as the world becomes less and less state-centric. What we do affects all of us. There is no fine line separating sovereignty rights from acts of aggression. There is only blur. Lots of blur.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

An Unequal Relationship

U.S. Says It Has Withdrawn From World Judicial Body, an article in the New York Times, highlights the inequaity in the relationship between US and their Southern neighbors. The United States has withdrawn from the World Judicial Body after this organization ruled that 51 Mexicans on Death Row in the United States be granted new hearings. This according to US governmental sources is an affront on US Soveignity. However, the US has vast different standards in the reverse situation. The US has repeated intervened in the internal affairs -- including the judical system -- of Mexico for years.

Costa Rican bank robbery

Here's an article about a bank robbery in Costa Rica that ended with numerous deaths. This is a sad and shocking thing, but what is more shocking, on a personal level, is that I have actually been in this bank. I wasn't entirely sure this was the same bank until the article ended with the fact that it is the only bank in Santa Elena. This was the first bank I went to in Costa Rica, and the first thing I noticed was the armed guard at the door. Granted, most bank guards have guns, but for some reason I always noticed it more when I was down there.
The other unfortunate thing about this situation is that this other article identifies several of the robbers as Nicaraguan. Nicas do not have a good reputation in Costa Rica and this will probably only make it worse. Nicas have the stereotype often associated with indigenous and immigrant groups, namely they're poor, they're lazy, they're criminals. This incident will only serve to reinforce this image to many Ticos.

Bolivia's President's Resignation Rejected by Government

On Tuesday, March 8th, the Bolivian government rejected President Carlos Mesa's offer of resignation, claiming that the country was becoming ungovernable because of street protests over his political and economic policies.

To read more about this article, here is the link.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Louisiana and Cuban Ties

Today Gov. Blanco made an agreement with Cuba, where Cuba would buy $15 Million in agricultural goods from Louisiana. This is just one example of the withering strength of the embargo that the US implemented some forty years ago, which Pedro Alvarez, the chairman of Cuban food import firm Alimport, sees as a step in the right direction. Check out the article here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

new bill in the US

so i was doing some research for my service learning about other hispanic chamber of commerce's and i ran into somethin about a bill trying to be passed that would deny US citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. Here is the article about it from the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Class trip

I am excited to go to a mexican restaurant with the class. It should be a lot of fun and lots of great food. ... yeah thats all I have for a blog for this week.....

The Oscars

"Al otro lado del rio" (On the Other Side of the River), from "The Motorcycle Diaries" took best original song at the Oscars , marking the first time a Spanish song has won the award.
Written by Uruguayan singer and songwriter Jorge Drexler, he eschewed the traditional acceptance speech and instead sang two verses of his song before leaving the stage with a simple "Thank you, gracias, ciao!" The move was seen as a symbolic gesture to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which refused to let Drexler perform the song he wrote and sang for the film, opting instead for the high wattage of Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana.
After the ceremony, Drexler told reporters in Spanish that the selection of his song was a sign of "the expansion that the Spanish language is having in the world."

Save for Chris Rock's quip about Salma Hayek (and Penelope Cruz's) breasts--"You won't be able to take your eyes off these next four presenters."--it was a good night for Latin America in American cinema.

Bolivian President resigns

This morning Bolivian President Carlos Mesa submitted his resignation to Congress after failed attempts to appease the vast numbers of poor indegenous people that struggle to make their opinions heard regarding the Bolivian economy. Carlos Mesa is the second president in about 2 years to resign due to the same problem. Although much of the issue revolves around Bolivia's oil revenue distribution, some critics claim that such resignation is merely a way to gather Mesa's support from the population to strengthen and safeguard his authority.
Here's the article from CNN with details on the event.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Capoeira Angola

After eating at our oh-so-lovely Bruff cafeteria, I saw a demonstration of capoeira angola, a Brazilian slave form of martial arts.

Capoeira is interesting because it had to teach slaves how to defend themselves without seeming like it was a martial art. Therefore, capoeira looks a lot like a cultural dance instead of a martial art. Since the slaves couldn't ever directly attack their masters, the prized skill in capoeira is redirecting aggression and using sneakiness.

The demonstration I saw was pretty interesting, but very slow. I suppose that the demonstrators were just beginners, which would explain the lack of dynamic action. I think that capoeira can only be limited in its uses though, considering that it only teaches defensive techniques against aggression.

Chilean Communist Party Leader Dies

According to this article on, Gladys Marin, the Chilean Communist Party leader who played a main role in the fight against the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, died at her home at the age of 63 from brain cancer.

To read about her interesting story and how she came to power, click here.

Argentina's Default Story

The Washington Post recently ran an article chronicling the latest chapter in Argentina's default story. Since the country's default in 2001, there's been a lot of tension over the prospect for repayment of its loans. Now, the country is offering 32 cents on the dollar to investors which has many upset and even filing lawsuits against the economically beleagured country. I think Argentina's default is a great testament to the greed of investors. Everyone was ready to hop on the Argentine economic bandwagon when it was running great, adding more and more to the country's debt load. Then they were suddenly surprised by the default? They should've known better. It's not like this is the first of Argentina's economic and financial woes.

Pragmatism: The Missing Link in US Drug Policy

Saturday’s article in the New York Times discusses Friday’s publication of the State Department’s Annual Drug Trafficking report. The fiat is incredibly relevant for many Latin American countries that produce narcotics, as the report is often used to determine whether countries are attempting to eradicate narcotic production which subsequently grants them US federal aid. The article is careful to recognize the difficulty of the “war on drugs” and points out numerous Latin American countries in which despite, major seizures, the drug trade continues to flourish. What I’ve found interesting within US domestic policy is any time a “war on” anything has been deemed in regards to domestic policy, it has never been won. For example, Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” did little to solving “poverty” and merely coined a catch phrase (This also has interesting implications for the most recently coined “war on terrorism.”)

Historically, coining any battle with such a black and white term as “war” has introduced a very non pragmatic approach to the problem and seems to be centered on an ad hoc, incongruous response. The illicit drug trade is no different. The article focuses entirely on the supply of drugs and not the demand for drugs. This reminded me of Mexico’s orientation towards the drug trade which tends to emphasize the importance (and lack of) US policy’s emphasis on the demand and the drug filled un salubrious lifestyle which is cultivated in the United States.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ridiculous Tourism Policy in Cuba

According to this article Cuba is instituting a policy, Resolution 10, which is an attempt to minimize relations between Cubans and foreigners. For example waiters at restaurants are not allowed to accepts tips from tourists. Check out the article for more info on this ridiculous policy.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Last Colony?

I was sent this article by a friend earlier in the week. Although this is not from a country we are or will study and technically it is not part of the "Latin America", I thought it might be interesting to discuss on the blog. Particularly cause I am from this island in the Caribbean. The article is about Puerto Rico, and how it is status could be classified in many ways as a colony, although the term used is a Commonwealth. The article is a bit old, written in 1997 but it still describes many of the policies that are currently in place. A major difference since then is that the military presence has significantly decreased since a situation occurred at the island of Vieques, which is a small island off the east coast that is part of Puerto Rico.

Vieques Protests: CNN Archives

The problem of status is one which is central in Puerto Rican government. The three main parties in the island base their political platforms on this issue. Some would like to push for statehood, others would like to keep the same status but with some changes and the minority would like independence. The issue has even been brought out at the United Nations.

Here is the article so y'all can read, I'd like to know what your thoughts are about it:

Puerto Rico: The Last Colony

As for my personal opinion, I think a decision should be made, be it what it may. Of course this has to start with the Puerto Rican people. We had a referendum in which the majority voted for the "none of the above" option which did not help at all. I think statehood is pretty far fetched, and I would probably have my reserveations with us becoming a state. Yet, at teh same time I realize that our island has become very dependant of the United States and have my doubts if independence would actually work. Many of the proponents of independence propose the Costa Rican model be applied to Puerto Rico. While it may be an idea, they still need to a lot more support than what they currently have. Still I think independence from the US is inevitable in the future of our island. Maybe not now but in the future.


What is all this talk about secret treaty agreements on CNN lately? CNN has reported that the white house has been trying to push through this trade agreement "quickly and quietly." They don't point out a lot of facts to back that up, but they do provide a lot of interesting figures concerning the economies of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and the impacts of NAFTA on the US, Canada and Mexico. You can see the article here.

Oliver Stone's Documentary about Castro

I just saw the documentary Comandante for the first time the other day on HBO. It is made by Oliver Stone, who also does the interviewing of Fidel Castro. I thought it was interesting for the audience to see exactly what Castro has to say, as well as his responses to U.S. policies. A lot of what he had to say did not surprise me, as I have had a few firends that have attended his speeches. Also, being a Latin American Studies major I have had to study both sides of the issue of Cuban-U.S. relations. I thought Fidel Castro explained his side perfectly. Here is the imdb page for the movie- Comandante. On this page you can click the link to external reviews and see what film critics have to say about it, both politically and cinematically.

Uruguayan President strengthens ties to other states

Newly inaugurated Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez is making efforts to strengthen the ties with other states that are headed by leftist presidents. President Vazquez is Uruguay's first socialist president, and just days after being sworn in, Vazquez is attempting to fulfill the promises he made on his way to office. Here's the link.

Sell, Sell, Sell!

For critics of genetically modified crops, friends have always been far and few in Latin America. The past several months have been especially cruel to them in Brazil where GM soya seeds are now on the fast track to legalization. Since the judiciary implemented a 1999 ban on biotech seed sales, the federal government has been busy working with biotech firms (mainly American & namely Monsanto) to reverse the moratorium. A crushing blow came in mid-October when President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva prompted a temporary one-year trial allowing the sale of GM seeds until January 2006. The second came the other day when the lower house in Parliament unflinchingly (352-60) approved the sale of such seeds ... for good.

None of this should come as a shock though, since farmers have been freely planting GM soya for over a decade thanks mainly to weak enforcement and neighbors with no such bans like Argentina. With legalization, biotech firms will now be able to collect their royalties from the the third of all Brazilian soya crops that are already GM and those of future seed sales which are sure to skyrocket. Regardless of your take, it’s probably just a matter of time until Brazil surpasses the US in terms of soya crop. They have the potential through cheap land, cheap labor & abundant water, and now they have the cost effectiveness - thanks to our research and Chinese demand. Story of the 21st century.

Fidel Castro on Chile

Below is an excerpt from the speech by Castro that appears in the Education for Socialists publication entitled Fidel Castro on Chile. The booklet is copyright (c) 1982 by Pathfinder Press.

President Allende and the Chilean revolutionary process awakened great interest and solidarity throughout the world. For the first time in history, a new experience was developed in Chile: the attempt to bring about the revolution by peaceful means, by legal means. And he was given the understanding and support of all the world in his effort - not only of the international Communist movement, but of very different political inclinations as well. We may say that that effort was appreciated even by those who weren't Marxist-Leninists.

And our party and people - in spite of the fact that we had made the revolution by other means - and all the other revolutionary peoples in the world supported him. We didn't hesitate a minute, because we understood that there was a possibility in Chile of winning an electoral victory, in spite of all the resources of imperialism and the ruling classes, in spite of all the adverse circumstances. We didn't hesitate in 1970 to publicly state our understanding and our support of the efforts which the Chilean left was making to win the elections that year.

And, sure enough, there was an electoral victory. The left, People's Unity, with its social and political program, won at the polls.

Of course, that didn't mean the triumph of a revolution; it meant access to very important positions of power by peaceful, legal means.

However, it wasn't an easy task that President Allende was faced with. There were conspiracies right from the beginning. An attempt was made to keep him from being inaugurated after the elections. Imperialism and its agencies - the CIA and the multinational companies - conspired to keep Salvador Allende from becoming president of the republic. They even murdered the commander of the army of Chile in an attempt to prevent it....

But what problems confronted him? In the first place there was an intact bourgeois state apparatus. There were armed forces that called themselves apolitical, institutional -that is, apparently neutral in the revolutionary process. There was that bourgeois parliament, where a majority of members jumped to the tune of the ruling classes. There was a judicial system that was completely subservient to the reactionaries. And it was in those circumstances that he had to carry out his governmental duties. There was also the fact that the country's economy was completely bankrupt, that the Chilean state was four billion dollars in debt.

That huge debt was the product of the imperialist policy, the product of the engineering of the United States, which was trying to create a showcase of the Christian Democratic government so as to confront and stop the advance of the social movement....

President Allende found himself with a country burdened down by debt; a country in which imperialism had introduced its customs, its consumer habits; a country in which the mass media - the press, television, and radio - was in the hands of the oligarchy and reaction. And at a time when the price of copper plummeted from 75 cents to 48 cents a pound.

Moreover, the people had crying needs that simply had to be met. There was large-scale unemployment, and a solution had to be found for this problem. The most crying needs of the people, the demands most felt by the population, had to be attended to, and the government of People's Unity found enormous economic obstacles in its path.

When the agrarian reform began to be put into effect, the large landowners and agrarian bourgeoisie started sabotaging agricultural production. The bourgeoisie, owners of the distribution centers, warehouses, and stores, started cornering the market and sabotaging the People's Unity government.

As soon as the nationalization of the copper enterprises that had extracted thousands upon thousands of millions from the labor and sweat of the Chilean people - as soon as the nationalization of those enterprises was approved, imperialism froze all the loans granted by all the international organizations to the Chilean government and went about stifling the economy of Chile.

Those were the enormous difficulties which President Allende faced on taking office.

The bourgeois political parties - essentially the National Party and the Christian Democratic Party - oriented by a reactionary leadership, took it upon themselves, in complicity with imperialism and the reactionary classes and with the reactionary press, to put obstacles in the way of everything President Allende tried to do. They made it practically impossible for him to rule; they virtually tied the hands of the government to keep it from doing anything.

Those three years of the People's Unity government were really three years of struggle, of difficulties, of agony for its attempts to carry out its program. And, on top of all this, there were armed forces that, I repeat, called themselves apolitical and institutional.

They were three years of one plot after another, of conspiracy after conspiracy. The ruling classes and their parties reacted as was to be expected. The societies of owners, merchants, and even professionals - the kind of professional we knew here -most of them at the service of the ruling classes, sabotaged the government's tasks: they called work stoppages and strikes and completely paralyzed the country on more than one occasion.

And this wasn't all. They also called on the armed forces continually to overthrow the People's Unity government.

And President Allende kept on working in the midst of all those tremendous difficulties. And, in the midst of those difficulties, he tried to do - and did do - many things for the Chilean people. And at least in those three years the Chilean people - especially the workers and farmers - understood that there in the presidency of the republic was a representative not of the oligarchs, large landowners, and bourgeoisie, but of the poor, of the workers - a true representative of the people, for whom he was fighting, in spite of the enormous difficulties with which he was faced. (Applause)

President Allende realized the difficulties and foresaw the dangers; he was witnessing the birth of fascism. He witnessed the hatching of plots one after another. All that he had to oppose those forces that had been created and spurred on by imperialism was his fighting spirit and determination to defend the process at the cost of his very life. (Applause)

The 1954 Guatemala Documents

After years of negating the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA declassified and released 1400 of an estimated 100,000 pages of its secret archives on "Operation PBSUCCESS" on May 23, 1997. This covert operation was a Guatemalan destabilization program with the goal of overthrowing the 1950 elected nationalist Guatemalan President Arbenz. "Operation PBSUCCESS" was authorized by Presidetn Eisenhower in August, and included a $2.7 million budget for "pychological warfare and political action" and "subversion." Check out these declassified CIA documents here.

Drug Trafficker caught in Costa Rica

A fugitive wanted by the FBI for drug trafficking between Central America and Kansas City, Mo was finally caught in Costa Rica. James Cullinane was arrested at Jaco Beach in Costa Rica on March 2nd. He was indicted on charges for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana on March 7, 2001 by a federal grand jury. The charges against Cullinane indicate that he has been trafficking drugs between Mexico, Colorado and Missouri since 1998.

Cullinane is being detained by Costa Rica’s Security Ministry until his extradition back to the United States.

Link to news story.

FBI Wanted Poster

Salsa Lizano

Today we discussed Costa Rica in class, which brought to mind my favorite thing about the country: Salsa Lizano. Costa Rica is worth visiting for this sauce alone! The sauce, made with tamarinds, can be described as part sweet, part savory and only slightly spicy. You will find it on most tables in Costa Rica, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you want to buy some like I just did, go here.

Introduced to the country in 1920, Salsa Lizano was produced by a family-operated business called Productos Lizano. The company grew rapidly and althouth it cannot rival coffee, Salsa Lizano is currently a significant Costa Rican export. Because this sauce is a source of national pride, I was suprised to read that the company was bought out by Unilever of England. Evidently, this is a trend amongst formerly family-owned businesses in Costa Rica. One of the reasons cited for the sale of local companies is that the next generation does not want to take over the family business. I believe this was the case for the Lizano family because someone once pointed out the Salsa Lizano heir to me, and let's just say he was allegedly already involved in his own illegal business ventures. I just wonder what the implications are for local companies being bought out by international corporations. Is this a positive or negative trend for the Costa Rican economy?

So, there you have it-- business, gossip, and a way to spice up your next meal!

Peace, bad! Contras, good!

If there's one thing that Atkins, Mora, and Hey have taught me, it's that Reagan was completely mad. After so much tragedy and death in Central America, you'd think that any plan that proposed not only peace but democratic reform would be a boon to the stability of the Central American region and, by extension, the United States. To be sure, it turned out that Arias's plan for Central American peace was successful, but only after so much resistance from Washington.

I'm obviously not well-versed on this situation, but the first appearance is that the U.S. failed to act properly to promote peace, instead sticking to its own arrogant anti-Communist zeal and prolonging the death and devastation of the Central American region.

As always, there are two sides to every story. If anyone knows why Reagan's barriers to peace are defensible, please help me to form a better image of that president in my mind.


Sorry, I just read some of the previous blogs and mine is a bit repetitive on the diplomatic negotiations between Venezuela and China. I'll try to be more careful next time!!

Changing Economic Relationships

I found this article in the New York Times interesting as it discusses China’s new quest for the oil reserves in Latin America. This seems specifically interesting, as in class yesterday we discussed how Mexico perceives China as a competitor in the global economy. While the article specifically mentioned China’s interest in Venezuela, Peru, and perhaps eventually Colombia and Bolivia’s oil resources. It seems that Mexico might be of interest as well especially because of its oil reserves off the coast. Perhaps if Mexico and China became more tied economically, Mexico would no longer perceive China as a competitor but as a trade partner. The article also discusses the implications for countries such as Venezuela, who ship 60 % of their oil to the US. This could cause differences in the way in which China and the US relate to each other in the global economy.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Brazil's Economic Growth at 10 Year High

In 2004 Brazil's gross domestic product grew by 5.1%, according to estimates by 11 economists at the Wall Street Journal. Many Brazilians praise the policies of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government for the robust upswing in the economy. Compared to 2003, when GDP rose by only 0.5%, prospects for 2005 look bright. Brazil is South America's largest economy.

Latin America's new left?

This article is about the new socialist president of Uruguay and his meetings with the left-leaning presidents of Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. I hadn't thought about it before but those countries are half of South America. Whatever the problems the US has with Hugo Chavez (and vice versa) I think it's important to recognize the spread of left-of-center governements in Latin America and the fact that in the not so distant past even one leftist government would have had the US government seeing red (or should that be Red?) and doing everything it could to get that leftist out of power.

The Feminist Movement in Latin America

In our last Latin American Studies class, we discussed the role of women and what defines a "true woman" in Latin American society. I referred to the 1960's when the average middle class woman in the United States was supposed to be in the home, and compared it to the roles assigned to women in Latin America. I found a very interesting article by Barbara Welter which defines what a "true woman" was supposed to be in the United States from 1820-1860. Although it is a different time period and is in the United States instead of Latin America, I think the same qualities that were seen as important in a woman then are true of what is important of Latin American women now: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. Do you think the women's movement in Latin America will be similar to the one of the United States? Or do you think Latin American society is so fundamentally different that the women's' movement will also stress different attributes?

Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860" (1966)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Mexico and China

While discussing Mexico's foreign policies, we recently discussed its relationship with China. Like it was mentioned, not only Mexico, but Latin America in general may have to be concerned with China's competition for cheap labor, etc. This article touches on an additional note regarding China. Not only should Latin America be worried about rising its competitiveness but should look out for misguided political guidance, as Andres Oppenheimer mentions. Venezuela's relationship with China is emphasized in this claim, check it out.

Latin America,China and Oil

Again on the issue of Venezuela and its relationship with China, I found an article which puts the stress on the oil cooperation between those 2 countries; the article ends by alluding to other negotitations that the Chinese held with other Latin-American countries concerning oil. The article also emphasizes the fact that China benefits from the lack of interest for the Western hemisphere that the USA have had for decades.

Here is the link to the article.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Drug Ring in Cancun, Mexico

I remember talking about the drug problem and stereotype within Latin America during the first few weeks of class, and thought this article was interesting in relation to it.

In Cancun, 27 federal and state police were charged in running a drug ring/aiding in the murder of fellow officers. The charges also stated how some traffickers continued to infiltrate the area.

Here is the full article.

China and Venezuela: A deepening alliance?

I found the following article very interesting especially in conjunction with the other post posted on the blog on Venezuela. This article was taken from

China and Venezuela: A deepening alliance?

The economic and diplomatic relationship between China and Venezuela has been deepening over the past few months, as this publication has documented. First China's president, Hu Jintao, stayed in Caracas during his tour of Latin American nations last November. Then Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, made an extended visit to China at the end of December - his third trip there since becoming president in 1999. And at the end of January 2005 Hu's deputy, Zeng Qinghong, made another trip to Venezuela while leading a delegation of Chinese businessmen around the region. In all, the two countries signed more than 25 cooperation agreements during this period, on a variety of diplomatic, economic, and strategic issues.