Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chavez and the Left

Alvaro Vargas Llosa explains why the Left should cringe at the mere mention of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Latinos and Islam

From the Bergen Record (NJ):

So many Latinos have thronged to Islam in recent years that many mosques, including some in North Jersey, have set up special "Latino Muslim" groups within their congregations. And many now offer simultaneous Spanish translations as part of their religious services.

Specter's Guest Worker Bill

Let the debate begin:

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee unveiled draft legislation on Friday that would create a temporary guest worker program that could allow hundreds of thousands of foreigners to fill vacant jobs in the United States for periods of up to six years.

The draft circulated by the lawmaker, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, would also authorize millions of illegal immigrants who arrived in this country before Jan. 4, 2004 to remain here indefinitely, along with their spouses and children, as long as they registered with the Department of Homeland Security, paid back taxes and remained law-abiding and employed, among other conditions.

The proposal would require employers to attest that they had tried to recruit American workers before bringing in additional foreigners from abroad and to pay prevailing wages. The plan would not place a restriction on the number of foreigners who could take part in the guest worker program. Those workers would not have the right to become permanent residents or citizens.

The bill is silent on whether illegal immigrants already in this country should be accorded that opportunity.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Progress in Latin America

Mary Anastasia O'Grady (WSJ subscription):

Any serious analysis of Latin America has to recognize that a number of countries in the region are, in fact, making important progress, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with U.S. "attention."

It is due, instead, to heavy lifting in domestic politics. There is even an argument to be made that by stepping back, the Bush administration has encouraged a long-overdue maturation process of Latin governance. Consensus is developing and thankfully it is not a "Washington consensus..."

Brazil and Colombia are two examples. Their two leaders are notably different in style and outlook, but both countries have sophisticated business communities eager to engage internationally. Both also have a large underclass with entrepreneurial instincts and talents. These "special interests," fed up with inflation, over-regulation and high taxes, are what's driving the restructuring of the political economy.

Update: This article is availabe free of charge from HACER.ORG.

Eliseo Medina

From the New York Times:

Eliseo Medina is vice president of the Service Employees International Union, the nation's second-largest union. He is also an advocate of one of President Bush's most contentious proposals: the effort to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants and create what could be the largest temporary guest worker program for foreigners in more than 40 years.

Social Cleansing in Guatemala

From the Washington Post:

People here call it limpieza social , Spanish for "social cleansing." But the recent surge in armed abductions and murders by self-appointed anti-crime squads throughout Guatemala is leaving a messy trail of blood and tears.

Almost every night, teams of gunmen storm into the nation's poorest neighborhoods to seize another man, woman, or teenager deemed guilty of wrongdoing. Almost every morning, another corpse turns up showing signs of torture or strangulation.

Already this year, Guatemalan human rights monitors say, as many as 98 people in this nation of about 13 million are known to have been murdered by such groups, and 364 others have been killed by methods that suggest such groups could be responsible. Last year, nearly 3,000 murders similar to these took place, and officials predict the total this year could exceed that.

Often the targets are petty thieves or tattooed members of the fearsome gangs that have terrorized residents across Central America for the past decade. But just as often, they appear to be victims of mistaken identity, false accusations or petty personal feuds.

The WCC and Latin American Debt

This makes the church group sound very naive:

The World Council of Churches appealed Thursday for the international community to ease the debt burden of Latin American nations...

The WCC, representing nearly 350 churches, called the foreign debt obligation across Latin America "illegitimate and immoral" because loans often date back to military or authoritarian regimes. It urged creditor nations and international financial institutions to consider reducing or waiving the debts.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Arias Wins in Costa Rica

From the AP via Yahoo!:

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Free trade proponent Oscar Arias won Costa Rica's presidential election by 18,167 votes, one of the country's closest races ever, according to results released Wednesday. Election judges were waiting until complaints were resolved before making an official declaration.

An Associated Press tabulation of the complete official vote count showed arias — a former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate — received 664,545 votes compared to 646,378 votes for Otton Solis, a lesser-known economist who opposes a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Fight Against Neopopulism

Carlos Alberto Montaner:

What is neopopulism? It is an ideological trend and a form of governance that amalgamates all the errors and political vices blithely and uselessly practiced by Latin Americans throughout the 20th century: strong-man rule, patronage, statism, collectivism and anti-Americanism, to which is added -- in some countries with a strong indigenous presence -- the native component of resentment....

Millions of disoriented Latin Americans usually judge populist governments by their seductive revolutionary rhetoric, not by the fatal results they achieve....

That is the terrible thing about neopopulism. Same as with cancer, the cells don't stop growing until the patient dies. That's where we are.

Che Guevara - War Criminal

Miguel A. Bretos, writing for the Miami Herald:

Guevara's face has launched a billion T-shirts. Let Third World demagogues deal with him as they will; consumer societies will morph his empercudido look into trinkets or fashion for high profit.

Guevara-worship may be naive or opportunistic, but there is something downright obscene in his promotion by capitalist commerce. Guevara simply was not a nice fellow.

There is nothing benign about the real Guevara, pistol in hand, giving a cold-blooded coup de grace to the Castro regime's enemies at La Cabaña fortress. Or his bloody repression of anti-Castro peasants in the Escambray mountains of central Cuba when the Castroite regime was 2 years old. Guevara's hands had much blood on them besides his own. In real life, he was a war criminal.

Eduardo Castro-Wright

If you don't know anything about Eduardo Castro-Wright, you should take the time to do a little reading on the man. He is the CEO of Wal-Mart Stores USA, and a rising star in corporate America.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Lurch to the Left

Not everyone is as pessimistic as I am about recent political developments in Latin America:

It is as all too easy to despair about Latin America's political and economic future. As Venezuela's Hugo Chavez continues to export his Bolivarian revolution abroad and as Evo Morales, Bolivia's newly elected president, threatens to nationalize his country's natural gas industry, one can be forgiven for seeing frightening specters of the continent's sorry past. In particular, one might be excused for asking whether Latin America might be drifting yet again in the direction of the failed economic and social policies of the 1970s.

A soberer and more wide-ranging review of the region's-political and economic landscape suggests, however, that Latin America's democratic process is now well entrenched. It would also reveal that centrist economic policies are now very much the rule rather than the exception. As such, US anxiety over the continent's economic and political future would appear to be misplaced. And it's probably best that the US administration limit itself to engaging the continent in a constructive dialogue about fruitful economic and trade arrangements.

Racial Competition in L.A.

From the Washington Post:

LOS ANGELES -- A series of deadly racial attacks in the jails of this sprawling metropolis has cast a spotlight on long-simmering but little-discussed tensions between a shrinking black presence and an ascendant Latino one in California.

In almost every arena of public life -- schools, politics, hospitals, housing and the workplace -- African Americans and Hispanics are engaged in an edgy competition, according to interviews with teachers, students, politicians, researchers, government officials, civil rights lawyers, street cops and businesspeople.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Alternative Fuels

How about sugar cane ethanol from Latin America and the Caribbean?

The United States could reduce dependency on the Middle East by importing sugar-cane derived ethanol and save money doing so, even after deducting the cost of retrofitting car engines. Sugar cane is grown in hot, wet tropical countries, not in Iowa (except at exorbitant cost), but there are a whole host of such countries available, in the Caribbean and the northern reaches of South America, only one of which, Venezuela, is a significant oil exporter -- in some cases, such as Haiti, the United States is committed to propping the place up anyway...

The strategic problem with oil is not that it has to be imported, but that it has to be imported from a relatively small group of countries, most of which are both corrupt and intrinsically somewhat hostile to the United States. Since oil production requires a large concentration of capital equipment, under extraction agreements with the host government, oil revenues tend to produce massive corruption of government officials, wasteful prestige projects and arms buildup rather than genuine economic development. Sugar-cane, on the other hand, is intrinsically a private sector crop, requires only modest capital investment and is fairly labor intensive even with modern cutting technology. Hence growth in the sugar-cane sector is likely to help development and facilitate the growth of a stable middle class in countries of the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America for which the United States has always taken a fatherly interest.

There's a reason for the absence of sugar-cane from Bush's speech: the demands of domestic U.S. politics. Sugar-cane growers in the Caribbean and South America are unlikely to provide significant campaign contributions, so are not a favored class. Indeed, sugar imports to the United States are currently regulated by the "Global Refined Tariff Rate Sugar" program, which prevents significant competition to coddled domestic sugar producers. Needless to say, domestic sugar producers are major campaign contributors, particularly in the key state of Florida.

Chavez Threatens to End Term Limits

How to create a dictatorship in five easy steps:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday he may seek to lift constitutionally mandated presidential term limits if opposition parties boycott the upcoming December presidential elections.

CAFTA Delays

This is a serious problem that needs to addressed right away:

The delay in implementing the Central American Free Trade Agreement has hit the region's clothing industry hard, putting factories in legal limbo, while much of their business leaves for Asia.

The free-trade agreement, known as CAFTA, was supposed to take effect Jan. 1. But none of the member countries - Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic - was ready to comply with what some complain is an ever-changing set of rules and regulations proposed by U.S. negotiators, including strengthening of intellectual-property laws.

Immigrant Protest

From the Orlando Sentinel:

MIAMI -- Busloads of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean rallied Saturday against proposed legislation that would require U.S. employers to provide information to verify the legal status of their workers and would build a fence along parts of the Mexican border.

About 350 people from Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and other countries heard speeches in Spanish and English, then marched to Miami's Freedom Tower to protest a proposed federal law that immigrant groups say would criminalize the nation's 11 million undocumented workers.

Expedited Removal

From the New York Times:

As the Bush administration rapidly expands its efforts to detain and deport illegal immigrants, human rights groups warn that people fleeing persecution are increasingly vulnerable to being deported to their home countries.

In 2005, a bipartisan federal commission warned that some immigration officials were improperly processing asylum seekers for deportation. The commission made recommendations to ensure that the system of speedy deportations, known as expedited removal, had adequate safeguards to protect those fleeing persecution.

But one year later, only one of the commission's five recommendations has been put into effect. Meanwhile, domestic security officials have expanded the expedited removal program, in which illegal immigrants are swiftly deported without being allowed to make their case before an immigration judge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Iran & the Latin American Leftists

According to a Christian Science Monitor editorial, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia are trying to build better relations with Axis of Evil member Iran, despite internal difficulties in each country. Interesting...

Lou Dobbs

From the New York Times:

Mr. Dobbs batters the Bush administration for doing too little to stop millions of migrants from slipping across the border with Mexico. He slams businesses and advocacy groups for helping illegal aliens thrive here. He hails the beleaguered officials who struggle to enforce immigration laws. As his scorching commentaries spill across the nation's television screens, first-time viewers might be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in wonder.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

American Hospitality

From the Economist:

The Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel was the centre of a diplomatic scuffle in February. It was the site of a three-day summit on “US-Cuba Energy”, which saw Cuban officials eagerly wooing American oil executives from Texas and Louisiana, in an effort to get American firms to extract Cuban oil resources. But the seduction was foiled in many ways on February 3rd, the second day of the summit, when the Sheraton kicked out the Cuban delegation under pressure from the American treasury. Because Sheraton is owned by an American firm, hosting the officials violated America’s 45-year-old trade embargo with Cuba.

The conference was promptly moved to a non-American hotel, but the affair has roiled anger in Cuba and Mexico alike. The Cuban government filed a complaint with the Mexican government; Luis Derbez, Mexico’s foreign minister, condemned the application of American laws in Mexico; and Mexico City officials are considering closing the Sheraton. Tension between Mexico and America has been running high already, owing to the matter of illegal immigration. America's Congress is considering building a fence along parts of the border, and some politicians claim that the Mexican army is infringing on American territory.

Two Cubans in Limbo

From OpinionJournal:

Fidel Castro's depredations inside Cuba are by now well known. But less widely appreciated is how Fidel sometimes manages to imprison Cubans in other domiciles even once they've escaped his government's clutches.

A tragic example is the case of two Cuban dentists who have been held in squalid conditions at a detention center in Nassau, Bahamas for almost 10 months. The two have immigration visas to enter the U.S. and join their spouses and children who live here legally. But the one thing holding up their release for the past 10 months has been, you guessed it, El Maximo Lider.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Elections in Latin America

From the Christian Science Monitor:

As the hemisphere embarks on this election year, US policy must be designed to keep open avenues of discussion with emerging candidates and newly elected leaders, some of whom, at first blush, may not reflect every aspect of the US policy agenda. Part of this process, for policymakers and observers alike, is not to exaggerate this leftward drift. Rather than focus on the region in the aggregate or through an ideological lens, the US should examine the complex political, economic, and even personal relations and interests in each country.

In the end, elections in the hemisphere will produce governments with which the US will share more in common than not. The trick will be to remain engaged with those governments as they tackle the difficult problems of addressing structural poverty, exclusion, and inequality with respect for democratic institutions and rights. Ultimately, it is a practical - not ideological - decision each country will have to make; one which, if done democratically, deserves US support.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Army Recruitment

From the New York Times:

In Denver and other cities where the Hispanic population is growing, recruiting Latinos has become one of the Army's top priorities. From 2001 to 2005, the number of Latino enlistments in the Army rose 26 percent, and in the military as a whole, the increase was 18 percent.

The increase comes at a time when the Army is struggling to recruit new soldiers and when the enlistment of African-Americans, a group particularly disillusioned with the war in Iraq, has dropped off sharply, to 14.5 percent from 22.3 percent over the past four years.

Not all Latinos, though, are in step with the military's recruitment goals. In some cities with large Hispanic populations, the focus on recruitment has polarized Latinos, prompting some to organize against recruiters and to help immigrants learn their rights.

The Winter Olympics

From the Washington Post:

Once composed almost exclusively of white athletes from small communities in the Northeast and Midwest, the U.S. team that will march into the Olympic Stadium on Friday night for Opening Ceremonies will be the most racially and ethnically diverse in the history of the Winter Games.

It will include a Cuban American from Miami, a Puerto Rican American from Chicago, a Japanese American from Seattle and African Americans from Chicago, Alabama and North Carolina, all among the country's strongest medal hopes. At least 23 of the 211-member U.S. team have Hispanic or non-white backgrounds, and the team includes natives of Florida, Georgia and Texas, as well as South Korea, Russia and Japan.

Though the U.S. Olympic Committee does not keep official records on race or ethnicity, the number of black, Asian American or Hispanic athletes on the U.S. team is more than double that at Salt Lake City in 2002, which included at least 12 minorities. It is nearly four times the number on the U.S. teams that competed in 1998 in Nagano and 1994 in Lillehammer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Building or Tearing Down Walls

Eneas Biglione:

It is worrisome... that the United States -- the most powerful country in the world and an excellent example of the institutions that a country must adopt to achieve prosperity -- is devoting so much time and so many resources to the construction of a wall on its border with Mexico. The anti-Mexican hysteria does nothing more than add to the arguments of enemies of the United States and discourage the world's conservatives from working side-by-side with the United States on the true fronts of the fight against the Axis of Evil.

Univision for Sale?

From the New York Times:

Univision Communications, the Spanish-language media company, is considering a plan to put itself up for sale, people briefed on the proposal said last night.

An auction for Univision, which is worth nearly $10 billion, could set off a scramble among the country's media giants — the News Corporation, Time Warner and CBS — as they vie for a slice of the lucrative and growing Spanish-language market.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

The NSA's terrorist surveillance program is narrowly focused on the international communications of persons believed to be members or agents of al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations. The terrorist surveillance program protects both the security of the nation and the rights and liberties we cherish.

Latin American Elections

From the U.S. State Department:

The 2005 elections in Honduras and Bolivia were conducted transparently and with strong public support; in contrast, no more than 25 percent of Venezuelan voters participated in that nation's 2005 elections, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) John Maisto told the OAS Permanent Council.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Oscar Arias Redux

From the AP via Yahoo! News:

Costa Rica, long seen as Central America's most stable and prosperous country, has been rocked by corruption scandals, raising the election prospects for a popular former president and Nobel laureate.

Polls indicated that Oscar Arias, president from 1986-90, was favored in Sunday's presidential election.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Judicial Nominations

Ann Coulter:

A few years ago, the Democrats wouldn't allow a vote on Bush's Hispanic, black and female judicial nominees. Sen. Bill Frist (news, bio, voting record) was afraid of what the Democrats might do, so he backed down. Scary Democrats! And not just Joe Biden's hair plugs -- all of them were scary to Sen. Frist!

The nominations languished, and eventually some of the nominees, like Miguel Estrada, withdrew their names.

Then a Republican lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, Manuel Miranda, found memos Democrats left on open computer files proving that the Democrats were targeting Bush's Hispanic nominees like Miguel Estrada solely because they were Hispanic.

What do you suppose the Democrats would have done if they ever found a memo by Republican Senate staffers opposing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, say, because she was Jewish?

For reasons I still don't understand, instead of these memos being the Democrats' scandal, they became the Republicans' scandal. Democrats were outraged that Miranda had not chastely refused to read the memos Democrats had stupidly left on open files. Consequently, Frist fired Miranda.

State of the Union


On Tuesday, Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic alcalde (or mayor) of Los Angeles, delivered to his city a "Respuesta al Estado de la Nación"--a response in Spanish to President Bush's State of the Union address. This alternative discourse, this act of ethno-political affectation, should lead us all to think upon some questions: What, and where, are the limits to civic Otherness in America?

Why not a gay response? A Teamster response? A vegan response? A gangsta response? More nitty-grittily: Why not a response in Farsi or Korean--languages spoken by people toward whom Mr. Villaraigosa has no fewer mayoral duties than he does toward his Hispanophones? There is, also, a radical question from which there should be no glib escape: If response there must be from the mayor of Los Angeles, why not one in plain old English?