Monday, October 13, 2014

Arguing the Cuban Embargo

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Carlos Alberto Montaner explains why the United States should maintain the embargo and not normalize relations with Cuba. It rests on four pillars, which are so easily undercut that the logic topples down.

1. We can't do so because Cuba on the state sponsor of terrorism list. I see. Well, since it is well documented that Cuba shouldn't be on the list, then just take them off. North Korea isn't even on it.

2. Cuban American members of Congress speak for every single Cuban American in the country, and they like the embargo, so it should stay. I am not joking--he really argues this. Discard.

3. Cuba actively tries to undermine the interests of the United States. If so, it's quite bad at it. I can't think of anything the U.S. has done for many years that the Cuban government has been able to undermine.

4. Normalizing relations would signal to the Cuban government that they don't need to reform. The problem with this argument is that the embargo sends that message even more strongly. If anything, normalizing gives the Cuban opposition more space--especially economically--than they would otherwise have.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bolivia's Economic Success

The Wall Street Journal has a story (in Spanish) about Luis Alberto Arce, the Minister of Economy and Public Financing in Bolivia. With a picture of Che in his office, he oversees a conservative approach to the economy, which has allowed for growth, foreign investment AND poverty reduction.

In the United States, we mostly hear about how Evo Morales makes some speech criticizing the United States, or even how he's just one of the clones of the Latin American left. Yet with help from people like Arce, he's brought unprecedented stability to Bolivia--truly amazing when you consider it in historical perspective.

Arce is also one of the rare people to get favorable coverage in the WSJ and TeleSur, each emphasizing their own particular slant. No small feat.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

U.S. and Latin American Relations Update

I just submitted the revised manuscript of the 2nd edition U.S. and Latin American Relations to Wiley (my last update on the book was a month ago). I had three excellent reviewers, who will see the fruits of their considerable labor. There wasn't much overhaul but a lot of small things added up--I also switched the order of two chapters.

I've already been trying to address various permissions issues (for photos and primary documents) and now we hopefully will be able to move forward fairly quickly. But there are still various tasks to complete:

1. Permissions get finalized.
2. The manuscript will have to be formatted and copy-edited.
3. I go over all the copy-edits
4. I get a fresh set of page proofs and make an index
5. We agree on cover art

Looking back, I see that it was exactly one year ago that I signed the contract with Wiley and started work. There has been a lot of intense work since then.

This will be out in 2015, likely spring, knock on wood! It will be fun to see it in print so many years after the first edition was published. If you want a taste, go buy a cheap used old edition and see if you would be interested in having it all updated and expanded.

Central Planning and Big Data in Allende's Chile

Simply fascinating article in The New Yorker about consultant Stafford Beer being invited to Chile to help the Salvador Allende government set up what we would now call a "Big Data" project to coordinate central planning. It is based on Eden Medina's book Cybernetic Revolutionaries, which I have not read but should.

The idea was science fiction-like. You would sit in a futuristic chair--of course equipped with ash tray and glass holder--in a room with screens, which would feed constantly updated data about production, supplies, etc. and even allowing for quick projections of the probable effects of your decisions before you commit to them. "La vía chilena" would therefore be as scientifically based as possible. It never actually worked, in part because of the difficulties inherent in such a project but also because the Allende government had so little time in office.

It made me think of how interesting a comparison would be between different efforts at central planning, and what kinds of political and economic impacts those strategies had. Both Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez seemed much more whimsical, focused on their gut feelings.

h/t Mark Healey on Twitter

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Textbook Skyping

Today I skyped with a class on U.S.-Latin American relations that is using my book, which was fun (even though I am slowly getting over a cold and had a brief coughing fit in the middle!). I know anecdotally that people (instructors and students) who use one of my books often check out my blog, so I want to let you know I am more than happy to do the same if you're interested. I love engaging with students who are reading my stuff--it likely will sound terribly cliche, but they're the ones I'm really writing for. Just shoot me an email.

Interview on Understanding Latin American Politics

If you want to hear me talk about my book Understanding Latin American Politics, here is the link to an interview I did with Keith Simmons for New Books in Latin American Studies. Incidentally, it is not what I normally sound like--I am slowly getting over a cold that left me hoarse.

Cuba and the Summit

Dan Restrepo has an op-ed in the Miami Herald, taking Latin America to task for focusing so much on Cuba for the 2015 Summit of the Americas.

With proper preparation, the summit presents an opportunity for others in the region to also be more creative and hopefully more effective in defending the basic rights of the Cuban people as well as of others across the Americas.

Doing so will require Latin American leaders to unmoor themselves from domestic political calculation, vanquish historical ghosts and let go of unrealistic desires to go down in history as the person who bridged the divide across the Florida Straits.

The funny thing is that U.S. leaders refuse to unmoor themselves from domestic politics, continue living in the past (something the embargo embodies) and create strong incentives for Latin American presidents to obsess on Cuba. So Restrepo is asking Latin America to do precisely what we won't.

I agree that the region should be more critical of human rights in Cuba and that the summit should move past Cuba and into more substantive areas. Although the Obama administration could help with that, it likely won't.