August 18, 2017

Political Report # 1271 The Spanish Inquisition Lives On in Arizona's Ban on Mexican American Studies

I have always viewed Arizona's effort to eradicate Mexican American Studies (MAS) as something akin to an unholy Inquisition. For some, that will sound hyperbolic; not for me.
US district Judge Wallace Tashima is expected to make a decision soon on whether the 2010 Arizona House Bill 2281 legislation, which bans Arizona public schools from offering ethnic studies classes, was passed with the intention of discriminating against Tucson's Mexican American students.
The measure prohibited public schools from offering classes that allegedly "promote the overthrow of the United States Government," "promote resentment towards a race or class of people," "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."
In practice, HB 2281 was used in 2012 to dismantle Tucson's Mexican-American Studies program, which was created in the 1990s to highlight Mexican American/Indigenous literature and history. In dismantling the program, Arizona banned more than 80 books from use in public school classrooms, including titles such as Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, by Elizabeth Martinez. (Two of my books were banned the year before.)

Book Review, Puzzling over Authoritarian Legality

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Puzzling over Authoritarian Legality
by Cliff Welch

Political (In)justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina
Pereira Anthony W. Political (In)justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. PittsburghUniversity of Pittsburgh Press2005.


While many democracies have witnessed dramatic declines in both voter enthusiasm for political participation and the appeal of the state as the unique focus of transformational political projects, many governments around the world have gradually become more authoritarian and closed, aggravating the cynicism of the citizenry. Pereira’s Political (In)justice offers an indirect antidote to these trends by examining the devil itself in the comparative details of the rise and fall of three Latin American authoritarian regimes. While Pereira’s principal concern is the relationship between rulers and ruled, this book examines rulers. The work of Weber anchors its theoretical approach to examining differences and similarities in the ways elites used the law to rule the masses in the dictatorships of Brazil (1964–1985), Chile (1973–1990), and Argentina (1976–1983). By carefully analyzing the paradox of authoritarian legality in the Southern Cone, Pereira’s book offers many historical and political clues for solving the puzzle of institutionalized authoritarianism and what makes governments function and states important enough to fight over.




August 17, 2017

Film Review, Undistinguished Citizens: The Guilty, the Nobodies, and the Untamed

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Undistinguished Citizens: The Guilty, the Nobodies, and the Untamed
by Jennifer Lynde Barker

La región salvaje
Escalante Amat La región salvaje (The Untamed), Mexico2016.
El ciudadano ilustre
Cohn Mariano & Duprat Gastón El ciudadano ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen), Argentina2016
Los nadie
Mesa Juan Sebastián Los nadie (The Nobodies), Colombia2016.
Pariente
Gaona Iván D. Pariente (Guilty Men), Colombia2016.

The Venice International Film Festival in 2016 offered a promising selection of films from Latin America. Four films in particular stood out: La región salvaje, directed by Amat Escalante; El ciudadano ilustre, directed by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat; Los nadie, directed by Juan Sebastián Mesa; and Pariente, directed by Iván D. Gaona. Three of these films also won major awards (Best Director to Amat Escalante, Best Actor to Oscar Martínez in El ciudadano ilustre, and the Venice Critics’ Week audience award to Los nadie). While distinctive in narrative focus and national origin, all these films contemplate politics in its most basic and intimate form: the struggle for power and peaceful expression between groups and individuals and the crucial role in this struggle of men with guns. They also address in both standard and imaginative ways some of the systemic problems these countries have struggled with in the past half century, including human rights violations, political corruption, drug cartels, kidnappings, disappearances, guerrilla warfare, poverty, and injustice. But while they are specific in terms of social and national scenarios, they also speak to contemporary political issues on a global scale and in the United States in particular....




August 16, 2017

Political Report # 1270 Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians Are Remaking Latin American Politics

FOR ALEJANDRO CHAFUEN, the gathering this spring at the Brick Hotel in Buenos Aires was as much a homecoming as it was a victory lap. Chafuen, a lanky Argentine-American, had spent his adult life working to undermine left-wing social movements and governments in South and Central America, and boost a business-friendly version of libertarianism instead.
It was a lonely battle for decades, but not lately. Chafuen was among friends at the 2017 Latin America Liberty Forum. The international meeting of libertarian activists was sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a leadership-training nonprofit now known simply as the Atlas Network, which Chafuen has led since 1991. At the Brick Hotel, Chafuen was reveling in recent victories; his years of work were starting to pay off, thanks to political and economic circumstances - but also because of the network of activists Chafuen has been working for so long to cultivate.
Over the past 10 years, leftist governments have used "money to buy votes, to redistribute," said Chafuen, seated comfortably in the lobby. But the recent drop in commodity prices, coupled with corruption scandals, has given an opportunity for Atlas Network groups to spring into action. "When there is an opening, you have a crisis, and there is some demand for change, you have people who are trained to push for certain policies," Chafuen noted, paraphrasing the late Milton Friedman. "And in our case, we tend to favor to private solutions to public problems."
Chafuen pointed to numerous Atlas-affiliated leaders now in the spotlight: ministers in the new conservative government in Argentina, senators in Bolivia, and the leaders of the Free Brazil Movement that took down Dilma Rousseff's presidency, where Chafuen's network sprang to life before his very eyes.

Book Review, Toward an Understanding of Transnational Capitalism in the Caribbean

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Toward an Understanding of Transnational Capitalism in the Caribbean
by Jeb Sprague-Silgado 

Globalization, Sovereignty, and Citizenship in the Caribbean
Watson Hilbourne (ed.) Globalization, Sovereignty, and Citizenship in the Caribbean. Mona, JamaicaUniversity of the West Indies Press2015.

Hilbourne Watson, in Globalization, Sovereignty, and Citizenship in the Caribbean, lays out a nuanced and radical critique of today’s “commonsense” perceptions of the nation-state and associated statuses such as citizenship. By “radical” I mean, as in the Greek definition, “arising from or going to a root or source.” While other contributors to the volume lay out historically grounded arguments, Watson’s first, second, and concluding chapters stand out in challenging traditional nation-state-centric conceptions of political economy. Liberal universalized rights were supposed to promote a new fraternité, but the rights of citizens have developed through and concomitant with systems of exploitation and repression. As Watson argues, these rights were never meant to extend relative equality to the masses, as is often believed. Hannah Arendt (1966: 267, 298–301) famously made a similar point in her critique of the nation-state and in the context of the “rights of man.”




August 15, 2017

Book Review, Changing Dynamics in Bolivia

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Changing Dynamics in Bolivia
by Linda Farthing

Unresolved Tensions: Bolivia, Past and Present
Crabtree John & Whitehead Laurence (eds.). Unresolved Tensions: Bolivia, Past and Present. PittsburghUniversity of Pittsburgh Press2008.
The Bolivian Revolution and the United States, 1952 to the Present
Siekmeier James F. The Bolivian Revolution and the United States, 1952 to the Present. University ParkPennsylvania State University Press2011.
Along the Bolivian Highway: Social Mobility and Political Culture in a New Middle Class
Shakow Miriam Along the Bolivian Highway: Social Mobility and Political Culture in a New Middle Class. PhiladelphiaUniversity of Pennsylvania Press2014.
Mobilizing Bolivia’s Displaced: Indigenous Politics and the Struggle over Land
Fabricant Nicole Mobilizing Bolivia’s Displaced: Indigenous Politics and the Struggle over Land. Chapel HillUniversity of North Carolina Press2012.
Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia
Webber Jeffrey Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia. ChicagoHaymarket2011.

Bolivia’s recent trajectory toward greater inclusion of its indigenous majority has brought more scholarly attention to the Andean country than in any previous era. The five books reviewed here, published between 2008 and 2014, reflect this international interest in what Evo Morales’s government calls the “process of change.” Three of the books address political economy broadly speaking, and the other two are anthropological studies of two groups—the emerging middle class in the provincial town of Sacaba, outside Cochabamba, and the landless workers in the eastern lowlands in Santa Cruz. Taken together they consider Bolivia from the national political and economic scale to the specificity of daily life.



August 14, 2017

Book Review, Bridging the Local and the Global: Latin America and the Diffusion of Advances Related to Human Rights

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Bridging the Local and the Global: Latin America and the Diffusion of Advances Related to Human Rights
by Collin Grimes 

Chains of Justice: The Global Rise of State Institutions for Human Rights
Cardenas Sonia Chains of Justice: The Global Rise of State Institutions for Human Rights. PhiladelphiaUniversity of Pennsylvania Press2014.
Impunity, Human Rights, and Democracy: Chile and Argentina, 1990–2005
Wright Thomas C. Impunity, Human Rights, and Democracy: Chile and Argentina, 1990–2005. AustinUniversity of Texas Press2014

Recent decades have seen the emergence of scholarship on the worldwide diffusion of advances related to human rights. Scholars have written about the expanding legitimacy of human rights norms (Risse-Kappen, Ropp, and Sikkink, 1999) and examined the rise of norm-diffusing agents and nontraditional international actors (Keck and Sikkink, 1998). Other scholars (Burt, 2009; Pion-Berlin, 2004) have focused upon the events constituting what Kathryn Sikkink (2011: 5) calls the “justice cascade”—the increase in prosecutions of former heads of state, military personnel, and others for human rights violations beginning in the late twentieth century. By breaking from international-centric accounts and emphasizing the dual roles of domestic and global forces in shaping the spread of human rights advances, Sonia Cardenas’s Chains of Justice: The Global Rise of State Institutions for Human Rights and Thomas C. Wright’s Impunity, Human Rights, and Democracy: Chile and Argentina, 1990–2005, contribute meaningfully to this literature.




August 11, 2017

Political Report # 1269 Deforestation and Climate Disruption Are Degrading the Amazon, Endangering Our Survival

Sao Paolo and Brasilia, Brazil -- Warwick Manfrinato, the director of Brazil's Department of Protected Areas, has a deep understanding of biological interdependence, as well as its importance.
"If we are of utter service to nature, then we provide the benefits to all other living things on the planet," Manfrinato told Truthout in his office at Brazil's capital city recently. "I have the same value as a human as a jaguar has in nature, and both should be protected, otherwise we all go extinct, no matter what."
Manfrinato, whose department falls within the Secretariat of Biodiversity in Brazil's Ministry of Environment, is working on a variety of projects, including the establishment of a whale sanctuary that will cover the better part of the entire South Atlantic Ocean between Brazil's vast coastal area all the way across to the west coast of Africa. And on June 23, he and his colleagues launched a national "Corridors Program," with the goal of fostering "connectivity and genetic flux."
"We know the flow of genetics in biomes [biological systems] in life is critical," Manfrinato said. "We have to re-establish this, so a jaguar that exists in Mexico should be able to come all the way here without being killed. Physical connectivity allows for genetic connectivity. A monkey should be able to travel from one part of Brazil to another, without having to pass through land that has been cleared, where there is no forest."
Manfrinato's colleague, Everton Lucero, who is Brazil's secretary for Climate Change and Environmental Quality, was blunt with Truthout about what could happen if dramatic action is not taken to address the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Book Review, Do Diseases Talk? Writing the Cultural and Epidemiological History of Disease in Latin America

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Do Diseases Talk? Writing the Cultural and Epidemiological History of Disease in Latin America
by Ian Read 

Diseased Relations: Epidemics, Public Health, and State-Building in Yucatán, Mexico, 1847–1924
McCrea Heather Diseased Relations: Epidemics, Public Health, and State-Building in Yucatán, Mexico, 1847–1924. AlbuquerqueUniversity of New Mexico Press2011.
Enemy in the Blood: Malaria, Environment, and Development in Argentina
Carter Eric Enemy in the Blood: Malaria, Environment, and Development in Argentina. TuscaloosaUniversity of Alabama Press2012.
The Vigorous Core of Our Nationality: Race and Regional Identity in Northeastern Brazil
Blake Stanley The Vigorous Core of Our Nationality: Race and Regional Identity in Northeastern Brazil. PittsburghUniversity of Pittsburgh Press2011.
Patologías de la Patria: Enfermedades, enfermos y nación en América Latina
Hochman Gilberto,di Liscia María Silvia & Palmer Steven Patologías de la Patria: Enfermedades, enfermos y nación en América Latina. Buenos AiresLugar Editorial2012.


The history of disease is witnessing a “renaissance of interest” among scholars working in Latin America (Armus et al., 2003: 1; Birn and López, 2011: 504). Active communities of scholars in Mexico and Argentina present and publish on the subject, and about 25 professors support a respected graduate program in the history of science and health at the Fundação de Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, disease takes the spotlight in many popular books on Latin American history. For example, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), which won a Pulitzer Prize and spent almost 200 weeks on the New York Times “Best Seller List,” describes germs implanted in virgin soil as a key factor in the speed and shape of European colonialism. A top-selling, acclaimed book by Sir Hugh Thomas (1997: 92) argues that catastrophic demographic collapse brought about by plagues led to the forced importation of millions of African slaves in order to solve the European colonists’ “problem of labor.” It is odd, therefore, that disease gets little attention from academic historians writing in the most influential history departments in the North. Among the 80 to 100 historians of Latin America who teach in graduate programs in large history departments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, fewer than 5 specialize in health and medicine. For this reason, when several North American university presses publish monographs on the history of disease in Latin America, it deserves our notice. Furthermore, these monographs exemplify the advantages and problems of what we can call the “cultural turn” in the history of medicine.



August 10, 2017

Book Review, Everyday Life and Love in Post-Soviet Cuba: Intimacy and Economic Transformation

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Everyday Life and Love in Post-Soviet Cuba: Intimacy and Economic Transformation
by Florence E. Babb

After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba
Stout Noelle M. After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba. Durham, NCDuke University Press2014.

Some of the most productive discussion on sexual cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean has emerged from research carried out in Cuba over the past two decades. Contributions include studies of sex and romance tourism (Cabezas, 2009), race and queer sexuality (Allen, 2011), interracial love and marriage (Fernandez, 2010), and the cultural politics of Cuban queers on and off the island (Quiroga, 2000). Noelle M. Stout’s After Love fits squarely into this body of work, contributing significantly to what we know of the remarkable turns in Cuban tolerance, even support, though not yet acceptance, of sexual difference from the time of the Special Period and economic crisis in the post-Soviet 1990s through the present. Stout’s project is notable for its broad embrace of multiple forms of sexual difference and experience and for a highly readable style that will make it appealing to diverse readers. Following the book’s introduction, she presents five substantive chapters that take us from the historical setting to an inside look at the lives of gay men and lesbians, sex workers, and sex tourists to a concluding chapter on the politics of intimacy and solidarity in Cuba.