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  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Politics Innovator: María Rachid, Argentina María Rachid never wanted to become a politician. But she is responsible for some of the most important human rights bills in Argentina's recent history, including the 2010 Marriage Equality Law, which legalized same-sex marriage, and the 2012 Gender Identity Law, which allows transgender people to change gender identity on official documents without prior approval. The 38-year-old has served in the Buenos Aires city legislature since 2011 for the governing Frente Para La Victoria (Front for Victory) coalition. A former vice president of Argentina's Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminación, la Xenofobia y el Racismo (National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism—INADI), Rachid is a long time social activist who didn't always see party politics as the best way to accomplish change. “I never thought I would become a legislator,” she says, though she adds that she was always interested in politics “as a tool to construct a more just society.” Born and raised in Buenos Aires province, Rachid came out as a lesbian as an adult—around the same time that she came of age as a political activist, having left her law studies at the University of Belgrano to focus on a new career as an activist for women's rights and sexual liberation.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba
  • Author: Kurt J. Nagle
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Infrastructure: U.S. Seaport Expansion BY KURT J. NAGLE U.S. seaports are in an enhancement and expansion mode. While the widening of the Panama Canal may serve as the catalyst for some of the anticipated $9.2 billion in annual facilities investment in the foreseeable future, this is only part of the story. Several other factors are propelling this huge investment of private capital into U.S. ports. One is the rebounding domestic economy: the value of U.S. exports has risen 70 percent and imports have increased by 53 percent since the first half of 2009. Another driver is the increasing overseas demand for U.S. exports, particularly among the growing middle class in Latin America and parts of Asia. In fact, in the next decade, total U.S. exports are projected to surpass imports for the first time in a generation. Yet another consideration is that manufacturing operations are returning to North America, a development known as “nearsourcing.” With rising labor costs overseas, a narrowing labor differential at home and long transit times to market, a Michigan-based AlixPartners survey conducted in 2012 found that 9 percent of manufacturing executives have already taken steps to “near-source” their operations, and 33 percent plan to do so within the next three years.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, California, North America
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Prost, Brazil! Grab a stein-full of caipirinha and stroll down to Ipanema beach in your lederhosen—it's Germany-Brazil Year in Brazil. The yearlong festival, aimed at deepening German-Brazilian relations, kicked off in May with the opening of the German-Brazilian Economic Forum in São Paulo. “Brazil is one of the most successful new centers of power in the world,” says Guido Westerwelle, Germany's foreign minister. “We want to intensify cooperation with Brazil, not only economically but also culturally.” It's no surprise that Brazil, the sixth-largest economy in the world, has caught the attention of Europe's financial powerhouse. Brazil is Germany's most important trading partner in Latin America, accounting for $14.2 billion in imports in 2012. With some 1,600 German companies in Brazil providing 250,000 jobs and 17 percent of industrial GDP, it's an economic relationship that clearly has mutual benefits.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Environment
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Europe, Brazil, Germany, Mexico
  • Author: John Carey, Adriana La Rotta, Nancy Perez
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Latin American Populism in the Twenty-First Century edited by Carlos de la Torre and Cynthia J. Arnson BY JOHN M. CAREY Legend has it that on his deathbed, Juan Domingo Perón, the former President of Argentina, uttered a curse condemning any would-be biographer to dedicate his or her career to defining populism. Or perhaps the curse was issued on the lost page of the late Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas' suicide note, or slipped in among the bills in an envelope passed surreptitiously by Alberto Fujimori to some Peruvian legislator, or whispered by the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez into the ear of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. No matter. Whoever first uttered the curse, it worked: political scientists studying the region have wrestled and been obsessed with the concept for decades. We want to write about populism. Indeed, we need to write about it, because populism is among the most important and persistent phenomena in modern Latin American politics. But because the populist label has been applied to such a broad array of phenomena, we are condemned to define it before we can embark on any serious analysis. Academic exactitude being what it is, this leads first to extended consideration of what others have held populism to be, followed by a self-perpetuating and seemingly inescapable cycle of judgment, distinction and justification.
  • Topic: Economics, Migration
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Colombia, Latin America, Central America
  • Author: Gabriel Marcella, William McIlhenny
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Leaders' reactions to the revelations are really about domestic politics. Everybody spies, even on allies. BY GABRIEL MARCELLA Should the U.S. spy on its allies? Yes The reported snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on world leaders is a rich teachable moment. It shows the underside of international relations. Spying on other governments—including friendly ones—is a pillar of modern foreign policy and a vital tool to protect against modern security threats like international crime, terrorism, cyber-attacks, drug trafficking, climate change, and stealing technology. As the saying goes, friends today may be foes tomorrow. We really don't know what information was gathered, but it caused an upheaval in various capitals friendly to the United States. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a long-awaited state visit to the U.S. because of the Edward Snowden revelations, claiming that the NSA spying was an attack “on the sovereignty and the rights of the people” of Brazil. Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was upset by reports that the U.S. was listening to her cell phone communications; she, in turn, demanded a no-spying agreement with the United States.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, France, Brazil
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Arts Innovator: Luis Antonio Vilchez, Peru Watch a video of Luis Antonio Vilchez dancing in Times Square below. Passing through New York's Times Square one winter day in 2010, Lima native Luis Antonio Vilchez noticed a group of street percussionists playing a familiar Afro-Peruvian rhythm—and immediately decided to join them. Soon, a large crowd gathered as Vilchez, wearing a button-down shirt and a winter coat, burst into a dance performance that was so impressive even the drummers watched in awe. The same kind of impromptu creativity dominates Adú Proyecto Universal (Adú Universal Project), a nonprofit arts organization Vilchez founded four years ago to re-imagine Peruvian identity through dance, theater and percussion. Financed by money the group earns from its performances, Adú (which means “friend” in limeña slang) encourages its 20 members—all dancers—to combine different dance and music genres, crossing back and forth between tradition and modernity.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, New York
  • Author: Albert Fishlow, Alejandro Garro, Matthew Aho
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Breves narrativas diplomáticas by Celso Amorim BY ALBERT FISHLOW Brazil featured early in the international crisis that erupted from Edward Snowden's disclosures of U.S. access to telephone conversations of more than 30 foreign leaders over the past decade, when Rio de Janeiro-based journalist Glenn Greenwald provided information about U.S. spying in Brazil to O Globo's television program, Fantástico. In response, President Dilma Rousseff took the unusual and unprecedented step of canceling her scheduled state visit to the United States. (That cancellation had some positive consequences for President Barack Obama; at least he did not have to worry about holding a state meeting during the Congress-imposed shutdown of U.S. government spending.) The Snowden disclosures increase the relevance of Celso Amorim's new book, Breves narrativas diplomáticas (Brief Diplomatic Narratives). Amorim, who served as Brazilian minister of foreign relations under two administrations of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and is now minister of defense in the Rousseff government, presents—as he had done in an earlier volume Conversas com jovens diplomatas (Conversations with Young Diplomats)—some highlights of his service as foreign minister. The emphasis in this book is on his first years as foreign minister, and gives the reader a window into Brazil's shift in foreign policy after 2003.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, Brazil
  • Author: Jose W. Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: United States-Latin American relations have often suffered from a disconnect. While we stress security issues, the region's leaders speak of poverty reduction and trade. They resent being seen as afterthoughts to U.S. policies focused elsewhere. As a result, the region is sporadically open to new suitors, such as Spanish investors 15 years ago, or the Chinese today. Despite their frustration with Washington, Latin American leaders recognize that, as the hemisphere's largest economy and market, the U.S. remains the indispensable partner. The challenge, both for the U.S. and Latin America, is to agree on common economic priorities both sides can pursue jointly, rather than continuing parallel dialogues. Economic growth, poverty reduction and job creation are common elements on both sides' wish lists. Politically, the stars are more aligned than ever in recent history for a renewed emphasis on economics in our relations with Latin America. The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made clear that its priority will be economic reform at home and more integrated North American markets and supply chains. From the beginning of his term, the Mexican president called for elevating our economic diplomacy to the same levels as our security relationship, which led to the first High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) between Mexico and the U.S. in late September.
  • Political Geography: United States, Latin America, North America, Mexico
  • Author: Michael McDonald
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: Guatemalan Migrants BY Michael Mcdonald Guatemalans returning home from the U.S. face unemployment, a maze of red tape—and social stigma. (slideshow available) Read a sidebar about voluntary return migration. Read a sidebar about the stigma that return migrants face. View a slideshow of return migrants in Guatemala below. Fidelino Gómez remembers fondly the years he spent in Iowa, where his middle child was born. Standing outside his one-room wood home in his native Guatemala, Gómez, 34, thumbs through pictures he took of the Mississippi River, snowy Midwest winters and gatherings with family and friends. He recalls easier times. “We lived well,” Gómez says under the searing sun. “We could feed our children, pay our bills, and we still had money left over.” From 2004 to 2008, Gómez and his wife María earned roughly $7 an hour working at Agriprocessors Inc., a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The money was more than they ever imagined as subsistence farmers back home. But the family's dream was cut short when United States immigration officials raided the plant in May 2008, arresting hundreds of undocumented Guatemalan workers and deporting them. Now, like more than 100 other families deported after the Postville raid, they struggle to eke out a living back in the economically depressed farming village San José Calderas, some 40 miles (64 km) west of Guatemala City. They grow corn and beans to feed their loved ones and do odd jobs, scraping by on the equivalent of between $15 and $30 per month.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Guatemala
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Arts Innovator: Francisca Valenzuela, Chile Singer. Fashion designer. Entrepreneur. At 27, Francisca Valenzuela has already reached the kind of success usually associated with a professionally managed career. But instead of a top agent or a big record label, the San Francisco-born Chilean artist owes her achievements to a team that includes her mother, biochemist Bernardita Méndez, her boyfriend and artistic confidante Vicente Sanfuentes, and a small, committed staff in Chile that has skillfully used social media—including 275,000 Twitter followers and fans known as “Franáticos”—to spread the word of her talents. Valenzuela is one of the most engaging examples of a new generation of artist-entrepreneurs who are controlling their own career paths. “I'm not waiting for someone to come rescue me industry-wise,” Valenzuela says, describing how, when her music took off in her late teens, she and her mother purchased Business for Dummies online to understand the fine print in her first contract. Valenzuela's early musical success—with a hit single, Peces (Fish) in 2006—came after years of performing in talent shows, but she was never “serious” about music until she started performing on the underground jazz circuit in Chile. She eventually dropped out of the Universidad Católica de Chile, where she was studying journalism, to pursue her burgeoning musical career. Along the way, she has had two books published, two pop-rock albums that went platinum and gold in Chile, and designed a clothing line for the Chilean brand Foster. Now, Valenzuela develops projects and artistic collaborations through her own company, FRANTASTIC Productions. “We've structured an independent enterprise basically run by two people [that's] competitive with counterparts who have a whole corporate background,” she says proudly. Valenzuela's do-it-yourself ethic in the music industry is not the only thing that sets her apart from many of her peers. Valenzuela spent the first 12 years of her life in the United States before the family relocated to Santiago. In fact, Valenzuela's first book—Defenseless Waters, a collection of poems that she published at age 13 about themes ranging from long-lost love to social injustice to nature—was written in English. “When I was young in the Bay Area, everyone seemed to be doing extracurricular activities, sports, painting, nurturing kids,” she recalls. Valenzuela's literary background and political convictions have inspired her songwriting in Spanish. The title song of her latest album, Buen Soldado (Good Soldier, 2011), focuses on the power dynamic between men and women, and she has been an outspoken advocate of sexual diversity and LGBT rights in Chile, participating in gay rights marches since she was 14.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Brazil
  • Author: Robert Muse, Natalie Schachar, Charles Kamasaki
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Travel Regulations: OFAC and Cuba BY ROBERT MUSE The re-opening of “people-to-people” travel to Cuba by President Barack Obama in early 2011 was the boldest and, arguably, the single most consequential step taken by his administration in relation to the island. It was in fact a revival of a Clinton-era exemption to the decades-old ban on U.S. citizens visiting that country. The exemption had been closed in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Visits to Cuba must meet two requirements to be approved as people-to-people travel: the travel must be for an educational purpose, not tourism; and there must be frequent “meaningful” interactions between the U.S. travelers and Cubans who are not officials of the government of Cuba. The educational requirement of people-to-people trips is most often met through cultural programs that explore such subjects as Cuban music, dance, fine art, and architectural history. However, among many other current offerings there are also environmentally themed trips, as well as programs focused on the Cuban health care and education systems. Since the program was re-introduced, an estimated 100,000 Americans have been visiting Cuba each year on people-to-people trips. The visits have been organized by a wide variety of groups, including the National Geographic Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and dozens of similar institutions. The travelers meet and talk with Cubans from different backgrounds and leave millions of dollars in the hands of non-state restaurateurs, artists, musicians, taxi drivers, and small farmers who supply the new private eateries of a changing Cuba.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Cuba
  • Author: Jesus Velasco
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: A recurrent theme in the immigration debate is how the United States can keep and attract the world's brightest minds. President Barack Obama and others favor maintaining and perhaps even expanding the number of visas for high-skilled immigrants. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama said the U.S. needed to "attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers who will help create jobs and grow our economy." A few days later, on January 29, 2013, at El Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, Obama underlined the point: "Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities[.]but once they earn that diploma, there's a good chance they'll have to leave the country[..]That's why we need comprehensive immigration reform."
  • Topic: Immigration
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Carol Stax Brown
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: The United States and Latin America are both struggling to find ways to improve participation in quality education in the face of a labor-market skills gap. But all too often, policymakers, businesses and educators have looked to elite universities as a way of meeting those gaps. While important for high-end jobs, labor market and social demands also require us to look elsewhere.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Timothy DeVoogd
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: I expected high school biology students. Instead, I was facing 120 middle school students who were on an outing to Maloka, an innovative science museum in Bogotá.On the fly, I changed my presentation on how the brain works into a series of demonstrations. At the end, I was awed by the questions: "My mother has epilepsy; why is it that she doesn't recognize me when she has a seizure?" "I have a pet bird. Does he learn like I do?"
  • Political Geography: United States, Brazil, Riyadh
  • Author: Nathaniel Parish Flannery
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Can Mexico exploit its new demographic dividend? With contributing research from Miryam Hazán and Carlos López Portillo Maltos of Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT). Read a sidebar on Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT's) electronic job bank. Read a sidebar on Mexican migrants' return to restaurant work. José Antonio Pérez remembers as a child seeing migrants climbing onto La Bestia ("The Beast"), the train that carries Central American migrants north to the state of Oaxaca, and wondering where they were going. An uncle told him the migrants were "traveling to El Norte," the United States. "I didn't understand," Pérez recalled. "I only understood when I was older." At the age of 14, he joined them. He left his hometown of Arriaga, Chiapas, in 2003 and found work in a greenhouse in Chestertown, Virginia.
  • Topic: Migration
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Mexico
  • Author: Sarah Stephens, Joel Brito
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: The EU has recognized that its Common Position has failed to improve human rights in Cuba. It's time for the U.S. to do the same with its embargo. BY SARAH STEPHENS Will warming Cuba-EU ties open up U.S.- Cuba relations? Yes When Louis Michel, then-development commissioner for the European Union (EU), met in 2009 with Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba's foreign minister, he worried openly about the slow pace of EU diplomacy. “I think that if the European Union does not consolidate the normalization of relations with Cuba,” Michel said, “the Americans will do so before us.”1 He need not have been concerned. In the nearly five years since Michel and Rodríguez sat down together, the Cuban government has pursued reforms to pry the island's economy back from the edge of crisis—ranging from creating space for entrepreneurship to ending travel restrictions. Now is the time for the United States to follow its Atlantic partner and get off the sidelines when it comes to engaging Havana. The Obama administration's track record signals some hope: thus far, the president has used his executive authority to restore Cuban-American family travel, reinstate people-to-people trips, and reconvene the episodic talks on migration and postal delivery. But he has left undisturbed the essential architecture of U.S. policy inherited from the Eisenhower era.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Competitive Eating Summertime in the U.S. typically evokes the image of barbecues featuring all-American fare. But for a group of unique, dedicated elite athletes, summertime food conjures up a chance at glory. Competitive eating was introduced in Coney Island on July 4, 1916, by Nathan's Famous to determine who could ingest the most hot dogs within a set time. Since then, it has pulled in a number of other foods, including the “accoutrements,” with the sponsorship of Coca-Cola and Heinz Ketchup—not to mention the upset-stomach reliever Pepto-Bismol. The sport revived in the mid-1990s when brothers George and Richard Shea took the helm of Nathan's Famous' publicity machine and gave it an air of serious athleticism, with rules overseen by two main bodies. The better-known Major League Eating (MLE) is run by the Shea brothers and hosts over 80 competitive eating events a year around the United States. But the crowning event remains the annually televised Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Then there's All Pro Eating Promotions, best known for inventing “picnic-style rules” in the U.S.—competitors must eat the food as presented, without mutilating it in any way.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Johanna Mendelson, Anthony Spanakos, Roger-Mark De Souza
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse by Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco R. Rodríguez BY ANTHONY SPANAKOS During the 1970s, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. With the region's highest growth rates and the lowest levels of inequality, it was also one of the most stable democracies in the Americas. But starting in the early 1980s, things fell apart. The nation endured three coup attempts and one presidential impeachment. Per capita growth plunged, and mass protests became the norm. What happened? Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse, edited by Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco R. Rodríguez, offers some intriguing answers. Pointedly departing from much of the current research (and political discussion) on Venezuela, which focuses on the 14-year presidency (1999–2013) of late President Hugo Chávez, the editors have assembled a distinguished group of experts with the aim not only of exploring, as they put it, the “enigma” of Venezuela's pre-Chávez collapse, but to explain why some countries go through such turbulence. The unexpected outcomes in Venezuela are used by the authors to challenge hypotheses that rely on big data analysis to explain economic collapse. While the explanation behind Chávez' rise to power may draw attention, as Venezuela continues to be rocked by internal conflict following his death, it is the book's second aim that makes it stand out as an important work of scholarship.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jose W. Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: United States-Latin American relations have often suffered from a disconnect. While we stress security issues, the region's leaders speak of poverty reduction and trade. They resent being seen as afterthoughts to U.S. policies focused elsewhere. As a result, the region is sporadically open to new suitors, such as Spanish investors 15 years ago, or the Chinese today.
  • Topic: Economics, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Latin America, Spain
  • Author: Nora Lustig
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: It's time to measure the income share of Latin America's super-rich.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, Argentina, Latin America