A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘latin america

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

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  • 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″

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    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”

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    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”

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    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.

    [BLOG] Some Thursday links

    • io9 links to a map showing the Milky Way Galaxy’s location in nearer intergalactic space.
    • The Big Picture has pictures from the Sochi Paralympics.
    • blogTO shares an array of pictures from Toronto in the 1980s.
    • D-Brief notes the recent finding that star HR 5171A is one of the largest stars discovered, a massive yellow hypergiant visible to the naked eye despite being twenty thousand light-years away.
    • The Dragon’s Gaze notes recent studies suggesting that M-class red dwarfs are almost guaranteed to have planets.
    • Eastern Approaches argues that the lawsuits of Serbia and Croatia posed against each other on charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice will do little but cause harm.
    • Far Outliers explores how Australian colonists in the late 19th century feared German ambitions in New Guinea.
    • The Financial Times World blog suggests that, in its mendacity, Russia is behaving in Crimea much as the Soviet Union did in Lithuania in 1990.
    • Geocurrents notes that the Belarusian language seems to be nearing extinction, displaced by Russian in Belarus (and Polish to some extent, too).
    • Joe. My. God. notes the protests of tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in New York City against mandatory conscription laws in Israel that would see their co-sectarians do service.
    • Marginal Revolution notes that, in pre-Israeli Palestine, local Arabs wanted to be part of a greater Syria.</li?
    • Otto Pohl notes the connections of Crimean Tatars to a wider Turkic world and their fear that a Russian Crimea might see their persecution.
    • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that Venezuela has attacked Panama in retaliation for a vote against it by confiscating the assets of its companies there. In turn, Panama has promised to reveal the banking accounts of Venezuelan officials in Panama.
    • John Scalzi of Whatever is unimpressed with the cultic adoration of Robert Heinlein’s novels by some science fiction fans.

    [LINK] “From Syria to São Paulo”

    Monique Sochaczewski‘s recent article published at The Cairo Review of Global Affairs takes a look at the presence of Syrians of whatever religious background (and Arabs more generally) in Brazil. Brazil’s large populations of Arab and Jewish background dates back to the 1880s, and have seen interesting fluxes in identity, political behaviour, and relationships with other groups.

    Middle Eastern immigrants began trickling into Brazil as early as the 1850s, and Arab descendants mark 1885 as the official beginning of their immigration from Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. The 1890s witnessed the first large-scale arrival. The Rio newspaper Gazeta de Notícias reported that crowds of “strange tanned and bearded men” attracted much “admiration and distrust” on the part of Brazilians. Those first immigrants largely became peddlers, initially selling objects brought from the Holy Land, such as amulets, rosaries, and small religious images. They later began to sell matches, clothes, and haberdashery in remote places that did not have established trade, such as in the suburbs and regions far from urban centers. Arab peddlers spread throughout the country.

    About 4.5 million immigrants entered Brazil between 1872 and 1949. Approximately 400,000 of these were Asians, Arabs, and Jews. Europeans, who made up the majority of the immigrants, were welcomed and could rely on large private or public programs to help them settle. The Brazilian government and the elites believed that Europeans were the “ideal immigrants,” able to work as farmers, settlers, and craftsmen; and they also assisted in “whitening” society after centuries of African slavery. Asians, Arabs, and Jews on the other hand, were considered by the government and elites as non-white or “imperfect white” and, with the exception of the Japanese arrivals in 1908, could not rely on official immigration programs at all.

    The Arabs were Ottoman subjects leaving an empire that did not officially allow their departure, as they were needed for cultivating the land and serving in the army. The Sublime Porte also feared the poor image that some immigrants projected of the Ottoman Empire—as they begged on the streets of European cities such as Marseille and Genoa to afford passage to the Americas. The Brazilian government showed little interest in encouraging immigrants who had no intention of working in agriculture and were not seen as white and Western.

    [. . .]

    Over time, these immigrants and their descendants began to project varying identities. Some 85 percent of the Arabs in all the waves of immigration to Brazil were predominantly Christian; they included Roman Catholics, Maronites, Antiochene Orthodox, Melkites, and Protestants. As the anthropologist Paulo Pinto points out, some immigrants focused on ethnic issues, using the generic term “Arab” or the term “Syrian-Lebanese” common in Brazil. Others gave more importance to their places of origin, such as Beirut, Zahle, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Homs, Aleppo, or Damascus. There was still an emphasis on “national” origin, including by Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians. Among the Muslim immigrants, membership in one of the various sects, such as Sunni, Shiite, Druze, and Alawite, also shaped their self-designation. Jews immigrating from the Middle East could have an Arab or Sephardic identity, as well as a deep connection to their hometowns, such as Sidon, Safed, Beirut, Istanbul, or Smyrna.

    Until the 1940s, a relatively close relationship existed among Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, and Arab Jews in Brazil. In a series of popular essays on the religions of Rio de Janeiro published in 1904, the Brazilian writer João do Rio noted that the Arab Jews of the city center were more integrated with the rest of the Arab immigrants than with the Ashkenazi Jews of European background, who also had begun to settle in what was then capital of the country. The historian Rachel Mizrahi, in her 2003 book Jewish Immigrants of the Middle East: São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, highlights that the area of Rio where Arab Muslim, Christian and Jewish families lived was called Little Turkey—a reference to the Ottoman Arab territories—and that it was a space of “respect and cordiality.” There are some published memoirs and photographs that evoke the rounds of hookah and backgammon games that united the Arabs of different religions in downtown Rio in the first decades of the twentieth century. Something quite similar happened in São Paulo’s Mooca district.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    March 13, 2014 at 2:37 am

    [BLOG] Some Thursday links

    • blogTO comes up with a list of the top 20 novels set in Toronto and presents a few Toronto laneways and their etymologies.
    • Centauri Dreams examines the protoplanetary disc of protostar L1527.
    • The Financial Times‘ World blog suggests that Italy and its new prime minister should look to Mexico for inspiration.
    • Marginal Revolution links to the Economist‘s cover article lamenting Argentina’s relative economic decline.
    • The Planetary Society Blog explains why Pluto’s dust and moons weren’t seen before they were actually discovered, just a few years ago. (Telescope time is key.)
    • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes first-hand experiences of Albanian politics and politicians.
    • Strange Maps shares a map of Kiev’s divisions between protesters and government as of yesterday.
    • Window on Eurasia wonders if Russia post-Ukraine will crack down on its creative classes.
    • Wonkman points out that the entry of women into the workplace has much to do with inescapable economic reasons that aren’t addressed by people who want women to go back.

    [BLOG] Some Thursday links

    • Centauri Dreams wonders if extraterrestrial civilizations might not be found through large-scale megaengineering but rather through nano-scale artifacts.
    • Crooked Timber’s Maria Farrell takes a look at trends in Internet governance in a post-American world.
    • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Arianespace may need more subsidies.
    • The Financial Times‘s World blog follows increasing instability in Venezuela.
    • Otto Pohl wonders when neocolonial economics will stop in Ghana, a country that could become a manufacturing power but doesn’t.
    • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw likes the gentler and less strident politics of New Zealand.
    • Registan features a guest post from David Levy on the subject of Kyrgyzstan’s entrance into the new Russian-dominated customs union. Yes, it might be an instance of Russian force majeure, but it is also what large segments of Kyrgzystan would like. (Protection from Chinese products features.)
    • Savage Minds features a guest post from Elizabeth Cullen Dunn explaining why she is boycotting Sochi, not only because of the historical ethnic cleansing of the Circassians but because of the contemporary ethnic cleansing of Georgians. (She did fieldwork in Georgia; it sounds grim.)
    • Window on Eurasia paraphrases an argument to the effect that supporters of a European linkage will have to overcome the fears of the industrial but uncompetitive southeast as to how their economies will survive.

    [BLOG] Some Monday links

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