A couple quick media spots. I talked to The Guardian‘s reporter David Agren about Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal of an “amnesty” for organized criminal bosses, and whether that was likely to reduce violence. In short, I have my doubts. In full, I said, “I am sure some punished narcos would appreciate an amnesty, but it would not do much to stop the ongoing violence. The market and the rewards would continue to exist, and different groups would continue to compete — often violently — over that market.
“Even if a Pax mafiosa were the intention, it is probably not feasible today. First, the organized criminal groups are much more fragmented. Second, they are involved in crimes beyond drug trafficking, and I doubt the Mexican population would stand for official tolerance of extortion, kidnapping, oil theft, and human trafficking. Those revenue streams would remain in the event of an amnesty. Third, the state is much different. It is less hierarchical, with different parties governing at different levels. Often, the local and state levels are most relevant for organized crime. There is evidence that the party of local government, and changes in party, matter to levels of violence in Mexico. It also means that not everyone would be on board with a proposed pax or even an amnesty.”
I also talked earlier in the day with Gerhard Elfers, the impeccably dressed Business News Anchor for DW News, regarding Venezuela’s economic crisis and President Maduro’s proposal for a crypto-currency as a way out of the crisis (or at least around US sanctions.
(belated post) I talked to Deutsche Welle and Bloomberg Turkey recently about the economic crisis in Venezuela. The interviews followed a “selective default” on part of the country’s debt obligations. Since then, there has been another round of purges and politically motivated crackdown, followed by military takeover of management, of key Venezuelan agencies and state-owned enterprises. This time, the target is CITGO, the Venezuela-owned (albeit heavily mortgaged) oil refining and gas distributing company that is familiar to many in the United States. The purge is highly unlikely to arrest the country’s falling oil production (one of the stated goals) after two decades of neglect and under-investment. Meanwhile, Venezuela is running out of liquid reserves and has fewer overseas assets to offer as collateral. It has already promised away much of its reduced oil production in exchange for earlier loans, which eats into the cash that it can generate. Its non-oil exports are negligible, and despite the import crisis, domestic production of basic goods has been hollowed out.
Earlier comment below the jump:
I reviewed Hal Brands’s intriguing Making the Unipolar Moment for Political Science Quarterly. The review has been published as part of the fall issue, and it is available online for free. Brands’s account of U.S. grand strategy in the late Cold War is well worth the read, though ultimately I think he understates the contradictions within U.S. policies and overstates their role in determining the course of events elsewhere in the world. Brands has a knack for sweeping, synthetic history and writes in a way that engaged academic and non-academic audiences alike.
My review: “In 1991, the United States bestrode the world as a victorious Gulliver, seemingly more loved than feared. The unprecedented power of the “unipolar moment” makes it easy to forget the pessimism that dominated U.S. punditry two decades earlier. In a sweeping, three-decade account, Hal Brands argues that U.S. foreign policy rebounded from post-Vietnam “malaise” by taking advantage of three underlying favorable trends: gradual Soviet weakening, incipient globalization, and the growth of pro–human rights civil society. U.S. policymakers did not directly create these forces, but their statecraft turned them to U.S. advantage. In Brands’s telling, President Jimmy Carter recognized these trends but lacked coherent policies to take advantage of them. In contrast, President Ronald Reagan is heralded for an effective mix of bellicose rhetoric, military spending, and aggressive responses to perceived Soviet gains in the “Third World” during his first term, followed by a relaxation of tensions on his terms in his second. Brands shows President George H.W. Bush as an expert manager whose reactions to fast-moving events were united by consistent beliefs.”
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT
My book Latin America Confronts the United States has just been released in paperback from Cambridge University Press. And it’s on sale on Amazon! Just $26 in the US, £20 in the UK, and even less for the e-book! That’s about the same as buying five pints, with a similar soporific effect!
So, whether you are a little late for Father’s Day or getting an early start on your Halloween shopping (one for each costumed child!), this is a perfect gift! It’s perfect for you, too! Take it to the beach! Take it to your secret mountain lair! Leave it on the coffee table to impress and/or confound visitors! The book for all occasions! The present for the person who has everything (except this book)! Why not? You know you have spent $26 / £20 in worse ways!
Blurbs and reviews the jump. (more…)
My chapter “Regional public goods in North America,” with Manuel Suárez-Mier, was just released in the book 21st Century Cooperation: Regional Public Goods, Global Governance, and Sustainable Development, published by Routledge. The book’s editors, Antoni Estevadeordal and Louis W. Goodman, note that the chapter “stresses that a resumption of the capacity for RPGs generation will depend on effective rule of law, especially regarding crime and disputes in Mexico and immigration in the United States. It also discusses how RPGs in the areas of economic cooperation, social development, environment and energy, conflict resolution, connectivity, and governance impact the region.” The whole book is available for free via OpenAccess PDF, and ours is Chapter 13, starting on page 265.
I have a new, general audience article with Max Paul Friedman on the International Security Studies Forum. They have been running a policy series on different aspects of U.S. foreign and security policy today.
Here’s a taste below, or read the full article at ISSF.
“Despite its proximity and importance, Latin America usually does not receive a lot of attention in U.S. elections. After Donald Trump’s shocking and ultimately successful campaign for the presidency, the region may miss being out of the limelight. Somewhat atypically, many of Trump’s campaign promises related to Latin America. Mexico was, and remains, Trump’s villain of choice from the first day of his unlikely campaign. Mexico supposedly sent criminals as immigrants and bested the United States in the countries’ deep trade relationship; Trump granted the Mexican government a level of astuteness and competence that must have surprised many Mexican citizens. Central American migrants, whose remittances are more important to their home states in relative terms, also came under fire. In recent days, Trump has aimed his Twitter feed at transnational, and U.S.-born, street gangs, casting all the blame on neighbors to the south. Trump’s initially pacific tone toward Cuba soured as the campaign progressed. His anti-trade proposals go beyond renegotiating or threatening to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and abandonment of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), and would cut to the core many Latin American countries’ economic strategies, in which access to the U.S. market is the lynchpin.”
Continue reading the full article at ISSF.
Amigos en Colombia, les comparto una invitación para un evento con Sebastian Bitar, Michael Penfold, y Martha Ardila sobre la política exterior colombiana actual, el 3 de mayo en Universidad de los Andes.
La idea es hablar un poco de como el acuerdo de paz podría o no cambiar la política exterior colombiana, y también como los retos internacionales (Trump, crisis de Venezuela, Brexit, etc) podrían influir en el proceso y implementación de paz con las FARC y las negociaciones con el ELN.
I reviewed Princeton historian Robert Karl’s very good article on the intersection of the Cuban Revolution and Colombian domestic politics. The review was published today on the H-Diplo forum. In the review, I write:
“In his recent article, Robert Karl addresses that question from a Colombian perspective. In doing so, Karl sounds a note of caution about the growing trend toward a Latin Americanization of the Cold War—or perhaps a Cold War-ization of Latin American history. Local dynamics and historical interpretations dominated early Colombian impressions of Cuba’s revolution; the Cold War took a bit longer to arrive. Though Fidel Castro was a ‘ghost’ haunting Colombian politics from 1957-1962, his spectre was not initially one of Soviet-backed intervention. Instead, Karl shows how the Cuban revolution was a mirror for Colombia’s own incipient democratization rather than a refraction of the Cold War. Recent Colombian experiences, notably La Violencia, the toppling of Colombian dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, and Colombia’s own democratic pact, were the most important factors that shaped how political elites and the press viewed events in Cuba.”
The full review is available here.
Karl’s original article, published in Cold War History, is available here.
Thanks to the Seminario de la Escuela de Gobierno at UniAndes for the invitation to present my work in progress at their seminar on April 25. I appreciate the turnout for the 8 am start!
I am keeping busy in Bogotá while on a British Council Researcher Links grant. With my colleage at Universidad de los Andes, Sebastian Bitar, we held a workshop/lunch with some of Colombia’s top scholars on foreign policy, the Colombian conflict, and the peace process. I have been lining up some interviews, meeting with other scholars, getting ready to give a graduate seminar and speak with a class of government officials, planning a public event, and co-drafting an article on Colombian foreign policy.
The School of Government, which is generously hosting me and providing me with an office and coffee, posted a nice piece on my visit.(Spanish).
They also released sign-ups for the talk I will be giving next week.
— Escuela de Gobierno (@EGOBUniandes) April 18, 2017