Skip to content

Sunday readings: 9 Nov. 2008

9 November 2008

Off to a bad start...

I’m not the only one with serious reservations about the in-coming Obama Administration’s probable Latin American policy. Duderino at Abiding in Bolivia sounds a ” “Note of Caution” about Obama´s Bolivia advisor, Greg Craig:

…Craig speaking about the possible extradition of Bolivia´s ex-Pres “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada for his role in the 2003 El Alto Gas War in which more than 60 civilian protesters were shot dead by the national military. Summerized:

“we do not accept your characaterization of those events as a massacre.” He says there were no crimes against humanity, genocide, disappearances, or torture, but rather, “tragically, civil disturbances which cost lives.”
Oh, did I forget to tell you?, that in addition to advising Obama on Bolivia, Craig is also Goni´s legal represenative. Conflict of interest. What conflict of interest?

Cautious optimism…

Laura Carleson (CIP Americas Policy) is more optimistic about the change in U.S. policy, but with the same reservations most observers have:

An improved U.S. global image is not the same as on-the-ground policies and actions. Although statements from the region welcome change and the new profile in the White House, Latin American leaders still aren’t running to the mountaintop to proclaim the dawn of a new era in U.S. relations. The response can be characterized more as hope seen through the ever-leery eye the continent keeps on its northern neighbor. The U.S. government has a long way to go to undo the damage done to its relations and its reputation through decades of both Republican and Democratic presidencies.

Latin American leaders placed conditions and qualifications on their congratulations. Lula in Brazil and Evo Morales in Bolivia called for an end to the “unjustifiable” embargo against Cuba. Morales added a demand for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. Mexico’s Felipe Calderon sent a brief congratulatory note, calling for strengthening bilateral relations and emphasizing the role of Mexican-Americans in the elections and the U.S. economy. This was his way of insisting on action toward legalizing the status of Mexican immigrants and creating legal frameworks for future immigration flows.

President Obama rides in on a wave of enthusiasm from the South and the North. He has a huge agenda awaiting him. He should quickly appoint new ambassadors in Latin America, diplomats with greater knowledge and sensitivity to the region. Currently Bolivia and Venezuela have no ambassadors at all and other Bush appointments represent old and repudiated ways of doing business.

By far the most important challenge will be to listen. Bush imposed an agenda that sought to divide the continent in the narrow pursuit of the economic interests of transnational corporations and political interests of his own administration.

When Mexicans say: “If you don’t develop a fair and legal immigration system, you push migrants into the hands of human smugglers and feed organized crime. We have to do something differently.”

When Bolivia says: “Our constitutional process is a long-overdue historical reckoning with an indigenous majority suffering poverty and discrimination. It deserves a chance.”

These are messages worth listening to.

A hard (disk) sales pitch

The Magic Laptops from Colombia (supposedly recovered ter an illegal incursion into Ecuador by Colombian Army troops that killed FARC guerillas, and several Mexican students) were supposed to justify some huge international conspiracy invoiving — conveniently — every perceived enemy of the United States and Colombia.  The best that Interpol was ever able to determine is that the data was produced before the raid… but the mysterious survival of the data is either the greatest miracle in the Americas since the Virgin of Guadelupe appeared on the Contintent, or total bullshit.  I’m betting on the latter.  Daniel Devir writes of the conitnuing (and more and more dubious) “spin campaign” surrounding the alleged miracle for NACLA.

These “magic laptops,” which seem to supply evidence of FARC collaboration at opportune moments for the Colombian and U.S. governments, have formed the centerpiece of a propaganda campaign launched by the Colombian government and security forces, abetted by the media in Colombia, the United States, and Spain. This campaign follows a well-established technique: Allegations of FARC ties have long been used in Colombia to defame human rights activists and dissident politicians, often leading to death threats or assassinations by the army or paramilitary forces. The laptop-based allegations have been made through press conferences and intelligence leaks, as new charges have been rolled out to counter Ecuador’s consistent diplomatic victories at the Organization of American States (OAS) and other international bodies. It has also served to distract attention at home from a growing scandal connecting the Uribe administration to narco-paramilitaries, as well as to justify the government’s policy of total war against the FARC.

The media campaign was launched as countries around the region—including Argentina, Chile, and Brazil—announced their support for Ecuador’s position, criticizing the violation of the country’s national sovereignty. The Colombian government, seeing its diplomatic fortunes wane, made more accusations, not just at Ecuador but increasingly at Venezuela, which also broke diplomatic relations with Colombia and deployed tanks to its border. Especially in the United States, the accusations against Venezuela soon eclipsed those against Ecuador.

The ICE-woman goeth…

Julie Myers announced she will be leaving her post as head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing of the Homeland Security Department. “Marsguero” (The Sanctuary) says “Adios, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out…”:

While I don’t know Julie Myers personally, nor could I say that I am familiar with the inner workings of her bureaucratic lever pulling at the department, I can’t help but comment that it puzzles me how anyone could view ICE as emblematic of a “21st Century” law enforcement operation. Of course it’s axiomatic that the 21st Century serves as an adjective to the subject because after all this is the year 2008, and the department under which ICE is organized was not formed until the beginning of our present century. I will infer that what Mr. Chertoff means to say when he uses the term 21st century is that ICE is a state of the art, or cutting edge, or forward thinking kind of bureaucracy. It is none of these. It is a bloated gestapo.

Opening this week: Bretton Woods II

In preparation for “Bretton Woods II” — the G-20 Economic Summit to start in Washington this coming weekd, Nobel Economics Laureate (2001) Joseph Steiglitz writes in Mercopress (Uruguay) on the fallout from the U.S. banking, insurance, stock, — speculative bubble-investment economic meltdown… and its effects on the rest of the planet:

Many are already turning to the International Monetary Fund for help. The worry is that, at least in some cases, the IMF will go back to its old failed recipes: fiscal and monetary contraction, which would only increase global inequities. While developed countries engage in stabilizing countercyclical policies, developing countries would be forced into destabilizing policies, driving away capital when they need it most.

Ten years ago, at the time of Asia’s financial crisis, there was much discussion of the need to reform the global financial architecture. Little, too little, it is now evident, was done. At the time, many thought that such lofty appeals were a deliberate attempt to forestall real reform: those who had done well under the old system knew that the crisis would pass, and with it, so too would the demand for reform. We cannot let that happen again…


The for-now free Mexico City weekly El Capitalino has been publishing a daily on-line blog (El Capitalino al dia which I never found until this week.  Unfortunately, the reporters’ collective that publishes the paper will have to start charging, and can’t update the “daily” daily… but still a worthwhile resource to add to your (and my) listings, bookmarks… whatever you use.

And a happy birthday to…

Marta Rojas Rodriguez, Cuban journalist and historical novelist, who recently turned 80.  Her biggest challenge today comes from “Tequila” — a feisty Chihuahua who keeps chewing up her pens and pencils.  Tracy Eaton (Along the Malecón) dropped by for a visit:

Marta, the daughter of a seamstress, gained fame in socialist Cuba for her coverage of Fidel Castro’s 1953 assault on the Moncada military barracks, an attack that launched the Cuban revolution. Marta covered Castro’s trial afterward and is said to be the only journalist who took meaningful notes during the legal proceedings, which include Castro’s four-hour “History Will Absolve Me” speech on Oct. 16, 1953.

Her grandmother was a slave in the Cuban town of Matanzas. Marta says that as the granddaughter of a slave, she doubts she would have had the same opportunities if not for the Cuban revolution.

One Comment leave one →
  1. pants permalink
    9 November 2008 1:55 pm

    some other news out of Mexico from the New Yorker

    An artistic take on the violence of Sinaloa with an interview with Miguel Monterrubio who also died in the fatal plane crash of November 4;

Leave a reply, but please stick to the topic

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: