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  • Author: Jose de Cordoba, Britta Crandall, Gabriel Sanchez Zinny
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era by Francisco Toro and Juan Cristobal Nagel BY JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA Venezuela has been on a wild ride since Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998. Now that the Comandante—as he liked to be called—has left us, things could get loonier a lot faster. That's one reason why Caracas Chronicles, an English-language blog that has provided a running narration since 2002 of the Chávez era, will continue to be an indispensable tool of analysis and information for addicts of the Chávez story—a story that so far has managed to outlive the flamboyant president. With the death of Chávez and his spectacular funeral still fresh in the collective memory, the publication of Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era, a compilation of some of the blog's best postings, is well timed. It provides an opportunity to look back on the past and to meditate on the future of Venezuela as it teeters between comedy and tragedy. This is an essential read for anybody interested in Venezuela.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Reform
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Venezuela
  • Author: Jorge Derpic, Sara Shahriari
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: El Alto, Bolivia BY JORGE DERPIC AND SARA SHAHRIARI The former settlement on a plateau above La Paz is becoming a city unto itself, due in no small part to onetime protest leader and now favorite son, President Evo Morales. Blazing sun, freezing nights, roads clogged with traffic, and a vast maze of adobe houses populated by nearly a million people. This is the Bolivian city of El Alto. Once an outlying neighborhood on the high plains above La Paz, El Alto has today surpassed its population. Matching El Alto's growing profile, the city is also about to host some major public projects. President Evo Morales has promised a multi-million dollar soccer stadium and—perhaps most important—the government is installing natural gas connections to tens of thousands of homes. El Alto's new look also underlines its newfound political influence. Just a decade ago, in October 2003, demonstrators filled the streets to protest the Bolivian government's plans to export natural gas through Chile, turning the city into a battlefield. Those bloody days of conflict—known as the “gas war”—left more than 60 civilians dead in clashes with police and soldiers. The conflict set the stage for the rise of Morales, who in 2006 became Bolivia's first Indigenous president.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Chile, Bolivia
  • Author: Aldo Civico, Alfredo Rangel
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Will the negotiations between the government and the FARC bring lasting peace to Colombia? Yes: Aldo Civico; No: Alfredo Rangel In this issue: Pragmatism on both sides of the negotiating table suggests a willingness to end the armed conflict. The FARC's escalating demands; ongoing attacks and intransigence demonstrate that it doesn't really want peace.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Politics Innovator: María Rachid, Argentina María Rachid never wanted to become a politician. But she is responsible for some of the most important human rights bills in Argentina's recent history, including the 2010 Marriage Equality Law, which legalized same-sex marriage, and the 2012 Gender Identity Law, which allows transgender people to change gender identity on official documents without prior approval. The 38-year-old has served in the Buenos Aires city legislature since 2011 for the governing Frente Para La Victoria (Front for Victory) coalition. A former vice president of Argentina's Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminación, la Xenofobia y el Racismo (National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism—INADI), Rachid is a long time social activist who didn't always see party politics as the best way to accomplish change. “I never thought I would become a legislator,” she says, though she adds that she was always interested in politics “as a tool to construct a more just society.” Born and raised in Buenos Aires province, Rachid came out as a lesbian as an adult—around the same time that she came of age as a political activist, having left her law studies at the University of Belgrano to focus on a new career as an activist for women's rights and sexual liberation.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba
  • Author: Kurt J. Nagle
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Infrastructure: U.S. Seaport Expansion BY KURT J. NAGLE U.S. seaports are in an enhancement and expansion mode. While the widening of the Panama Canal may serve as the catalyst for some of the anticipated $9.2 billion in annual facilities investment in the foreseeable future, this is only part of the story. Several other factors are propelling this huge investment of private capital into U.S. ports. One is the rebounding domestic economy: the value of U.S. exports has risen 70 percent and imports have increased by 53 percent since the first half of 2009. Another driver is the increasing overseas demand for U.S. exports, particularly among the growing middle class in Latin America and parts of Asia. In fact, in the next decade, total U.S. exports are projected to surpass imports for the first time in a generation. Yet another consideration is that manufacturing operations are returning to North America, a development known as “nearsourcing.” With rising labor costs overseas, a narrowing labor differential at home and long transit times to market, a Michigan-based AlixPartners survey conducted in 2012 found that 9 percent of manufacturing executives have already taken steps to “near-source” their operations, and 33 percent plan to do so within the next three years.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, California, North America
  • Author: Nathaniel Parish Flannery
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: Xaltianguis, Mexico BY NATHANIEL PARISH FLANNERY How armed housewives in the hills of Mexico are fighting back against narcotraffickers—without the state. View a slideshow from Xaltianguis, Mexico below. Angelica Romero, a middle-aged mother of two, views her reflection in the bedroom mirror. She tucks her blue T-shirt into her jeans, pulls her hair back in a ponytail, and slips a tan baseball cap onto her head. In black letters across the brim, it reads: “Citizen Police.” Only a few months earlier, residents of Romero's town, Xaltianguis, located in the verdant hills outside Acapulco, had been paralyzed by fear of kidnapping gangs, armed robbers and extortionists. But since the townspeople banded together to form a militia this summer, the crime wave has come to an end.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Gabriel Marcella, William McIlhenny
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Leaders' reactions to the revelations are really about domestic politics. Everybody spies, even on allies. BY GABRIEL MARCELLA Should the U.S. spy on its allies? Yes The reported snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on world leaders is a rich teachable moment. It shows the underside of international relations. Spying on other governments—including friendly ones—is a pillar of modern foreign policy and a vital tool to protect against modern security threats like international crime, terrorism, cyber-attacks, drug trafficking, climate change, and stealing technology. As the saying goes, friends today may be foes tomorrow. We really don't know what information was gathered, but it caused an upheaval in various capitals friendly to the United States. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a long-awaited state visit to the U.S. because of the Edward Snowden revelations, claiming that the NSA spying was an attack “on the sovereignty and the rights of the people” of Brazil. Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was upset by reports that the U.S. was listening to her cell phone communications; she, in turn, demanded a no-spying agreement with the United States.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, France, Brazil
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Arts Innovator: Luis Antonio Vilchez, Peru Watch a video of Luis Antonio Vilchez dancing in Times Square below. Passing through New York's Times Square one winter day in 2010, Lima native Luis Antonio Vilchez noticed a group of street percussionists playing a familiar Afro-Peruvian rhythm—and immediately decided to join them. Soon, a large crowd gathered as Vilchez, wearing a button-down shirt and a winter coat, burst into a dance performance that was so impressive even the drummers watched in awe. The same kind of impromptu creativity dominates Adú Proyecto Universal (Adú Universal Project), a nonprofit arts organization Vilchez founded four years ago to re-imagine Peruvian identity through dance, theater and percussion. Financed by money the group earns from its performances, Adú (which means “friend” in limeña slang) encourages its 20 members—all dancers—to combine different dance and music genres, crossing back and forth between tradition and modernity.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, New York
  • Author: Duncan Wood, Marc Frank, John Parisella
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Cuba: Port Upgrades and Free-Trade Zones BY MARC FRANK When Latin American and Caribbean heads of state gather in Cuba in January 2014 for the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States— CELAC) summit, the agenda will include a side trip to Mariel Bay. There, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Cuban President Raúl Castro will cut the ribbon on a brand new container terminal that Cuba hopes will replace Havana as the country's principal port. Brazil financed more than two-thirds of the $900 million project, built in partnership with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht over six years—providing $670 million in loans for terminal construction and infrastructure development such as rail and road. The facility, with an initial capacity of 850,000 to 1 million containers, will be operated by Singaporean port operator PSA International. The Mariel Bay facility, located 28 miles (45 kilometers) west of the capital on the northern coast, was built to attract traffic from the larger container ships expected to traverse the Panama Canal in 2015. It could also serve as a major transfer point for cargo heading to other destinations. But the competition is already fierce. The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Panama are all rushing to improve their port facilities.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Canada, Cuba, Latin America, Caribbean
  • Author: Michael McDonald
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Dispatches: Guatemalan Migrants BY Michael Mcdonald Guatemalans returning home from the U.S. face unemployment, a maze of red tape—and social stigma. (slideshow available) Read a sidebar about voluntary return migration. Read a sidebar about the stigma that return migrants face. View a slideshow of return migrants in Guatemala below. Fidelino Gómez remembers fondly the years he spent in Iowa, where his middle child was born. Standing outside his one-room wood home in his native Guatemala, Gómez, 34, thumbs through pictures he took of the Mississippi River, snowy Midwest winters and gatherings with family and friends. He recalls easier times. “We lived well,” Gómez says under the searing sun. “We could feed our children, pay our bills, and we still had money left over.” From 2004 to 2008, Gómez and his wife María earned roughly $7 an hour working at Agriprocessors Inc., a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The money was more than they ever imagined as subsistence farmers back home. But the family's dream was cut short when United States immigration officials raided the plant in May 2008, arresting hundreds of undocumented Guatemalan workers and deporting them. Now, like more than 100 other families deported after the Postville raid, they struggle to eke out a living back in the economically depressed farming village San José Calderas, some 40 miles (64 km) west of Guatemala City. They grow corn and beans to feed their loved ones and do odd jobs, scraping by on the equivalent of between $15 and $30 per month.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Guatemala
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Arts Innovator: Francisca Valenzuela, Chile Singer. Fashion designer. Entrepreneur. At 27, Francisca Valenzuela has already reached the kind of success usually associated with a professionally managed career. But instead of a top agent or a big record label, the San Francisco-born Chilean artist owes her achievements to a team that includes her mother, biochemist Bernardita Méndez, her boyfriend and artistic confidante Vicente Sanfuentes, and a small, committed staff in Chile that has skillfully used social media—including 275,000 Twitter followers and fans known as “Franáticos”—to spread the word of her talents. Valenzuela is one of the most engaging examples of a new generation of artist-entrepreneurs who are controlling their own career paths. “I'm not waiting for someone to come rescue me industry-wise,” Valenzuela says, describing how, when her music took off in her late teens, she and her mother purchased Business for Dummies online to understand the fine print in her first contract. Valenzuela's early musical success—with a hit single, Peces (Fish) in 2006—came after years of performing in talent shows, but she was never “serious” about music until she started performing on the underground jazz circuit in Chile. She eventually dropped out of the Universidad Católica de Chile, where she was studying journalism, to pursue her burgeoning musical career. Along the way, she has had two books published, two pop-rock albums that went platinum and gold in Chile, and designed a clothing line for the Chilean brand Foster. Now, Valenzuela develops projects and artistic collaborations through her own company, FRANTASTIC Productions. “We've structured an independent enterprise basically run by two people [that's] competitive with counterparts who have a whole corporate background,” she says proudly. Valenzuela's do-it-yourself ethic in the music industry is not the only thing that sets her apart from many of her peers. Valenzuela spent the first 12 years of her life in the United States before the family relocated to Santiago. In fact, Valenzuela's first book—Defenseless Waters, a collection of poems that she published at age 13 about themes ranging from long-lost love to social injustice to nature—was written in English. “When I was young in the Bay Area, everyone seemed to be doing extracurricular activities, sports, painting, nurturing kids,” she recalls. Valenzuela's literary background and political convictions have inspired her songwriting in Spanish. The title song of her latest album, Buen Soldado (Good Soldier, 2011), focuses on the power dynamic between men and women, and she has been an outspoken advocate of sexual diversity and LGBT rights in Chile, participating in gay rights marches since she was 14.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Brazil
  • Author: Robert Muse, Natalie Schachar, Charles Kamasaki
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Travel Regulations: OFAC and Cuba BY ROBERT MUSE The re-opening of “people-to-people” travel to Cuba by President Barack Obama in early 2011 was the boldest and, arguably, the single most consequential step taken by his administration in relation to the island. It was in fact a revival of a Clinton-era exemption to the decades-old ban on U.S. citizens visiting that country. The exemption had been closed in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Visits to Cuba must meet two requirements to be approved as people-to-people travel: the travel must be for an educational purpose, not tourism; and there must be frequent “meaningful” interactions between the U.S. travelers and Cubans who are not officials of the government of Cuba. The educational requirement of people-to-people trips is most often met through cultural programs that explore such subjects as Cuban music, dance, fine art, and architectural history. However, among many other current offerings there are also environmentally themed trips, as well as programs focused on the Cuban health care and education systems. Since the program was re-introduced, an estimated 100,000 Americans have been visiting Cuba each year on people-to-people trips. The visits have been organized by a wide variety of groups, including the National Geographic Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and dozens of similar institutions. The travelers meet and talk with Cubans from different backgrounds and leave millions of dollars in the hands of non-state restaurateurs, artists, musicians, taxi drivers, and small farmers who supply the new private eateries of a changing Cuba.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Cuba
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Competitive Eating Summertime in the U.S. typically evokes the image of barbecues featuring all-American fare. But for a group of unique, dedicated elite athletes, summertime food conjures up a chance at glory. Competitive eating was introduced in Coney Island on July 4, 1916, by Nathan's Famous to determine who could ingest the most hot dogs within a set time. Since then, it has pulled in a number of other foods, including the “accoutrements,” with the sponsorship of Coca-Cola and Heinz Ketchup—not to mention the upset-stomach reliever Pepto-Bismol. The sport revived in the mid-1990s when brothers George and Richard Shea took the helm of Nathan's Famous' publicity machine and gave it an air of serious athleticism, with rules overseen by two main bodies. The better-known Major League Eating (MLE) is run by the Shea brothers and hosts over 80 competitive eating events a year around the United States. But the crowning event remains the annually televised Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Then there's All Pro Eating Promotions, best known for inventing “picnic-style rules” in the U.S.—competitors must eat the food as presented, without mutilating it in any way.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Johanna Mendelson, Anthony Spanakos, Roger-Mark De Souza
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse by Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco R. Rodríguez BY ANTHONY SPANAKOS During the 1970s, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. With the region's highest growth rates and the lowest levels of inequality, it was also one of the most stable democracies in the Americas. But starting in the early 1980s, things fell apart. The nation endured three coup attempts and one presidential impeachment. Per capita growth plunged, and mass protests became the norm. What happened? Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse, edited by Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco R. Rodríguez, offers some intriguing answers. Pointedly departing from much of the current research (and political discussion) on Venezuela, which focuses on the 14-year presidency (1999–2013) of late President Hugo Chávez, the editors have assembled a distinguished group of experts with the aim not only of exploring, as they put it, the “enigma” of Venezuela's pre-Chávez collapse, but to explain why some countries go through such turbulence. The unexpected outcomes in Venezuela are used by the authors to challenge hypotheses that rely on big data analysis to explain economic collapse. While the explanation behind Chávez' rise to power may draw attention, as Venezuela continues to be rocked by internal conflict following his death, it is the book's second aim that makes it stand out as an important work of scholarship.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In most countries the process isn't always clear or direct. Who does it, how to do it and how long it can take varies from country to country—a refl ection of the vagueness of ILO 169 and the uneven development of government regulations across the hemisphere. To compare, here are the steps you would need to take in Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Chile, Peru, Guatemala
  • Author: Rebecca Bintrim
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Across the Andes, land-and natural resource-related conflict has been increasing in the past 10 years, with only minor fluctuations from year to year. In the past six years, those conflicts have occurred against a backdrop of discussion, adoption and refinement of International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169) and consulta previa regulations to govern it. While not necessarily related, the long-term trends in conflict and the adoption of consulta previa raise important questions. Can consulta previa address or contain long pent-up frustrations and conflicts? Or will the rising expectations they bring to communities, if the laws are imperfectly or subjectively implemented, lead to even more conflict? The Charticle here shows the risks of the latter.
  • Topic: Government
  • Author: Cynthia Sanborn, Alvaro Paredes
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: During his 2011 presidential campaign, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala promised a new relationship between the Peruvian state and Indigenous peoples, in which the rights of the latter would be guaranteed and their participation in government would be treatedas fundamental.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Peru
  • Author: Sebastian Agudelo, Diana María Ocampo
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: In Colombia's 2010–2014 National Development Plan, President Juan Manuel Santos listed the mining sector as one of the five engines of the country's economic growth, alongside infrastructure, housing, agriculture, and innovation. At the same time, the government recognized the need for regulatory, legal and policy instruments to make Colombia a regional powerhouse for mining and infrastructure.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Author: Sonia Meza-Cuadra, Katya Salazar, César Rodríguez-Garavito, Roberto Junguito Pombo
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Governments aim to make decisions that will improve the economic and social development and welfare of their citizens. But historically, decisions affecting Indigenous and tribal people's culture, ancestral lands and habitats have too often been made without their participation. ilo 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seek to redress this situation.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Welfare, Culture
  • Political Geography: United Nations
  • Author: Dani Rodrik
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: To lift their people out of poverty, nations need to enter the global economy.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia