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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘latin america

[LINK] “Colonies Turned Creditors”

I came across a brief article at Ozy by Pooja Bhatia noting that prosperity in former colonies is leading to the reversal of traditional patterns of post-colonial dominance. The effect is perhaps biggest in the case of Portugal, which is the smallest and poorest of the former imperial powers and has (in Brazil and Angola) larger and richer colonies. Spain, too, is noteworthy: Spanish-speaking America is much more populous than Spain, and has in aggregate a bigger economy.

In recent years, investors from Angola, former colony of Portugal, have bought significant chunks of Portuguese companies. Spanish officials are urging their counterparts in South and Latin America to come invest — never mind the conquest. And an exodus of bright young Portuguese is seeking opportunity abroad — often in erstwhile Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Angola and even East Timor.

It’s a significant reversal from decades past, when former colonies went begging their former masters for investment, aid and trade preferences, while stomaching the brain drain of their best-educated graduates. Now the roles have reversed, at least in some quarters. Some former colonies have become emerging markets, logging fast rates of growth, while the erstwhile imperialists are scrambling to stay afloat in the global recession.

Nowhere has the reversal been as dramatic as in Portugal and Angola. The former colonizer expects its economy will shrink 1.8 percent this year, while Angola, fat on diamonds and oil and Chinese love, grew nearly 12 percent annually from 2002 to 2011.

To be sure, the phenomenon is neither widespread nor particularly thoroughgoing. The Democratic Republic of Congo remains mired in terrible conflict, while its former overlord, Belgium, enjoys relative peace and absolute wealth. And for all the Indians snapping up real estate in the United Kingdom, hundreds of millions of Indians still struggle well below the poverty line. Angola’s riches, meanwhile, are concentrated among a handful of oligarchs, including the daughter of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is worth some $3 billion. (She’s got a half-billion-dollar chunk of a Portuguese media company.) Moreover, the country’s relationship with Portugal got testy just last month, with dos Santos complaining that Europeans were casting aspersions on the ethics of Angolan investors.

But nowhere are northern countries’ woes on better display than in the reversal of migration patterns. Migrants tend to vote with their feet. Since widespread decolonization in the mid-1950s, they’ve tended to stream from global south to global north, often to the imperial motherland. After India’s independence from Britain, for instance, Indians tended to immigrate to “Commonwealth” countries, for instance, while Haitians often went to Francophone ones like France, French-speaking Canada or Belgium, and Angolans headed for Portugal.

The flow appears to be reversing — at least in Portugal and perhaps in other places. Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, young Portuguese have been streaming not only to wealthier European countries but also to former Portuguese colonies like East Timor, Brazil and Angola.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm

[LINK] “Argentina Once More on the Map, Invited by BRICS”

Fabiana Frayssinet’s Inter Press Service article suggesting that Argentina might join the BRICS club of emerging economies caught my attention. I wonder if it will actually change much, mind, apart from being a signal of the country’s reintegration with the global financial network. Noel?

As Argentina starts to mend fences with the international financial markets, the emerging powers that make up the BRICS bloc invited it to their next summit. This could be a step towards this country’s reinsertion in the global map, after its ostracism from the credit markets since the late 2001 debt default.

For now, there is no letter “A” in the BRICS acronym, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. But in Buenos Aires speculation is rife about whether it should be called BRICSA, ABRICS or BRICAS, if Argentina is admitted.

The invitation for President Cristina Fernández to participate in the group’s sixth summit, scheduled for Jul. 15 in the northeast Brazilian city of Fortaleza, is seen as another sign that Latin America’s third-largest economy may be incorporated, after India, Brazil and South Africa indicated their interest.

[. . .]

The formal invitation to Fernández was issued by Russia, which also thus confirmed its support.

“I think this shows that Argentina is fully inserted in international relations, not ‘isolated from the world’,” Nicolás Tereschuk, a political scientist at UBA, told IPS. “It simply doesn’t toe the line with the policies of the central countries at just any cost or in any circumstances, as it used to do at other times in its history.”

Argentina’s invitation from BRICS came almost simultaneously with the May 28 announcement of an agreement reached by the Fernández administration and the Paris Club, which this country owed 9.7 billion dollars since the default 13 years ago.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO shares photos of Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when the downtown was dominated by … parking lots.
  • Centauri Dreams hopes that the 2030s will be the decade when Europa (and its sibling moons like Ganymede) get explored.
  • Eastern Approaches guides readers through the competing Russian and Ukrainian iconographies of eastern Ukraine.
  • Hunting Monsters noted that yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the fall of Dien Bien Phu to Vietnamese rebels.
  • Language Hat draws from Herta Muller’s observation for the Romanian language’s sexual obscenities.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes that income in Brooklyn fell slightly, suggesting that gentrification isn’t driving people out.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Casey Dreier celebrates the restoration of 170 million dollars in funding to NASA’s planetary science programs.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer suggests that Panama hasn’t revealed the bank accounts of potentially corrupt Venezuelan officials because it doesn’t want to scare off Venezuelans generally.
  • Peter Rukavina and Van Waffle both reflect on yesterday’s death of Canadian author Farley Mowat.
  • The Russian Demographics blog reflects on Ukraine’s war losses.
  • Towleroad notes a documentary exploring the gay accent.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that some Russians would like to annex southern Ukraine, so as to be able to acquire the Moldovan enclave of Transnistria.

[LINK] “Venezuelans Find Jobs and a Home in Panama”

In the context of the Venezuela-Panama disputes that Noel Maurer mentioned earlier at his blog, Eric Sabo’s BusinessWeek article describing how Venezuelan professionals are migrating to Panama in large number is interesting. (It’s also sadly telling that Venezuela, at least in some economic sectors, is becoming a notable source of migrants.)

Leonardo Zambranok left Venezuela in 2011 to take a marketing job with Procter & Gamble (PG) in Panama. Watching the latest wave of violent protests back home, Zambranok thinks he made the right choice. “Everyone said I was making a big mistake,” says Zambranok, 27. “Now it’s more insecure than ever, and you’re starting to see young people want to move away like crazy.”

An exodus that began under Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez has continued under President Nicolás Maduro, who vowed to extend his predecessor’s socialist policies after winning election a year ago. Panama has emerged as a primary destination: Last year, 233,921 Venezuelans entered the country, up from about 147,000 in 2010. They’re mostly young, middle-class job seekers driven by their country’s shortage of basic goods, quickening inflation, and antigovernment demonstrations that have claimed at least 41 lives since February.

With close cultural ties, more open immigration laws, and plentiful jobs, Panama City, the capital, has dozens of Venezuelan-run restaurants, yoga studios, and bakeries. Cable TV packages include Globovisión, historically an antigovernment Venezuelan channel.

At pickup soccer games in the capital, Zambranok says the talk is about hardships at home and opportunities in Panama. “Our culture is about relationships, where you know a guy who knows a guy who can help you,” Zambranok says. He shows a photo of a friend, taken amid recent food shortages, standing in front of mayonnaise jars at a Caracas supermarket. “This is big news when you can get mayonnaise. It’s absurd.”

[. . .]

Wedged between Colombia and Costa Rica, Panama has lured workers with economic growth that has averaged about 9 percent per year since 2008. Unemployment is 4.1 percent, a record low. A $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion in late 2015, will create more jobs and has prompted investments in banks, mining, and real estate, including a new Hard Rock hotel. “We’ve had to open up our immigration policy to attract more skilled labor,” says Panama Finance Minister Frank De Lima.

Panama’s immigration agency recently announced it had legalized about 50,000 foreign workers since 2010 in a series of open registrations. Of the 5,072 foreign workers approved in April, 603 were Venezuelan, the fourth-highest after immigrants from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams maps the known worlds of the 55 Cancri A system.
  • Crasstalk makes the argument that jerks predominate worrisomely among the initial demographics of Google Glass users.
  • D-Brief notes that an unusually bright supernova was magnified by an intervening galaxy.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the discovery of the first methane brown dwarf, Gliese 229B, written by one of the discoverers.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Catalonia is pressing ahead on its advisory independence referendum.
  • Eastern Approaches visits eastern Ukraine.
  • Marginal Revolution speculates that immigration has diminished productivity and hence economic growth per capita in New Zealand.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer engages with that paper dating pronounced Argentine economic decline to the mid-1970s on.
  • Torontoist recommended that Gene Jones leave Toronto Community Housing, and notes that today he was fired.
  • Window on Eurasia links to an essayist who argues that the whole concept of a “Russian world”, as applied to the Russian state, is simply amorphous.

[LINK] Three links on the troubled future of the Puerto Rico economy

  • Reuters’ Luciana Lopez described Puerto Rico’s entrenched underground economy. Unregulated and–critically–not paying taxes at a time when the Puerto Rican government is terribly short of money, the question of how to deal with this is key.
  • From the western mountain town of Lares to the capital San Juan, officials are wrestling with how to bring the underground economy out of the shadows and onto the tax rolls without creating such an onerous financial burden that thousands of small and medium businesses can’t survive.

    More than a quarter of the island’s economy is informal, some studies say, from large companies evading taxes to individuals selling items for cash at roadside stands. But estimates vary widely because the activity can be so hard to track.

    While not new, the problem has become urgent of late. The government desperately needs to find new revenue to bolster a budget full of holes and turn around an economy now eight years in recession. It is scrambling to avoid a painful debt restructuring some view as almost inevitable.

    Last month’s $3.5 billion bond sale bought the island some time, but precious little else, with fundamental worries about its shrinking economy still unsolved.

    [. . .]

    The divisions between the government and its people leave policymakers in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position.

    “This is the conundrum for the island,” said Emily Raimes, lead analyst on Puerto Rico for Moody’s Investors Service. “Actions that they can take to help their finances may very well be actions that hurt the economy.”

  • La Prensa, meanwhile, shared a report suggesting that the Puerto Rican government wants to launch the island as a platform for Spanish investment in the United States and broader Latin America.
  • Puerto Rico’s government is pushing a strategic plan to transform the Caribbean island into an “investment bridge” from Spain to the United States and Latin America and is offering fiscal and legal incentives to Spanish investors, Puerto Rican Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce Alberto Baco said in an interview with Efe.

    The new administration of Gov. Alejandro Padilla intends to reorient the Puerto Rican economy toward foreign services, mainly in the banking sector, securities, engineering and computer technology, Baco said.

    The aim is to internationalize the island’s economy, which is fundamentally based on the manufacturing sector, and create a platform for foreign firms wanting to export their services to North America and for local companies who wish to break into the European market.

    Baco, on a visit to Madrid to meet with Spanish businessmen, said that Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. commonwealth but maintains its fiscal independence, will invest up to $300 million in the tourist industry, “specializing in sports, culture and adventure” tourism.

    The opening in May of the new Air Europa route between Madrid and San Juan could also increase tourist traffic by some 200 percent, Baco said, adding that Iberia could return to the Puerto Rican market.

  • The Huffington Post‘s Adrian Brito notes that statehood in the United States, by removing many of Puerto Rico’s economic advantages as a self-governing commonwealth, would be an economic catastrophe for the island.
  • According to a new report published by the U.S General Accountability Office (GAO), out of the estimated $5.2 billion in new federal spending Puerto Rico would receive, only a range of $2-4 billion would come back in new revenues for the federal government. However, statehood would mean that every day Puerto Ricans would be saddled with $2.3 billion in new federal taxes that they do not pay today.

    The GAO report addressed the adverse impact of statehood on the Island’s finances, stating:

    … [a]s a result of statehood, changes to Puerto Rico government spending and revenue could ultimately affect the government’s efforts to maintain a balanced budged… statehood could [therefore] result in reduced Puerto Rico tax revenue. If Puerto Rico’s government wished to maintain pre-statehood tax burdens for individual and corporations, it would need to lower its tax rates, which could reduce tax revenues.

    Given Puerto Rico’s recent financial struggles and the government of the Commonwealth’s tough economic reform efforts, cutting almost half of the Island’s budget would be disastrous. GAO also notes that Puerto Rico’s current triple tax-exempt bonds would no longer be exempt from federal taxes, which would make it much harder for the Island to reduce its fiscal woes.

    U.S. manufacturers in Puerto Rico, in particular pharmaceutical companies, would also face a higher tax-burden under statehood and the U.S GAO report confirms that many of them would leave. This would put in risk more than 80,000 jobs, plus tens of thousands more government jobs that would be at stake if the local government loses billions in tax revenues under statehood.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    April 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    [LINK] “The beginning of the end of Venecuba was in 2007″

    Over at The Power and the Money, Noel Maurer analyzes the failure of radical-left Venezuela and Cuba to federate. The possibility was widely discussed at the time; I made mention of it back in 2006. It turns out that the high-water mark was in 2007.

    The more qualitative reports of Cuban officials operating inside the Venezuelan state are harder to measure. But it should be noted that the U.S. was worried about Cuban influence in the foreign ministry and the Cuban presence in Venezuelan ports in 2008. Juan José Rabilero, the coordinator of Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, boasted, “We have over 30,000 members of Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in Venezuela” … in 2007.

    In short, the Cuban-Venezuelan relationship reached its peak around 2007-08. That is not to say that the relationship isn’t an astoundingly tight one. It is. It is to say that it hasn’t gotten much tighter since ‘08.

    The second thing to note about Venecuba is that there was a lot of talk of deeper union in 2007. The State Department noted this in an internal cable. The political benefits of greater institutionalization were obvious. It would secure Cuba’s access to Venezuelan resources and make it easier for President Chávez to call on Cuban support to help him cement his control over Venezuela.

    [. . .]

    So what happened? One possibility is that plans to institutionalize the Venecuban links were just hot air. That was true of a lot of Hugo Chávez’s initiatives.

    But that isn’t what happened. What happened was that Chávez put the possibility of a federation before the Venezuelan people in 2007 and got beat at the ballot box. Here’s the story. Chávez proposed a series of constitutional amendments to the National Assembly in 2007. In the Assembly, his party added a series of additional amendments. (This almost certainly occured under the supervision of the executive branch.) Among them were reforms to Articles 152 and 153.

    The reforms failed to promote a Latin American federalism. I would note that, since then, Venezuela has seemed to focus on other Caribbean and South American integration productions, joining the Brazil-dominated Mercosur and aligning with smaller middle American states as a patron.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    April 22, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    [LINK] “Here’s what Mexico City is teaching the rest of Latin America about gay marriage”

    Via Towleroad I came across Dudley Althaus’ Global Post article arguing that the progress of gay rights in Mexico is influencing Latin America more generally.

    I’m hesitant about this argument, not least since South American countries–notably but not only Argentina and Uruguay–have seen equal or even greater shifts towards equality than Mexico, and seem from my very limited knowledge to have done so independently of Mexico. That said, Althaus does seem to have gotten the general liberalization of Mexican society done. (Noel Maurer?)

    In Mexico’s modernizing capital, the word these days seems to be “keep calm, and marry on,” a nonchalance toward gay marriage that’s slowly catching on across Latin America.

    Pushing that message, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera stood witness recently to the mass wedding of 58 lesbian and gay couples, who said their vows in unison.

    “This is one more event in … the city of freedoms,” Mancera, who presided over a similar ceremony in July, told the 74 women and 42 men taking the plunge. Mexico’s capital is “a city that is concerned about and working on moving ahead,” he said.

    The latest gay nuptials took place at a museum just blocks from Mexico City’s central plaza — and from the cathedral pulpit of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who has railed against gay unions as “perverse” affronts to Mexican families and the “divine project.”

    But this city’s left-leaning government has been poking the eyes of Catholic leaders and other cultural conservatives for more than a decade now. Promoting diversity — sexual, political, religious — is official policy here. The Mexican capital in many ways has set the pace of social change across Mexico and the region.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    April 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    [LINK] “Cutting foreign aid won’t defeat anti-gay laws in Africa and Latin America”

    Via Towleroad I came across Ari Shaw and Mauricio Albarracín’s Global Post article talking about foreign aid and gay rights make some worthwhile points about strengthening local institutions instead.

    I don’t think that it gets the quite real differences between Latin America and Africa, not least of which is the much greater extent of grassroots support for gay rights in the first region as compared to the second. Homophobia does exist in Latin America, but not nearly to the same extent as in Africa. Is Africa is uniquely and homogeneously homophobic? No, as Marc Epprecht noted at CNN. It is a world region where, for a variety of reasons, homophobia is especially well-entenched at this point. Different strategies may have to be applied, perhaps including more precisely targeted foreign aid programs.

    Foreign governments and international donors seeking to help should, instead, increase financial and technical support for African LGBT rights organizations and human rights institutions.

    LGBT activists in many African states face highly restrictive and dangerous conditions that limit their ability advocate for reforms. In many cases, these laws not only discriminate against LGBT individuals but also criminalize or severely restrict public dissent and association around LGBT issues.

    The burgeoning African system of human rights courts and commissions should be strengthened to provide an important and necessary tool for enhancing LGBT rights and activism in the region.

    The experience of LGBT rights activism in another developing region — Latin America — offers insight into the roles regional human rights bodies can play.

    In the past several years, advances in gay rights in Latin America have outpaced those in the United States and some European nations. Argentina and Uruguay, for instance, have full marriage equality, while Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia offer some form of legal protection for same-sex couples and families.

    Violence and inequality persist, but in many national debates around LGBT rights, the Inter-American human rights system has been an important resource for gay rights activists.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    April 2, 2014 at 2:36 am

    [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

    • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling shares a United Nations reaction to a United States human rights report.
    • The Dragon’s Tales observes one model for the climate of the ancient Earth and notes that, on the basis of ancient DNA, ancient Europeans were not uniformly white.
    • The Dragon’s Gaze notes studies of the galactic habitable zones of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies.
    • Eastern Approaches reacts to the recent Crimean vote.
    • Geocurrents’ Asya Perelstvaig shares a post about Irish cuisine over time.
    • Joe. My. God. notes the recent visit paid by American evangelist Michael Brown to Peru to try to spread anti-gay ideology.
    • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, the argument is made that the Democratic Party really has shifted left.
    • James Nicoll, at More Words, Deeper Hole, notes the racism of environmentalist Garret Hardin.
    • The New APPS Blog tackles the question of the extent to which the anti-Semitism and Naziism of Heidegger informed his philosophy.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy is unimpressed by the Crimean referendum.
    • Window on Eurasia shares the warning of Andrei Ilarionov that Russia plans on annexing and dominating far more of Ukraine than Crimea.
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