In an article for the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan—a senior advisor at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author in the upcoming issue of Americas Quarterly—writes about the future of IBSA, the three-country coalition of India, Brazil and South Africa. As the three countries celebrate the IBSA Dialogue Forum’s 10th anniversary in New Delhi this June, Kurtz-Phelan argues that common democratic values and development experiences may give IBSA more staying power than the larger BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa)—if IBSA members can overcome their own challenges at home.
For the first time, The New York Times has published an investigative and multimedia piece in English and Spanish. The piece highlights an untold chapter of the drug war in Mexico that inspired the 2000 Hollywood film, Traffic.
“A Drug War Informant in No Man’s Land” by Ginger Thompson describes the dramatic decline of Luís Octavio López, a former police chief in Mexico whose role as an informant to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) precipitated his life’s devastating spiral from a successful officer to an impoverished fugitive.
Jason Marczak, Senior Editor of Americas Quarterly and Director of Policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, discusses important changes taking place in Mexico in an article for the CNN Opinion, and what the U.S. can do to take advantage of its neighbor's fast-growing economy.
By Jason Marczak
President Barack Obama will find that much has changed in Mexico when he arrives on May 2. Our neighbor to the South -- and second-largest export market -- has moved far ahead with reforms.
As Congress crafts comprehensive immigration legislation, Democrats and Republicans must keep in mind that Mexico is changing rapidly, and policies crafted to reflect yesterday's Mexico will not help the U.S. make the most of the potential of today's and tomorrow's Mexico.
Mexico's future is bright, and tapping into this growth and economic prosperity is vital to U.S. competitiveness. But the U.S. needs immigration reform to build on its huge bilateral trade with Mexico -- more than $1 billion in goods and services each day, or $45 million an hour.
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto has achieved in less than five months in office what eluded previous administrations for six years. In the second half of 2013, he hopes to add energy to the improvements in education and telecommunications that are sailing through under the umbrella of the Pact for Mexico political agreement.
Demographic and economic transformations in Mexico mean that the U.S. can expect the number of Mexicans coming into the U.S. to slow to a trickle. Mexicans make up about 58% of the 11 million in the U.S. without authorization.
Read the rest of the article here.
In an interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Market Makers” on Monday, Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini discussed Nicolás Maduro’s narrow victory in the Venezuelan presidential elections on April 14. The results of the election are still being contested by opposition leader and rival candidate Henrique Capriles, who has called for a recount and whose supporters are likely to protest if Maduro is officially declared the winner.
Olmos’ play tells the story of Marisol Valles García, a young mother who made headlines in 2010 when she became the police chief of Práxedis Gilberto Guerrero at the age of 20 after her predecessor was murdered by cartels in 2009 and no one else was willing to take on the role.
In their article, "Building Institutions on Weak Foundations," Columbia professor of political science María Victoria Murillo and Harvard professor of government Steven Levitsky discuss institutional weakness in Latin America. The article appears along with analyses by other regional experts in a special section of the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Democracy , entitled "Lessons from Latin America."
Murillo and Levitsky observe that many Latin American democracies lack the ability to adequately and evenly enforce their laws, and that formal rules change repeatedly, making it difficult to predict when violations will be sanctioned or not. According to the authors, Latin America's patterns of institutional change, even during periods of military-led transitions, makes the region an exception to established models of institutional development: "Latin American relity poses a challenge to both punctuated-equilibrium and gradual models of institutional change," the authors write.
"Rather than being infrequent and radical or ongoing and gradual, institutional change in much of Latin America is frequent and radical," say the authors, who point out that in nations such as Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, constitutions "were replaced at least ten times during the first century of independence," and add that these patterns persist in some countries, such as Ecuador, which has changed its constitution twenty times since independence. Murillo and Levistsky refer to this pattern of frequent and radical change as "serial replacement."
Murillo is a member of the editorial board of Americas Quarterly. To read an AQ review of her recent book, Political Competition, Partisanship, and Policy Making in Latin American Public Utilities (2009), click here.
The eighth joint report by AQ and Efecto Naím aired this Sunday, March 31, featuring Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez.
Since she left Cuba on February 18, Sánchez, author of the blog Generación Y, has been traveling the world talking about her work and daily life on the island. On March 18, she visited the New York offices of Americas Quarterly to speak with AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini about the prospects for economic reform and political reconciliation in Cuba.
Sánchez received her passport in January after the Cuban government loosened travel restrictions on January 14 for the first time in over half a century. In her interview with Sabatini, Sánchez said that being permitted to travel abroad was the "culmination of a dream," but that recent reforms by the Castro administration did not go far enough.
"In my opinion, Raúl Castro's reforms are going in the right direction, toward more flexibility and openness, but the depth and speed of the reforms is discouraging," she said. "The reforms seem to be focused only on economic questions...but political and social reforms haven't advanced at all."
However, Sánchez says that the growing presence of women in the Cuban opposition movement is an encouraging sign. "It makes me very happy that Cuban activism today is very female," she said. "For many years in Cuba, we've lived through a political discourse that has been very masculine, very warlike...I have hope that this more feminine discourse creates a more inclusive Cuba."
Efecto Naím is a weekly television news program broadcast by NTN24 and hosted by international news commentator Moisés Naím. The show airs Sunday evenings on channels in the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.
On Friday, March 22, Americas Quarterly will provide live coverage from Washington DC as the OAS General Assembly votes on reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its office on freedom of expression.
Since its creation in 1959, the IACHR has carried out on-site visits to investigate potential human rights abuses across the hemisphere. It has ruled that governments must be responsible for disappearances, that amnesties for human rights offenses violate international law, and has advocated for press freedom through its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression. However, at the 42nd OAS General Assembly in Bolivia in June 2012, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and a collection of other countries won approval to submit a proposal to overhaul the IACHR’s monitoring and enforcement powers.
On Friday, the 34 member states of the OAS will determine whether to implement reforms to the Inter-American human rights system, which include eliminating outside funding for the body (currently, one-third of the IACHR’s funding comes from European nations), preventing states that have not ratified the American Convention on Human Rights from nominating members to the commission (neither the U.S. nor Canada have ratified the convention), and moving the seat of the IACHR from Washington DC.
AQ will attend Friday’s extraordinary session of the OAS General Assembly as member states vote on the proposed reforms and will provide on-the-ground updates of the proceedings. To follow the live coverage, check out our Issues in Depth page on the IACHR Reforms. You’ll find analysis, interviews, live Tweeting from the session, as well as the latest coverage of the IACHR reform process from AQ and other sources.
Follow AQ's live coverage of the General Assembly here.
Watch video interviews about the IACHR reforms here.
In an article for CNN's Global Public Square published on March 6, Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly and Senior Director of Policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, argues that there will be little long-lasting institutional imprint left by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, despite his outsize personality and charisma.
by Christopher Sabatini
It’s difficult to remember a time when Hugo Chávez didn’t dominate the headlines, just as it is difficult to believe that, with his death, there will come a time when he no longer does. Elected as Venezuelan president in 1998 and sworn in in 1999, Chávez became the voice of a new group of leaders across South America that came to power with the collapse of traditional, elite-dominated party systems. He was the bête noir of the United States, a hero to the anti-globalization left and to the poor in his own country, a savior to the Castro regime in Cuba, and the clown prince of the regional summit circuit. For all this, though, Chávez’s legacy in Venezuela and in the region will be one of institutional debasement and polarization.
The one-time lieutenant colonel rose to prominence in 1992, when he and a group of mid-level officers attempted a coup against the country’s then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez. In a brief statement to the media, Chávez promised that while he may have failed, that he would return to correct the social injustices that led to his putsch. After serving time in prison he did, winning the 1998 presidential elections, overturning a two-party system that had governed Venezuela since 1958 through an increasingly closed, corrupt system held together by the country’s oil riches and patronage.
Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief and Americas Society/Council of the Americas Senior Director Christopher Sabatini spoke to CNN's Ali Velshi on March 6 about the polarized reactions to Hugo Chávez' death as U.S. celebrities like Oliver Stone and Sean Penn issued statements on Twitter praising the late Venezuelan president for reducing poverty in Venezuela.
"Chávez did a lot of things and he paid attention to the poor, which the previous regime...had sort of left out of politics," Sabatini said. "And certainly, that captured the imagination of people like Sean Penn and Oliver Stone. But on the other hand, he didn't abide by human rights, he railed against the opposition, he controlled and nationalized a number of key media [outlets], tore down the independence of the Supreme Court, and essentially pulled Venezuela out of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights."
Sabatini also said that although Chávez "became a voice of anti-American tendencies in the region," he never really posed a security threat to the United States. "It was mostly a lot of buffoonery, a lot of name calling, a lot of bullying, but not a real threat."
Finally, reflecting on the chances for Venezuela's opposition in the presidential elections, which are scheduled to be held within the next 30 days, Sabatini said that all signs point to a victory for Venezuelan Vice-President and interim president Nicolás Maduro, Chávez' chosen successor. Chávez convincingly won Venezuela's October 2012 presidential elections by a margin of 11 percentage points, while Chávez supporters won in 20 out of 23 Venezuelan states. "It's really Maduro's election to lose," Sabatini said.
Watch the full interview here.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.