Human rights, patriotic press, and the wage explosion: What I’ve Been Reading

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in Havana garnered a lot of attention in the Spanish-speaking twitter-verse this week and Andrés Oppenheimer [sp] forcefully presents the view I subscribe to: it beggars belief that a dictatorship should preside over a regional grouping which has as one of its objectives the promotion of democracy. Oppenheimer writes (translation mine):

… to attend a CELAC summit in Cuba without meeting with a single representative of the opposition is to give offer huge propagandistic support to a totalitarian regime, and turn their backs on the peaceful opposition of the island. Many of us, who opposed the military governments of Latin America in the 1970s, remember the way in which these visits of foreign dignitaries contributed to the legitimation of the dictatorships.

As it turns out, a small group of Costa Rican diplomats met with members of a Cuban human rights group [sp] – Costa Rica is assuming the CELAC presidency this year, but too much should not be made of a low-level meeting – and Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera met with members of the Damas de Blanco [sp]. Nevertheless, centre-left President-Elect Michelle Bachelet, also present in Cuba, did not attend the meeting.

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Speaking of human rights and their relegation to second fiddle (or no fiddle) in favour of broader political aims, Foreign Policy has an interesting recount of the ongoing effort to bring Hissène Habré, the US’ “Man in Africa” to justice in Senegal for torture and other egregious violations of human rights throughout his dictatorial rule.

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Meanwhile, Alex Oliver defends ABC’s coverage of Australian policy, broadcast abroad under the auspices of the Australia Network and criticised by PM Tony Abbott as insufficiently patriotic. She reminds us of the vital credibility-establishing role of critical reporting by national broadcasters in a public diplomacy role.

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Another fun part of this week’s Australian political “debate” was Senator Abetz’ warning of an imminent wages “explosion”. Fellow Liberal Senator (and Assistant Treasurer) Arthur Sinodinos AO obviously didn’t get the memo, stating fairly unequivocally that wage growth was low and likely to remain subdued.

On a related note, Sarah Kendzior was devastating as always on wages and workers’ rights:

The second claim is that low-wage workers are easily replaceable and offer no benefit to society. This is the argument aimed at service workers, who are on strike because they make so little they cannot afford food or rent.

Putting aside that anyone working full-time should be able to survive on their income, and that service workers deserve the same respect as any employee, this argument falls flat because educated professionals whose work offers tremendous benefit to society are also poorly paid.

Teaching, nursing, social work, childcare and other “pink collar” professions do not pay poorly because, as Slate’s Hanna Rosin argues, women “flock to less prestigious jobs”, but because jobs are considered less prestigious when they are worked by women. The jobs are not worth less – but the people who work them are supposed to be. 

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