On Tuesday, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented his new report, “Agro-Ecology and the Right to Food,” before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The report, which is based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature, calls for a shift in policy towards promoting agro-ecology in order to increase food production, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the lives of the poorest.
“Agro-ecology” is the application of ecological science to the design of agricultural systems. It seeks ways to enhance these systems by mimicking natural processes, which includes organic and sustainable farming practices. Amid rising uncertainty about food prices and food availability, de Schutter urged countries to adopt “the most efficient farming techniques available,” including organic farming practices, the recycling of biomaterials instead of the introduction of external inputs, and the supporting of small-scale farmers.
Among the 20 people receiving the National Medal of Arts and the National Medal for the Humanities in the East Room of the White House today was Roberto González Echevarría, a renowned Cuban-American author and literary critic. González Echevarría is Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature at Yale University. He will discuss and read from his most recent publication, Cuban Fiestas, at the Americas Society on March 31. The program is part of the ¡Sí Cuba! Festival, a celebration of Cuban arts and culture that will take place in venues throughout New York for six weeks during the spring.
Just two weeks after the arrest of 32 Rio de Janeiro police officers, State Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame has put forth a new crime-fighting strategy: encouraging snitches. In an interview with the national newspaper O Globo on Saturday, Beltrame announced a proposal for a state law that would allow public servants in Rio to apply for reduced sentences and even keep their jobs if they testify against co-workers.
Julia Michaels, author of the blog Rio Real, describes the details, context and significance of the proposed law in a recent post. The blog covers and analyzes the ongoing transformation of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Arturo Herrera’s groundbreaking installation Les Noces (The Wedding), now on view at the Americas Society, was reviewed with praise in today’s edition of the Village Voice. A two-channel digital projection based on Igor Stravinsky’s composition of the same name, Les Noces is Herrera’s first work to incorporate music and moving images. Besides the video installation, the exhibition at Americas Society features works on paper, sculptures, collages, and Herrera’s photographic series.
Les Noces will run through April 30, 2011. To read more about the exhibition and related upcoming programs, please click here.
As part of its ongoing Insights series, the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) at Vanderbilt University has issued a new report, Vote Buying in the Americas (La compra de votos en las Américas). The report, which draws on data from the 2010 AmericasBarometer survey, attempts to analyze where and among whom in Latin America vote buying practices are most common.
The author of the report, Brian M. Faughnan, notes that LAPOP’s findings about vote buying are fairly consistent with what has been shown in the literature: the poor and young are more likely to be targets of vote-buying offers than older and wealthier citizens, as are rural residents compared to urban ones. Furthermore, the data show that greater political and civic engagement at the individual level correspond to an increased likelihood of being offered a material benefit in exchange for a vote, as does income inequality at the country level.
AQ editorial board member and Amherst College professor Javier Corrales writes in The Huffington Post that the Obama administration's first steps toward a pro-gay foreign policy are laudable, even having an impact in such places as Uganda and Honduras, but more needs to be done to institutionalize policy.
The Obama administration is often criticized for betraying gay rights. Despite having helped repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, critics still charge that the White House continually reneges on its pledge to work hard to end marriage bans and gay bashing. Yet, on another unnoticed front, the administration has actually gone far beyond anything ever promised. The administration is taking steps to establish the first pro-gay foreign policy in the history of the United States.
So far, this foreign policy effort is off to a good start. But unless a more systematic approach is taken, the administration's baby steps will remain just that: a decent impulse with little reach.
Arguably, the administration's first steps have been laudable. In January, President Obama issued a public condemnation of the killing of gay activist David Kato in Uganda and of five members of the LGBT community in Honduras. In reality, Obama is merely treading behind the footsteps of Hillary Clinton, whom the The Advocate, a magazine covering LGBT news recently described as the "fiercest advocate" of gay rights in the administration. In fact, Clinton was the first first lady to march in a gay pride parade eleven years ago. Today, she intends to become the first secretary of state to make the State Department pro-gay.
Clinton's mission is simple: eliminate "violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity" anywhere in the world. She declared this in a speech in June 2010, in which she also called on U.S. ambassadors and foreign governments to join this battle. She even designated staff to work on ways to advance LGBT rights, created funds to help victims of hate crimes abroad, and even came up with a new slogan -- "Human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights," an adaptation of a similar slogan she once used on behalf of woman's rights.
From March 31 to June 16, more than two dozen artists will participate in “¡Sí Cuba!,” a comprehensive Cuban arts festival that will take place in venues throughout New York, with the collaboration of 14 of the city's arts institutions, including the Americas Society. The artists include some familiar names, such as the National Ballet of Cuba led by Alicia Alonso, and Cristina García, author of Dreaming in Cuban and other novels. But the festival also offers the opportunity to showcase lesser-known artists, such as Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, which fuses Afro-Caribbean dance and classical ballet, and rapper Telmary Díaz.
As Larry Rohter (whose book Deu no New York Times was reviewed in Americas Quarterly’s spring 2009 issue) writes in today’s New York Times, although the festival organizers’ say their primary objectives are to present the diversity and richness of Cuban culture and build bridges between artists in the U.S. and Cuba, “the event obviously has political connotations too,” given the interest shown recently by both sides to reduce longstanding tensions. Just last month, the White House loosened restrictions on traveling and sending remittances to Cuba, while last fall the Cuban government announced plans to move half a million workers off the government payroll into self-employment, presumably in the private sector.
To read the full article by Rohter in the New York Times, please click here.
To learn more about “¡Sí Cuba!” and see the full schedule of events, please visit the festival’s website.
Please join the Americas Society/Council of the Americas on Wednesday, February 9, for the launch of the Winter issue of Americas Quarterly, focused on the hemisphere's prospects for free trade and market access. The event will take place at the National Press Club in Washington DC.
With potential Congressional consideration this year of pending trade agreements in the hemisphere, we seek to define the issues at stake and chart a path forward, both on the trade agreements and beyond.
New AQ research will show the correlation behind U.S. congressional support for free-trade agreements and the export benefits for each state and what that will mean for the Colombia and Panama FTAs. Keynote remarks will be followed by a high-level panel discussion.
Arizona Senator John McCain spoke this morning at the launch of the Winter issue of Americas Quarterly in Washington DC. He commented on the progress that has been made in recent decades in the Western hemisphere, including the strong democratic consensus that has emerged in most countries and the commitment to “putting democracy to work for their citizens.” Senator McCain also spoke about the values shared by the U.S. and Latin American countries, including human rights, democratic development, justice, and free markets.
The bulk of the Senator’s speech, however, focused on the need for the U.S. Congress to move forward with passage of the free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. He said failure to do so generates both economic and strategic costs. Not only do U.S. companies lose money through import tariffs and a diminished market share, the U.S. loses an important opportunity for global leadership and the forging of alliances. “How we approach trade policy this year will contribute significantly to perceptions of U.S. leadership all across the world. Now is not the time to relinquish our historic leadership,” McCain said.
Read Senator McCain’s full remarks here.
Access a new Americas Quarterly charticle analyzing states’ export benefits and congressional support for free trade.
Progress continues to be slow in the U.S. Congress on the passage of pending free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. In a recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Chris Sabatini explains why supporting these agreements is in U.S. states’ best interest.
It's been two years in a row now that President Barack Obama has mentioned the pending U.S.-Panama and U.S.-Colombia free trade agreements in his annual State of the Union address. Will 2011 be the year that they are finally presented to Congress and approved?
Economic logic would certainly support it. But as we all know, when it comes to matters of policy — especially trade policy - political logic (or illogic) often enters, twisting the facts and the debate. But the facts in this case are pretty straightforward: In markets opened up by previous free trade agreements (FTAs), the overwhelming majority of states have seen the exports grow - in some cases exponentially.
Based on research conducted by the Americas Society, even the states whose representatives have voted against nine of the recent trade pacts that have come before Congress have—by a large margin—seen their exports increase.
Just look at some of the examples of the FTAs signed with partners south of our border.
While a majority of Alabama's congressional representatives voted against the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreement in 1993, the state's exports to NAFTA markets have grown by more than 250 percent since then. Nevada and West Virginia's representatives all voted against the expanded North American market and yet saw their exports boom, by 535 percent and 294 percent respectively.
To continue reading, please access the full op-ed in the Houston Chronicle here.
To see the original research in the latest issue of Americas Quarterly, please click here.