A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘latin america

[URBAN NOTE] “Subway Will Modernise – and Further Gentrify – Historic Centre of Quito”

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The story told by the Inter Press Service’s Mario Osava, describing how the Ecuadorian capital of Quito will be transformed through gentrification following subway construction, sounds sadly familiar.

Success can kill, when it comes to cities. Spain’s Barcelona is facing problems due to the number of tourists that it attracts. And the historic centre of Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, a specially preserved architectural jewel, is losing its local residents as it gentrifies.

This paradox was pointed out by Fernando Carrión, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Organisation of Historic Centres (OLACCHI) and a professor at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) in Ecuador.

“Quito’s historic centre lost 42 per cent of its population over the last 15 years, a period in which it gained better monuments and lighting, and became cleaner,” he said. According to official census figures, the population of the old city dropped from 58,300 in 1990 to 50,982 in 2001 and 40,587 in 2010.

The effort to revitalise the historic centre was based on a “monumentalist policy,” on the restoration of churches and large buildings, which led to a process of gentrification, driving up housing prices and the conversion of residential into commercial property and pushing out low-income residents, he told IPS.

“I fear that the subway will drive away more people,” exacerbating the tendency, he added.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 9:30 pm

[LINK] “Nicaraguan Women Push for Access to Land, Not Just on Paper”

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At the Inter Press Service, José Adam Silva writes about the efforts of some Nicaraguan women who farm to get better land tenure rights for their land.

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 9:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • At Apostrophen, ‘Nathan Smith talks about how he made a tradition out of Christmas tree ornamentation over the past twenty years.
  • blogTO notes that Toronto’s waterfront has major E Coli issues.
  • Crooked Timber notes the potential for the recent by-election in London, fought on Brexit and lost by the Tories, to mean something.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on a search for radio flares from brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that China has been installing ecologies on its artificial South China Sea islands.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers what it means to be an ally.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the complex peace negotiations in Colombia.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a map of American infrastructure.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a one-terabyte drive passed from person to person that serves as a sort of Internet in Cuba.
  • Towleroad notes a film project by one Leo Herrera that aims to imagine what prominent AIDS victims would have done and been like had their not been killed by the epidemic.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the complexities surrounding Brexit.
  • Arnold Zwicky has had enough with linguistic prescriptivism.

[AH] “What would Cuba have been like without the Castro revolution?”

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At the Alternate History forums, I ask the question of what Cuba would have become absent the Castro takeover. (Richer, but substantially more unstable and unequal, is my first suggestion.)

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2016 at 12:00 am

[DM] “A brief note on the demographic prospects of Cuba”

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Over at Demography Matters I make a brief post about Cuba’s demographic prospects in light of its dubious economic hopes. There are going to be more emigrants, and Cuba’s generally negative demographic situation will not help things.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2016 at 12:05 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On the immiseration of Cuba under Communism

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Late in December of 2015, I wrote an answer in Quora to a question wondering if Cuba proves that Communism worked. Could it stand as an example for the Third World? It could not, I argued, mainly because Cuba before Castro was an advanced society with high levels of human and economic development, and because Cuba after Castro simply coasted.

PBS’ synopsis notes the fatal flaw in Cuba’s prosperity, which was distributed very unevenly and helped to create a pre-revolutionary situation.

Cuba’s capital, Havana, was a glittering and dynamic city. In the early part of the century the country’s economy, fueled by the sale of sugar to the United States, had grown dynamically. Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant. The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita. Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor. Cuba’s income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies. A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility.

There were, however, profound inequalities in Cuban society — between city and countryside and between whites and blacks. In the countryside, some Cubans lived in abysmal poverty. Sugar production was seasonal, and the macheteros — sugarcane cutters who only worked four months out of the year — were an army of unemployed, perpetually in debt and living on the margins of survival. Many poor peasants were seriously malnourished and hungry. Neither health care nor education reached those rural Cubans at the bottom of society. Illiteracy was widespread, and those lucky enough to attend school seldom made it past the first or second grades. Clusters of graveyards dotted the main highway along the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, marking the spots where people died waiting for transportation to the nearest hospitals and clinics in Santiago de Cuba.

This 1966 New York Review of Books exchange of letters on the Cuban revolution makes Cuba’s relative advancement clear: “[I]n 1953, not a particularly good year for the Cuban economy, Cuba’s per-capita income of $325 was higher than that of Italy ($307), Austria ($290), Spain ($242), Portugal ($220), Turkey ($221), Mexico ($200), Yugoslavia ($200), and Japan ($197)”.

Ward and Devereux’s 2010 study “The Road not taken: Pre-Revolutionary Cuban Living Standards in Comparative Perspective” (PDF format) makes more detailed claims: “On the eve of the revolution, incomes were 50 to 60 percent of European levels. They were among the highest in Latin America at about 30 percent of the United States. In relative terms, Cuba was richer earlier on. Income per capita during the 1920s was in striking distance of Western Europe and the Southern United States. After the revolution, Cuba slipped down the world income distribution. Current levels of income per capita appear below their pre-revolutionary peaks.” Notwithstanding criticism of these figures–Ward and Devereux do seem to account for price levels, contrary to Louis Proyect’s claims–they seem valid. Cuba on the eve of the revolution was a high-income Latin American society, fully bearing comparison with the Southern Cone and Venezuela, even much of Europe.

What does this mean about the success of Cuba under socialism? Probably the most noteworthy element of Cuba’s post-revolutionary history is that of economic stagnation and relative decline. Cuba has fallen behind spectacularly, not just behind its western European peers but behind Latin America as well. Latin America’s high-income countries have had a chequered growth history, but even these, Cuba’s peers, have done better: Wages and living standards in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are substantially higher. Even in the context of the Caribbean, Cuba’s geographic peers, Cuba’s performance has been patchy, with the Dominican Republic making lasting gains.

What happened? One counterfactual analysis suggests that Cuba’s economy began underperforming badly in 1959, the moment of the revolution. Ward and Devereux suggest, ironically enough, that it is only by the late 1950s that the Cuban economy had completed its long, slow recovery from the devastating impact of US sugar tariffs imposed in the early 1930s. (Cuba, they suggest, may have seen little net economic growth since the 1920s!) Of all the economies in the world to be transformed into autarkic socialist states, Cuba’s highly-export dependent economy may have been among the least suited.

There may well have been gains to general Cuban living standards from the redistribution of wealth and resources. These gains were limited: The positive effects of the revolution, including increased investment in human development, may have been swamped by the negative effects including the collapse of Cuba’s previous trade networks and the costs of converting an economy to Communism. Cuba may simply have coasted on its pre-revolutionary achievements, expanding access to pre-existing institutions.

In the end, Cuba has been left as vulnerable as any other post-Communist countries by the failure of its political model, perhaps even more exposed and vulnerable than before the introduction of Communism. Castro and his communism did not improve Cuba’s position relative to the outside world. In this, Cuba bears comparison not so much with the countries of the Third World as it does with the countries of central Europe, similarly semiperipheral countries with similar problems of inequality which did not see much benefit in the long run from Communism.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 28, 2016 at 10:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blgoTO notes how the Guild Inn was once a popular resort.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the import of real scientists in Arrival.
  • Crooked Timber notes that anti-Trump Republicans did not seem to matter in the election.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at cutting-edge options for studying exoplanets.
  • False Steps notes a proposed American spacecraft that would have landed on water.
  • Far Outliers notes the pointless internment of foreign domestics in Second World War Britain.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the potential impact of a Michael Bloomberg presidential run.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the development of apps which aim to find out the preferred songs of birds.
  • Steve Munro and Transit Toronto look at ongoing controversy over the 514 Cherry streetcar line’s noise, including upcoming public meetings.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer suggests the election of Trump could lead to the election of a similar populist to the presidency of Mexico.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy deals with the odd and seemingly meaningless distinction made by Americans between “republic” and “democracy”
  • Window on Eurasia wonders if Trump’s negotiating style might lead to worse Russian-American relations and looks at his business history in Russia.