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  • Author: Ramon Campos Iriarte
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Pimpineros BY RAMÓN CAMPOS IRIARTE Colombia's pimpineros struggle to survive in the shadowy, violent world of border gas smuggling. José, a tough-looking, dark-skinned man in his 40s, met me at a small restaurant in a crowded neighborhood in Cúcuta, capital of Colombia's Norte de Santander department, and a traditionally “hot” place for contraband and mafia violence. A leader of Sintragasolina, the gas workers' union, José agreed to see me only if we met in a public place in broad daylight to talk about the illegal fuel sellers—known as pimpineros—that he risks his life to defend. Pimpineros' livelihoods depend on the disparity between subsidized Venezuelan gas prices and the highly taxed Colombian ones. In towns like Cúcuta, poverty and violence have pushed entire neighborhoods to become “pueblos bomba”—“pump towns”—whose economies are based entirely on the smuggling, home storage and selling of pimpinas (five-gallon—19-liter—containers) of hydrocarbon-based products. Thousands of low-income Colombian families spend days and nights in their improvised street shacks, pouring gas through handmade funnels into their clients' tanks.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Business Innovator: Felipe Arango, Colombia The Chocó region in western Colombia is one of the most mineral-rich places in the hemisphere. It is also ecologically rich, boasting species of flora thought to be unique to Chocó. But due to years of commercial gold and platinum mining that have leached mercury and cyanide into local rivers, the Chocó region has also become one of the most threatened natural areas in the world. Felipe Arango has been working to change that. Arango, 34, is CEO of Oro Verde—an NGO based in Medellín, Colombia, that empowers local miners to use more ecologically friendly artisanal mining techniques. Founded in 2003, the organization purchases gold produced by certified artisanal miners, many of them Afro-Colombian, and sells it to socially conscious jewelers around the world. Oro Verde takes a 2 percent cut to fund its operations and administration, and contributes its profits and reinvested premiums to the protection of 11,120 acres (4,500 hectares) of tropical rainforest. Oro Verde's gold certification process, meanwhile, has influenced the development of a global “fair-trade, fair-mined” gold certification process.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: New York, Colombia
  • Author: John Carey, Adriana La Rotta, Nancy Perez
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Latin American Populism in the Twenty-First Century edited by Carlos de la Torre and Cynthia J. Arnson BY JOHN M. CAREY Legend has it that on his deathbed, Juan Domingo Perón, the former President of Argentina, uttered a curse condemning any would-be biographer to dedicate his or her career to defining populism. Or perhaps the curse was issued on the lost page of the late Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas' suicide note, or slipped in among the bills in an envelope passed surreptitiously by Alberto Fujimori to some Peruvian legislator, or whispered by the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez into the ear of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. No matter. Whoever first uttered the curse, it worked: political scientists studying the region have wrestled and been obsessed with the concept for decades. We want to write about populism. Indeed, we need to write about it, because populism is among the most important and persistent phenomena in modern Latin American politics. But because the populist label has been applied to such a broad array of phenomena, we are condemned to define it before we can embark on any serious analysis. Academic exactitude being what it is, this leads first to extended consideration of what others have held populism to be, followed by a self-perpetuating and seemingly inescapable cycle of judgment, distinction and justification.
  • Topic: Economics, Migration
  • Political Geography: United States, Argentina, Colombia, Latin America, Central America
  • 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: Raul Rivera
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: Most people have grown used to thinking about Latin America as a region of marginal global importance: painfully poor, violent, politically and economically unstable and, to top it all, fragmented into some 20-odd countries, each one different from the other. So when Jerry Wind, founding editor of Wharton School Publishing, invited me to speak on Latin America at a Wharton conference aimed at senior U.S. executives, I wondered what a group of U.S. businesspeople would be interested to hear about the region. Who, after all, would want to do business in a place like that? But how accurate are those perceptions? As I prepared for my talk, my conclusion was: not much. Let's address the four principal myths about the region one by one. Myth 1: Latin America Really Does not Matter Economically To start, the territory of continental Latin America is larger than the U.S. and China combined, four times larger than the European Union, and seven times larger than India—a country roughly the size of Argentina. With almost every ecosystem represented, it is in fact the world's most biodiverse region, containing five of the world's ten most biodiverse countries. The region's bio-capacity (the biological productivity of the land measured in hectares per capita) is also larger than any other's. Witness the region's role in the global food chain: it is the largest producer of soybeans, coffee, sugar, bananas, orange juice, a leading fishmeal producer, and a major grain and meat exporter. Its mineral riches keep world industry running: silver, gold, copper, zinc, lead, tin, bismuth, molybdenum, rhenium, telurium, borium, strontium—you name it. And it produces one out of every six barrels of oil. In fact, much of the global community depends on Latin America's vast riches for its prosperity—indeed, for its survival. To that point: the Amazon basin plays a crucial role in the recycling of atmospheric carbon, absorbing one fourth of all global emissions. Latin America's population, now approaching 600 million, is twice that of the U.S. and significantly larger than the combined population of the European Union. Those numbers do not include some 50 million U.S. permanent residents and citizens who trace their origins back to the region (and keep close ties with it). By 2050, the region's population will have risen to an estimated 800 million. Latin America is not poor either. It boasts a per-capita GDP similar to the global average: $10,000. It is no richer or poorer than the rest of the world. In fact, 400 million people, or two-thirds of all Latin Americans, already belong to the global middle class, with their purchasing power fueling much of Latin America's growth. With some 200 million people still living in poverty, Latin America's poor are still numerous. But their ranks are declining fast, at a rate of 5 million a year over the past decade. As a result, its Gini coefficient improved by 10 percent between 2002 and 2008. In brief: the world's poor are now elsewhere—mainly in Asia and Africa. A population this large combined with average income levels have turned Latin America into the fourth largest economy in the world, with a regional GDP of some $6 trillion (purchasing power parity). That is larger than that of Russia and India's combined—larger, in fact, than that of any country or region other than the U.S., the EU and China. Not bad for a “region of marginal importance.” You could argue that Latin America's fragmentation into small, separate markets makes all the difference. But you would be wrong. As a result of the free-market reforms of the past decades, Latin America's economy is now the most open to trade in the developing world, with average tariffs down to 10 percent or less. Intraregional trade is booming. Most significantly, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have signed bilateral free-trade agreements (with both the EU and the U.S., though Colombia's is waiting for the U.S. Congress' approval). These agreements are giving rise to a free-trade zone of some 200 million consumers, larger than Brazil and fully open to global trade. Surprisingly, it does not yet have a name—or a space among the BRICs. It will, though. Let's name these four countries the L-4 for now...
  • Topic: Economics, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, India, Brazil, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Chile, Peru
  • Author: Saskia Sassen
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Americas Quarterly
  • Institution: Council of the Americas
  • Abstract: There is little doubt that the North-South axis remains dominant for Latin America's geopolitical positioning. But new relations are emerging and deepening at subnational levels, in turn creating new intercity geographies and challenging that geopolitical notion. These relations are a direct product of economic and cultural globalization. Some examples are the shift of migration from Ecuador and Colombia toward Spain rather than the U.S., the growing economic relations between Chinese businesses and organizations and São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and the emergent relations between these cities and Johannesburg, South Africa. The Internet has allowed a rapidly growing number of people to become a part of diverse networks that crisscross the world. And nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from various parts of the world are establishing active connections over social struggles in Latin America. In other words, beneath the still-dominant North-South geopolitics, transversal geographies are growing in bits and pieces. One trend is the formation of intercity geographies as the number of global cities has expanded since the 1990s. These subnational circuits cut across the world in many directions. A second trend is the growth of civil society organizations and individuals who are connecting around the world in ways that, again, often do not follow the patterns of traditional geopolitics. The New, Multiple Circuits There is no such entity as the global economy. It is more correct to say there are global formations, such as electronic financial markets and firms that operate globally. But what defines the current era is the creation of numerous, highly particular, global circuits—some specialized and some not—interlacing across the world and connecting specific areas, most of which are cities. While many of these global circuits have long existed, they began to proliferate and establish increasingly complex organizational and financial foundations in the 1980s. These emergent intercity geographies function as an infrastructure for globalization, and have led to the increased urbanization of global networks. Different circuits contain different groups of countries and cities. For instance, Mumbai today is part of a global circuit for real estate development that includes investors from cities as diverse as London and Bogotá. Coffee is mostly produced in Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia, but the main place for trading its future is on Wall Street. The specialized circuits in gold, coffee, oil and other commodities each involve particular countries and cities, which will vary depending on whether they are production, trading or financial circuits. If, for example, we track the global circuits of gold as a financial instrument, it is London, New York, Chicago, and Zurich that dominate. But the wholesale trade in the metal brings São Paulo, Johannesburg and Sydney into the circuit, while trade in the commodity, much of it aimed at the retail level, adds Mumbai and Dubai. And then there are the types of circuits a firm such as Wal-Mart needs to outsource the production of vast amounts of goods—circuits that include manufacturing, trading, and financial and insurance services. The 250,000 multinationals in the world, together with their over 1 million affiliates and partnership arrangements worldwide, have created a new pattern of relations that combine global dispersal with the spatial concentration of certain functions often while retaining headquarters in their home countries. The same is true of the 100 top global advanced-services firms that together have operations in 350 cities outside their home base. While financial services can be bought everywhere electronically, the headquarters of leading global financial services firms tend to be concentrated in a limited number of cities. Each of these financial centers specializes in specific segments of global finance, even as they engage in routine types of transactions executed by all financial centers. It's not just global economic forces that feed this proliferation of circuits. Forces such as migration and cultural exchange, along with civil society struggles to protect human rights, preserve the environment and promote social justice, which also contribute to circuit formation and development. NGOs fighting for the protection of the rainforest function in circuits that include Brazil and Indonesia as homes of the major rainforests, the global media centers of New York and London, and the places where the key forestry companies selling and buying wood are headquartered—notably Oslo, London and Tokyo. There are even music circuits that connect specific areas of India with London, New York, Chicago, and Johannesburg. Adopting the perspective of one of these cities reveals the diversity and specificity of its location on some or many of these circuits, which is determined by its unique capabilities. Ultimately, being a global firm or market means entering the specificities and particularities of national economies. This explains why global firms and markets need more and more global cities as they expand their operations across the world. While there is competition among cities, there is far less of it than is usually assumed. A global firm does not want one global city, but many. Moreover, given the variable level of specialization of globalized firms, their preferred cities will vary. Firms thrive on the specialized differences of cities, and it is those differences that give a city its particular advantage in the global economy. Thus, the economic history of a place matters for the type of knowledge economy that a city or city-region ends up developing. This goes against the common view that globalization homogenizes economies. Globalization homogenizes standards—for managing, accounting, building state-of-the-art office districts, and so on. But it needs diverse specialized economic capabilities. Latin America on the Circuit This allows many of Latin America's cities to become part of global circuits. Some, such as São Paulo and Buenos Aires, are located on hundreds of such circuits, others just on a few. Regardless of the case, these cities are not necessarily competing with one other. The growing number of global cities, each specialized, signals a shift to a multipolar world. Clearly, the major Latin American cities have circuits that connect them directly to destinations across the world. What is perhaps most surprising is the intensity of connections with Asia and Europe. Traditional geopolitics would lead one to think that Latin America connects, above all, with North America. There is a strong tendency for global money flows to generate partial geographies. This becomes clear, for example, when we consider foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America, a disproportionate share of which goes to a handful of countries. In 2008, for example (a relative peak of FDI), FDI flows into Latin America were topped by Brazil at $45.1 billion, followed at a distance by Mexico at $23.7 billion, Chile at $15.2 billion, and Argentina with $9.7 billion. On average, between 1991–1996 and 2003–2008, FDI in Brazil increased more than five-fold while tripling in Chile and Mexico. Among the countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region receiving the lowest levels of foreign investment in 2008 were Haiti, at $30 million; Guyana, at $178 million; and Paraguay, at $109 million. Globalization and the new information and communication technologies have enabled a variety of local activists and organizations to enter international arenas that were once the exclusive domain of national states. Going global has also been partly facilitated and conditioned by the infrastructure of the global economy…
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Non-Governmental Organization
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, America, South Africa, London, Colombia, Latin America, Mumbai, Sydney, Ecuador, Dubai, Chicago