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  • Author: Jeremy M. Martin
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: The integration of Central America's fragmented electricity market has always seemed a no-brainer—at least to outsiders. A seamless grid for delivery of electricity would not only make regional power generation projects affordable, but would also reduce costs to consumers and governments alike, as well as strengthen energy security at the national level. The foundations for a robust regional electricity market were, in fact, laid by a regional treaty in 1996, establishing the Sistema de Interconexión Eléctrica de los Países de América Central (Central American Electrical Interconnection System—SIEPAC), which aimed to knit together the electrical grids from all six countries. But the original target completion date of 2008 was not met. Although several key pieces of the regional market are under development, the plan has fallen victim to regulatory bottlenecks and the shifting political priorities of individual governments. The unfortunate result: Central America's electricity markets remain mostly within national boundaries.
  • Topic: Power Politics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ramon Espinasa
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Whether the issue is global warming, carbon footprints, energy security, or shale oil, energy is very much front and center in the region's public policy agenda. Nevertheless, discussion has been riddled with suspicions, accusations and wishful thinking on all sides. Here are some of the biggest myths and fallacies to look out for.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil
  • Author: Katherine Blumberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In 2003, Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) started work on a standard to dramatically reduce the sulfur levels in fuels. By 2005, the standard was published, requiring ultra-low-sulfur fuels (15 parts per million or less) nationwide by 2009. However, today, only about 25 percent of the diesel sold in Mexico meets the standard. What happened? Four years after the original requirement, SEMARNAT, SENER (the energy ministry) and PEMEX (the state-owned oil company) have still not settled on a new deadline for cleaner fuels in Mexico. And, in a chicken-and-egg dilemma, the motor vehicle industry has been reluctant to agree to standards that take full advantage of cleaner fuels, citing uncertainty about when those fuels will truly be available. The delay will have enormous consequences for public health in Mexico. Most of the world is all too familiar with the sight of a cloud of black smoke belching out of the tail pipe of a diesel truck or bus. Diesel particles cause more damage to health around the world than any other pollutant from the transport sector. What many people don't know is that the most dangerous particles are the ones you can't see...
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Ricardo Torres Pérez
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In an August 2010 address to the Cuban National Assembly, President Raúl Castro unveiled a plan that would irrevocably alter the Caribbean nation's trajectory. As part of a broader package of economic changes to increase productivity and exports in a number of sectors, the government planned to lay off 1 million state workers over the next five years, half of those in just six months. The announcement was based on the basic principle that the state could no longer afford to keep unproductive companies afloat and provide the public services—like universal education and health care—that are key to Cuba's socialist model. While Cuba is no stranger to economic crises, this time the proposal appeared to be well grounded and more in line with contemporary economic trends. To pick up the slack shed by the public sector, the Cuban government introduced a number of economic "updates," known as lineamientos (guidelines), to the Cuban economy. The idea was to create space for private-sector growth by granting more licenses for Cubans to employ themselves—an incremental first step grudgingly taken toward a more market-friendly system.
  • Topic: Agriculture
  • Political Geography: Russia, Cuba
  • Author: Diana Villiers Negroponte
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In April last year, the Colombian government announced its intention to pursue the creation of an interconnected electrical grid from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. Naming the project "Connecting the Americas 2022" ("Connect 2022" ), the Colombians had picked up the idea from Washington and included it in last year's agenda at the Summit of the Americas. The goal, as defined by the hemispheric governments that attended the summit, is to create an integrated electrical grid that can provide universal access to electricity through enhanced energy interconnections, power sector investments, renewable energy development, and cooperation. Should it succeed, the project will bring together regional electricity grids, including the Central American electrical grid, known by its Spanish acronym, SIEPAC (see Jeremy Martin's article on the difficulty of completing SIPAC on page 102 of this issue), with South American networks. Completing it, though, requires passing through the Darién Gap.
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Germany, Mexico
  • Author: Alejandro Eder Garcés
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: After more than half a century of conflict, efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate Colombia's warring groups are just beginning to take hold. While a few small left-wing guerrilla groups were demobilized in the 1990s, successful reintegration of thousands of ex-combatants—most of them right-wing paramilitaries—into peaceful society has remained elusive. But that seems to be changing. Reintegration involves providing ex-combatants with the educational, material and personal tools to become citizens and gain sustainable employment and income. It is a social and economic process with an open-ended time frame. Because it's so specialized, it mostly takes place at the local level.
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Author: Mari Hayman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: While clean energy sources are gradually becoming more affordable, wind turbines and solar panels are still prohibitively expensive for much of the world's poor. To fill the demand for cheap, alternative energy, a number of do-it-yourself innovations that cost next to nothing have popped up across the globe. They require little technical expertise to use, and could provide a lifeline for low-income households. Take, for example, the "solar bottle bulb"—a plastic bottle filled with purified water and bleach that is used as a makeshift light bulb in the Philippines. Though the bulbs only work during daylight hours, they offer poor families a cheap, renewable energy source and generate as much light as a 55-watt bulb. Since 2011, the MyShelter Foundation has promoted the Isang Litrong Liwanag ("Liter of Light") project, which trains residents to make and install the bulbs themselves and aims to light 1 million homes by the end of 2015. SOCCKET, a soccer ball that stores kinetic energy while getting kicked around to power everything from cell phones and batteries to LED reading lamps, is another example of do-it-yourself energy. When the soccer ball is in motion, a pendulum mechanism inside generates energy that is stored in a lightweight lithium ion battery within the ball. After the game is over, electronic devices can be powered by plugging into a socket on the ball. According to SOCCKET co-creator Jessica Matthews, it's a fun and effective way to generate electricity. Thirty minutes of soccer can provide about three hours of LED light, and thousands of the balls, which retail for around $100, have been distributed to developing countries in Africa and Latin America through Matthew's for-profit social enterprise, Uncharted Play, which is planning a retail launch this fall...
  • Political Geography: Canada, Latin America
  • Author: Ramon Campos Iriarte
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Pimpineros BY RAMÓN CAMPOS IRIARTE Colombia's pimpineros struggle to survive in the shadowy, violent world of border gas smuggling. José, a tough-looking, dark-skinned man in his 40s, met me at a small restaurant in a crowded neighborhood in Cúcuta, capital of Colombia's Norte de Santander department, and a traditionally “hot” place for contraband and mafia violence. A leader of Sintragasolina, the gas workers' union, José agreed to see me only if we met in a public place in broad daylight to talk about the illegal fuel sellers—known as pimpineros—that he risks his life to defend. Pimpineros' livelihoods depend on the disparity between subsidized Venezuelan gas prices and the highly taxed Colombian ones. In towns like Cúcuta, poverty and violence have pushed entire neighborhoods to become “pueblos bomba”—“pump towns”—whose economies are based entirely on the smuggling, home storage and selling of pimpinas (five-gallon—19-liter—containers) of hydrocarbon-based products. Thousands of low-income Colombian families spend days and nights in their improvised street shacks, pouring gas through handmade funnels into their clients' tanks.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Author: Juan C. Cappello, Noah Davis
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: The series of scandals have not only tainted FIFA, but undermined trust in the game as well. BY NOAH DAVIS Does FIFA's corruption hurt the beautiful game? Yes FIFA, international soccer's governing body, is corrupt. The degree of corruption may be debatable, but its existence at the highest levels is not. Over the past three years, at least a dozen of the organization's 24 Executive Committee (ExCo) members have been accused of serious improprieties stemming from bribes, illegal ticket sales and other scandals. While Sepp Blatter, FIFA's president since 1998, has escaped punishment—so far, at least—many of his colleagues have fallen or resigned. The endemic corruption not only compromises the quality of play on the field, but reduces fan support of the sport and tarnishes the beauty of the beautiful game. For example, Jack Warner, the president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), resigned in 2011 after facing numerous corruption and bribery charges. In 2006, FIFA's Ethics Committee censured Warner after an audit revealed he made at least $1 million illegally selling World Cup tickets. Warner's deputy, CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer, earned the nickname “Mr. 10 Percent” for his rumored skimming on deals and was suspended for “fraudulent” behavior in 2013.
  • Topic: Corruption, Governance, Law
  • Political Geography: South America, England
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Business Innovator: Felipe Arango, Colombia The Chocó region in western Colombia is one of the most mineral-rich places in the hemisphere. It is also ecologically rich, boasting species of flora thought to be unique to Chocó. But due to years of commercial gold and platinum mining that have leached mercury and cyanide into local rivers, the Chocó region has also become one of the most threatened natural areas in the world. Felipe Arango has been working to change that. Arango, 34, is CEO of Oro Verde—an NGO based in Medellín, Colombia, that empowers local miners to use more ecologically friendly artisanal mining techniques. Founded in 2003, the organization purchases gold produced by certified artisanal miners, many of them Afro-Colombian, and sells it to socially conscious jewelers around the world. Oro Verde takes a 2 percent cut to fund its operations and administration, and contributes its profits and reinvested premiums to the protection of 11,120 acres (4,500 hectares) of tropical rainforest. Oro Verde's gold certification process, meanwhile, has influenced the development of a global “fair-trade, fair-mined” gold certification process.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: New York, Colombia
  • Author: Kent Allen
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: E-Commerce: Easing Cross-Border E-Commerce BY KENT ALLEN The age of digital commerce is dawning in Latin America, with cross-border marketers looking to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil as opportunities to connect with online shoppers. Will the region capitalize on its e-commerce potential? The cross-border e-commerce math is simple. More online traffic means more sales opportunities, especially for digitally savvy brands from the U.S. and United Kingdom. The number of Latin Americans accessing the Internet jumped 12 percent last year, and mobile traffic is on the rise too. From July 2011 to July 2012, Flurry Analytics reports that four of the 10 fastest growing iOS and Android markets, as measured by the number of active devices, were in the Americas: Chile (279 percent); Brazil (220 percent); Argentina (217 percent); and Mexico (193 percent). Federico Torres, CEO of Traetelo, a cross-border marketplace solely focused on Latin America, explained why the region's future is digital at the June 2013 Chicago Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, the world's largest e-commerce conference. According to Traetelo, Chile (27 percent growth), Mexico (19 percent) and Brazil (19 percent) were among the five fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world last year. “Three-quarters of Latin America shoppers find the products they search for on U.S. e-commerce sites,” said Torres.
  • Topic: Government, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Latin America, Mexico
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Panorama Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and events from around the hemisphere with AQ's Panorama. Each issue, AQ packs its bags and offers readers travel tips on a new Americas destination. In this issue: Mexico is Still Waiting for “Los Bitles” World Games, Cali American Sabor 10 Things to Do: Ponce, Puerto Rico Heart-Stopping U.S. Food Festivals From the Think Tanks.
  • Topic: Security, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Latin America, Mexico
  • Author: Jose de Cordoba, Britta Crandall, Gabriel Sanchez Zinny
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era by Francisco Toro and Juan Cristobal Nagel BY JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA Venezuela has been on a wild ride since Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998. Now that the Comandante—as he liked to be called—has left us, things could get loonier a lot faster. That's one reason why Caracas Chronicles, an English-language blog that has provided a running narration since 2002 of the Chávez era, will continue to be an indispensable tool of analysis and information for addicts of the Chávez story—a story that so far has managed to outlive the flamboyant president. With the death of Chávez and his spectacular funeral still fresh in the collective memory, the publication of Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era, a compilation of some of the blog's best postings, is well timed. It provides an opportunity to look back on the past and to meditate on the future of Venezuela as it teeters between comedy and tragedy. This is an essential read for anybody interested in Venezuela.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Reform
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: With the exception of Cuba, the hemisphere is a relatively free place to be a journalist compared to much of the rest of the world. But that doesn't mean it's safe or easy, or that it's getting any easier. Below is a catalogue of the abuses, risks and challenges that journalists and media faced in the Americas and in selected countries outside the region last year.
  • Political Geography: America, Cuba
  • Author: Carlos Dada, Jorge Ramos, Ricardo Uceda, Tim Padgett, Michèle Montas-Dominique, Alfredo Corchado
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: When you received the Maria Moors Cabot Gold Medal in 2011, you—and the website you founded, El Faro—were cited for your courageous work in investigative journalism in the midst of difficult circumstances. Has the situation for journalism in El Salvador improved in the past two years? Investigating crime and corruption has never been easy in El Salvador, above all due to the lack of guarantees from state and public officials, who are complicit when it comes to this type of crime. But it's much more difficult for local journalists, who live and work in small communities far from the large urban centers. They're exposed to greater risks because the criminals and the corrupt officials whom they seek to expose live in the same town or are people who hold great power in their regions. In 2012, journalists were increasingly under attack from organized crime. The situation is much worse in Honduras and Guatemala, where a number of journalists have been assassinated.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Silvio Waisbord
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Media concentration remains a crucial challenge for democracy in Latin America. There are no media monopolies, strictly speaking, in the sense of a single corporation owning all media offerings, but media market concentration remains high. Legacy media properties, as well as the majority of advertising expenditures, are controlled by a small number of companies. Some television markets are "imperfect duopolies," such as in Mexico, where Grupo Televisa and TV Azteca reap the lion's share of ownership, advertising and audiences. In Colombia, CaracolTV and RCNTV attract over 60 percent of television advertising.
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Mexico
  • Author: Mauri König
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In June and August of this year, millions of Brazilians took to the streets in 120 cities across the country to protest public transportation fare hikes, political corruption and excessive public spending on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Dozens of these demonstrations ended in confrontations between police and protesters. Over the course of the protests, journalists suffered attacks from both sides — worsening what has already been one of the world's most dangerous climates for reporters.
  • Political Geography: Brazil
  • Author: Martín Becerra, Guillermo Mastrini
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: For the past five years, Argentina's current government and the Clarín Group, the country's principal media conglomerate, have been on a collision course.
  • Political Geography: Argentina
  • Author: Kevin M. Goldberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: From the high-profile cases of the Wikileaker U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) and the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to a series of lesser-known cases, the U.S. government has increased the investigation and prosecution of officials who have leaked government information. In many of these cases, the recipient of the information has not been foreign governments but the media, including new Internet-based platforms such as Wikileaks. Despite the novelty of the platforms and the government's harsher response, the law under which leakers have been investigated and indicted (and journalists subpoenaed) is the 1917 Espionage Act.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Carlos Lauría, Sara Rafsky
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: During the past two decades, as transnational criminal networks have expanded their reach, violence and murder have plagued several Latin American countries. But even among those countries, Honduras stands apart. With an annual homicide rate of 85.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants-an average of 598 a month, 20 a day, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Violence Observatory at the Honduran National Autonomous University— no place in the region is more violent.
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Santiago A. Canton
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: The Inter-American System enshrined the right to freedom of thought and expression in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. In 1998, to further protect this right, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or the Commission) established the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. I served as the first head of the office.
  • Topic: Human Rights
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Sam Mendelson
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: For decades, lending to the poor meant microcredit, and energy related projects rarely fit into that model. The few attempts at intersecting energy and microfinance faltered for various reasons, ranging from the poor energy technologies available at the time to an aversion among microfinance institutions (MFIs) to move to a broader energy-lending program. Even in cases where microcredit clients could use funds to buy clean energy technology, few did. Instead, many continued to use traditional, inefficient and often dangerous means- kerosene, candles, animal dung, or diesel-to light their homes and cook their food.
  • Political Geography: South Africa
  • Author: Oliver Stuenkel
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appealed to rising democracies around the world to help spread the democratic message, declaring that "we need your voices to speak out," and reminding them that "part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others."
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Brazil, North America
  • Author: César Batiz
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Venezuela is currently suffering its second electricity emergency in three years. The first was declared by the government in February 2010.
  • Political Geography: Venezuela
  • Author: Sam Quiñones, Cristina Manzano, Andres Schipani, Sibylla Brodzinsky
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: One effect is certainly to have strengthened the hand of institutions- government as well as corporate. Spokespeople for these agencies and companies may object.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jorge Derpic, Sara Shahriari
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: El Alto, Bolivia BY JORGE DERPIC AND SARA SHAHRIARI The former settlement on a plateau above La Paz is becoming a city unto itself, due in no small part to onetime protest leader and now favorite son, President Evo Morales. Blazing sun, freezing nights, roads clogged with traffic, and a vast maze of adobe houses populated by nearly a million people. This is the Bolivian city of El Alto. Once an outlying neighborhood on the high plains above La Paz, El Alto has today surpassed its population. Matching El Alto's growing profile, the city is also about to host some major public projects. President Evo Morales has promised a multi-million dollar soccer stadium and—perhaps most important—the government is installing natural gas connections to tens of thousands of homes. El Alto's new look also underlines its newfound political influence. Just a decade ago, in October 2003, demonstrators filled the streets to protest the Bolivian government's plans to export natural gas through Chile, turning the city into a battlefield. Those bloody days of conflict—known as the “gas war”—left more than 60 civilians dead in clashes with police and soldiers. The conflict set the stage for the rise of Morales, who in 2006 became Bolivia's first Indigenous president.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Chile, Bolivia
  • Author: Aldo Civico, Alfredo Rangel
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Will the negotiations between the government and the FARC bring lasting peace to Colombia? Yes: Aldo Civico; No: Alfredo Rangel In this issue: Pragmatism on both sides of the negotiating table suggests a willingness to end the armed conflict. The FARC's escalating demands; ongoing attacks and intransigence demonstrate that it doesn't really want peace.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • 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: Michael Sorkin
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Most of us are familiar with the concept of the "ecological footprint." Originally developed by Canadian academics Matthis Wackernagel and William Rees, the idea embodies a series of algorithms (numerous versions are available on the web) that convert a wide variety of consumption inputs into a single quantity: area. Using this model, one can compare how much of the Earth's surface is required to build a car, heat a house, produce a meal, sink the carbon from a coal-burning power plant, etc.
  • Political Geography: New York, Canada
  • Author: Ellis J. Juan
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: For too long, Latin America's urbanization has been haphazard and chaotic. As a result, the world's most urbanized region (with over 80 percent of its population living in cities) became associated with sprawl, waste, inefficiency, pollution, and increasing vulnerability to climate change.
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Marcelo Ebrard
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Mexico City has one of the world's most complex concentrations of people. In the early sixteenth century, Mexico City already had 200,000 inhabitants, and the Valley of Mexico almost half a million—which is to say, it has always been one of the world's largest cities. Due to its longstanding position as Mexico's capital city, industrial development in the twentieth century, and particularly the rapid demographic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, the city's air quality was suffering by the early 1990s. Mexico City became known internationally as the most polluted city in the world.
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Sibylla Brodzinsky
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: From his modest home in Ciudad Bolívar, high in the hills of Bogotá's poor southwestern edge, Alexdy Torres, 41, can see the city of 7.5 million people spread out before him. Far to the north, he can make out the wealthy districts of Bogotá and a small cluster of sky scrapers that mark the city center.
  • Topic: Corruption
  • Author: Flora Charner
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: It's nine a.m. in the Nossa Senhorade Aparecida vila (shantytown) in Curitiba, Brazil, and dozens of people have formed a line at the top of a small hill. Despite a slight drizzle and the brisk cold of the morning, people stand patiently with filled wheel barrows and carts. Two trucks pull up to the front of the queue and open their tail gates. The green one is practically empty, with the exception of a large scale. The white one is full of produce.
  • Political Geography: Brazil
  • Author: Hannah Thonet
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Several of the region's high-profile mayors who championed sustainability during their administrations have recently left—or will soon leave—office. This raises an important question: what will happen to the policies and programs they left behind?
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: Bruce Schlein
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Cities are concentrations of people, buildings and activity. Infrastructure helps knit all of the pieces together and delivers essential services. The traditional infrastructure that supplies many of these services consists of a centralized, fixed-point service facility and a delivery network. Think energy (power plant and transmission wires), water (reservoir and pipes) and sewers (waste water treatment plant and more pipes). Buildings and their occupants have largely been passive service recipients and end users at the ends of these spokes.
  • Author: Dr. Nancy E. Brune
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Discussions of sustainable cities tend to focus on environmental goals such as developing eco-friendly architecture, recycling, and improving the resiliency of urban infrastructure systems. But public or citizen security is an equally important aspect of building a sustainable city. Often, it is the issue that tops the list of citizens' concerns—and with good reason.
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Ernesto Zadillo Ponce de Léon
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Has the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) fulfilled its promise? I believe it has.
  • Political Geography: North America
  • Author: Bernardo J. Rico
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In June, 15 gunmen traveling in three vehicles attacked a police station in the small town of Salcaja in the northern Guatemalan highlands. By the time the shooting ended, eight policemen were dead—and one, the station's deputy inspector, was kidnapped. The motive was initially unclear, but the government's subsequent investigation revealed that the deputy inspector and a few of the police who were murdered had heisted $740,000 from the leader of a local narco-trafficking organization connected to Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel.
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Sergio Fajaldo Valderrama, Sérgio Cabral, Dr. Fran Tonkiss, Anne Palmer
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Cities must trade in their paternalistic and overprotective orientation for a more independent mentality. Government helps, but citizens do not depend on it completely. We must invest in education so that citizens can be the agents of their own progress. In parallel to this, we must set in motion comprehensive social programs to further protect citizens' rights and to expand economic, social, cultural, political, and territorial rights, which benefit their well-being, development and empowerment. Investing in education is a political decision. When I came to office as mayor of Medellín in 2004 and later as governor of the state of Antioquia in 2012, we pledged to transform the society through education. In the broadest sense, this includes science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and culture. In the government of Antioquia, we devote half of the budget to education, one of the most important things we could do for the state. Another crucial component for reducing poverty is fighting corruption. To me, corruption is a criminal business no less difficult to combat than gangs and guerrillas. The corrupt line their pockets, reducing opportunities for everyone and leaving just crumbs for the poorest in our society.
  • Author: Nathaniel Parish Flannery
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: Xaltianguis, Mexico BY NATHANIEL PARISH FLANNERY How armed housewives in the hills of Mexico are fighting back against narcotraffickers—without the state. View a slideshow from Xaltianguis, Mexico below. Angelica Romero, a middle-aged mother of two, views her reflection in the bedroom mirror. She tucks her blue T-shirt into her jeans, pulls her hair back in a ponytail, and slips a tan baseball cap onto her head. In black letters across the brim, it reads: “Citizen Police.” Only a few months earlier, residents of Romero's town, Xaltianguis, located in the verdant hills outside Acapulco, had been paralyzed by fear of kidnapping gangs, armed robbers and extortionists. But since the townspeople banded together to form a militia this summer, the crime wave has come to an end.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • 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: Duncan Wood, Marc Frank, John Parisella
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Cuba: Port Upgrades and Free-Trade Zones BY MARC FRANK When Latin American and Caribbean heads of state gather in Cuba in January 2014 for the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States— CELAC) summit, the agenda will include a side trip to Mariel Bay. There, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Cuban President Raúl Castro will cut the ribbon on a brand new container terminal that Cuba hopes will replace Havana as the country's principal port. Brazil financed more than two-thirds of the $900 million project, built in partnership with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht over six years—providing $670 million in loans for terminal construction and infrastructure development such as rail and road. The facility, with an initial capacity of 850,000 to 1 million containers, will be operated by Singaporean port operator PSA International. The Mariel Bay facility, located 28 miles (45 kilometers) west of the capital on the northern coast, was built to attract traffic from the larger container ships expected to traverse the Panama Canal in 2015. It could also serve as a major transfer point for cargo heading to other destinations. But the competition is already fierce. The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Panama are all rushing to improve their port facilities.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Canada, Cuba, Latin America, Caribbean
  • Author: Richard André
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Graphicanos View a slideshow of Graphicanos prints below. Indiana is better known for the Indy 500 and sports teams than for a thriving art culture, so most art lovers would be surprised to stumble upon the cutting-edge exhibit of serigraphic prints—a contemporary art form that uses block-size ink stencils to print images onto canvas—on display this winter at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Charles Shepard, the museum's executive director and curator of the groundbreaking exhibit—Graphicanos: Contemporary Latino Prints from the Serie Project—likes to point out that there is a thriving art world beyond the traditional centers of New York and San Francisco. And he believes presenting often-ignored contributions of Latino artists in the American “heartland”—not usually seen as a center of Latino culture—reflects the rich diversity of U.S. society today. “Every part of our diverse culture is making art in some form,” Shepard says. “And as a museum, we should be looking at that.” The museum hosts an annual Día de los Muertos celebration every November, which attracts about 2,000 visitors from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The event became so popular that it inspired him to collaborate with the late Sam Coronado, a Mexican-American serigraphic print artist, for the Graphicanos exhibit.
  • Topic: Agriculture
  • Political Geography: New York, Cuba, Mexico
  • 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: Rebecca Bintrim
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Across the Andes, land-and natural resource-related conflict has been increasing in the past 10 years, with only minor fluctuations from year to year. In the past six years, those conflicts have occurred against a backdrop of discussion, adoption and refinement of International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169) and consulta previa regulations to govern it. While not necessarily related, the long-term trends in conflict and the adoption of consulta previa raise important questions. Can consulta previa address or contain long pent-up frustrations and conflicts? Or will the rising expectations they bring to communities, if the laws are imperfectly or subjectively implemented, lead to even more conflict? The Charticle here shows the risks of the latter.
  • Political Geography: Chile, Peru
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In most countries the process isn't always clear or direct. Who does it, how to do it and how long it can take varies from country to country—a reflection of the vagueness of ILO 169 and the uneven development of government regulations across the hemisphere. To compare, here are the steps you would need to take in Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru.
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Chile, Peru