What I’ve Been Reading: Friday, 29 June 2012

It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks: lots of reading in Spanish, not so much in English.

Nevertheless, the latest Foreign Policy Magazine turned up in my Zinio, and General Mladic in The Hague is a great read, along with the 2012 Failed States Index, controversial as always. Robert Kaplan’s What’s Wrong With Pakistan is terrific, too.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s essay Why Women Still Can’t Have It All has been doing the social media rounds for a while now but I finally found time to read it a few days ago (it is long. Looong). Beyond the novelty of a hearing it from the pen of a high-powered, highly-successful women, it’s also refreshing for its point of view. No high-powered rhetoric or philosophical feminism: the practicality of balancing personal lives and work, and how the current system makes that very difficult for women (and men). Wonderful read.

I’m mid-way through Action on Armed Violence’s report on State Capacity to Address Armed Violence in Latin America: especially interesting coming after the Peace Index and Latinobarómetro report on violence. My big takeaway so far is that policies at the moment are mostly reactive, with too little attention paid to monitoring and analysing the problem from a cohesive, regional point of view. States are treading water, whacking moles.


Enlaces (28 June 2012)


¿Debe Paraguay ser expulsado de la OEA, Mercosur o Unasur? por Javier El-Hage (Semana.com)

Paraguay desenmascaró hipocresías por Ricardo Trotti (Prensa y Expresion)

Veo que no ofrezco una muy balanzada cobertura de lo pasado en Paraguay; siguiendo el hashtag #Paraguay verás un montón de argumentos contrarios.

Elecciones Mexicanos

Elecciones en México: ¿fin de un ciclo? por Otto Granados (Portafolio.co)

La guerra contra el ‘narco’ se convierte en la gran ausente de la campaña por Luis Prados (El País)

Ojalá este PRI se pareciera al viejo PRI por Emiliano Monge (El País)

Argentina: Paro General / Conflicto con Moyano

¿En Latinoamérica se pagan muchos o pocos impuestos? por Alejandro Rebossio (El País)

Moyano-CFK, en punto de no retorno por Julio Burdman (InfoLatAm)

Tratados de Libre Comercio

Los TLC no son la panacea entrevista con José Antonio Ocampo por Entrevista.com

Paraguay’s “Coup”


Since the impeachment of Paraguayan then-President Lugo, the breathless denunciations have come quick and fast from both leaders and publics around Latin America. Cuba is one of several countries who withdrew their ambassadors, indignant at the breaching of the democratic order.

And if Cuba’s complaining, it must be serious.

This has been analyzed to death by much better informed commentators: AQ, for example, discusses whether or not Paraguay should be booted from the OAS (and concludes that it shouldn’t). Al Jazeera are more agnostic with their coverage.

Personally, the reactions of leaders around the region smacks to me of concern for their own position in power. Democracy, to them, is a strong president; the idea of a (democratically elected, let’s not forget) Congress exercising its power to expel a president who performs badly is anathema. It is certain that the procedure was rapid and rather sketchy; nevertheless, it was legal, and comparisons to Honduras, in which the President was removed from the country in his pajamas at gunpoint, are simply ridiculous.

And so the same countries who not that long ago insisted that Cuba should be invited to the Summit of the Americas now demand the diplomatic isolation of Paraguay. The same countries that insist on the injustice of the US blockade of Cuba now propose a similar blockade of Paraguay. A little consistency in their foreign policy would be welcome. 

Spanish readers, two interesting articles at Análisis Latino: Una decisión desprolija pero constitucional por Carlos Gervasoni y El “golpe institucional” en Paraguay por Aleardo F. Laría.

Edited to add:

Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice says:

My concern is that “coup” become so broad and so vague as to diminish the term entirely so that it becomes “change of government I strongly dislike,” as has occurred with “terrorism,” which to many people these days means “people I strongly dislike.” They mean everything so ultimately they mean nothing.

This. A million times this. We can criticize what happened, we can disagree with it, but we need to be honest and clear about what it is we are discussing.

Dos modelos opuestos para el desarrollo regional

Son dos modelos opuestos: el modelo personalista, populista y discrecional de Venezuela frente a la gobernabilidad al estilo uruguayo: abierta al dialogo y la crítica, transparente y, tal vez, no tan fácil para llevar adelante. Las personalidades fuertes contra las instituciones. Argentina parece inclinarse hacia la primera, y el informe identifica la llamada enfermedad argentina: “crisis y debilidad institucional suelen fortalecerse mutuamente” .

Es una lástima que los últimos años de crecimiento económico no se hayan aprovechado para fortalecer las instituciones del país, impidiendo que la Argentina avance en el camino al desarrollo más allá de la influencia de los personalismos que caracterizan a los gobiernos peronistas.

El artículo competo se encuentra en la página web Análisis Latino, aquí.

What They Said: Sunday, 16 June 2012

In politics, truth is the first victim…

Pablo Moyano, son of CGT chief Hugo Mayano, on the reasons behind the recent truck drivers’ strike:  “I think [Argentina] must be the only country in the world where the worker pays to work. The more overtime hours you work, the more you pay. The State keeps part of the salary, it’s an embarrassment”. Yup, uh huh. Argentina, the only country in the world where income tax is collected. Marvel at the injustice. Clarín (spanish link)

What I’ve Been Reading: Friday, 16 June 2012

Let’s all pretend I’m not a day late, shall we?

According to the Latin American Corruption Survey 2012, corruption seems to be down – a little – in the region. Nevertheless, 44% of respondents said corruption was an obstacle for doing business, and 52% believed their company had lost business to a competitor that offered illicit payments. Some interesting data here.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one: Wikipartido plans to change politics in Mexico. On the one hand, any mechanism for increased grassroots political participation is a good thing; on the other, I have visions of a directionless, incoherent political party responding to the short term ebbs and flows of public opinion.

Is the International Criminal Court Facing Its ‘Black Hawk Down’ Moment? Great read. Important issue. Breathtaking example of the politicization of international law and human rights.

With the announcement of Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchners, new housing plan, the topic is on everyone’s lips at the moment. I’m not going to touch the debate on whether handing out cheap mortgages is a responsible use of the country’s pension funds, at least not here and not today. Rather, in a more general sense, El Diplo offers an interesting analysis (although the best is behind a paywall): start with Las Mil Caras de un Problema Compleja (spanish) and this infographic (portuguese) calls attention to the scale of the problem across the region.

And it’s absolutely no fun being a woman in Mexico.

Expat Voting

I returned my Overseas Elector form to the Australian Electoral Office today.

This may surprise anybody who read Expatriatism as Political Revolution, a piece I wrote for Matador back in January 2011. I had chosen not to vote in the recent Australian federal elections, despite it being compulsory (you are off the hook if you’re overseas, mind you), for several reasons:

I’m not living in the country, and I have no plans to move back in the foreseeable future. Should my opinions on tax, health care, and energy policy really count as much as someone who is affected on a daily basis by federal government decisions?

In addition, many of my opinions on said policy areas are uninformed. I left Australia a year ago and have barely glanced at the headlines since. I get my online news fix from UK and US sources, and curl up with the Peruvian papers on a Sunday. My knowledge of goings-on back home is based almost entirely (and this is embarrassing) on Facebook status updates. Although my instincts as a woman, an atheist and a liberal all pointed me toward Julia Gillard (Australia’s now-PM), I was not informed in any meaningful fashion about the policy stances of either candidate. I don’t believe in an uninformed vote.

Writing this, I was trying to wrap my head around something that had been niggling at me for a while.

Does this leave me in some kind of expat political vacuum? Divorced from the political life of my home country, while unable to contribute my political voice to that of the place where I work, run a business and pay taxes?

I felt like there was something more to democracy than just the vote – as important as this is – and that different kinds of political participation were more relevant and exciting to me, as an individual, at that moment of my life. Building a new life for myself in Peru, simply being an expat, was something I saw as a political act.

A considerable proportion of the article’s commenters simply saw me as apathetic:

If Ms. Luxford has the time to make these lengthy defenses of her abdication of her civil responsibilities, she has the time to read a few articles from the Sydney Morning Herald to keep abreast of affairs at home, and register her vote at the embassy.

If Ms. Luxford’s expatriation is to be considered a political statement, it may only be considered so if she also votes, since she is afforded that great opportunity and responsibility.

To Matador’s publisher and editors: Every time you publish articles that encourage apathy toward participation in the political process you diminish the luxury you enjoy of a free press.


I didn’t agree with John at the time, and I still don’t. So why the change of heart?


This week’s Economist has an interesting little article on Diaspora politics: Returning Officers.

Many states allow emigrants to cast absentee ballots in their home constituencies. But migrants argue that fully fledged representatives defend the diaspora’s interests better. France’s global voters worry particularly about issues such as consular services, the state funding of French schools abroad (such as lycées) and taxes on earnings abroad. Julien Balkany, a candidate standing in France’s new North American constituency, says emigrants want champions back home, so that they can return to a society that values their international experience, not one that sneers at their globetrotting.

Now this is what I’m talking about!

I’m still uncomfortable about voting for a representative in an electorate I don’t live in. I have an interest in and am affected by many Australian domestic and foreign policies, obviously, but the quality of my citizenship is different – not better, or worse than, but different – than that of an Australian living in the country. I’m enrolled in the electorate of East Melbourne where I happened to be living during the last election I spent in Australia. I have no family there and will probably never live there again. Should my vote have the same weight as someone who does live there?

A representative of my very own, representing my particular interests as an Australian citizen living outside the country and planning to do so for the forseeable future? Interesting idea.


Still, this isn’t the case just yet. In fact, the situation has changed very little since I wrote that article for Matador. I still rarely make the effort to follow Australian politics: I work, study and try to keep a handle on what’s going on in Peru, where I still own a business, and Argentina, where I’m building a life. I won’t apologize to John for not finding time to browse the Herald from time to time.

But I have also become more keenly aware of the responsibilities of citizenship, and that wonderful if arbitrary luck I had to be born an Australian citizen.

Australia has legislated compulsory voting. I believe there are much better ways to develop civic virtue, and I’m not convinced I should vote for a non-representative Representative. But, as I preached in a recent article on insecurity in Latin America, society ought to see laws as self-imposed restrictions put in place for the good of all.

I may still decide not to vote, and while I’m overseas I am still exempt. But I’m less certain that I was a year ago about what the right answer is.