La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Public Brewery

Was browsing the Public Brewery, hosted by Paul Brewer, professor, former classmate, funny guy, and now blogger. He has lots of nice posts about polls on all sorts of things, like social security, the use of DDT, and issues in the 2004 elections.

Of course, I'm partial to the more irrelevant references, like this one about William Shattner and the 2005 Presidential March Madness. I'm quite surprised that Condi beat out Powell and Elizabeth to get to the Elite Eight, but then I'm not a Republican and I don't study American politics, so what do I know?

Ahhh....Dark Chocolate

Drezner has this post about Dark Chocolate (and yes, it should always be capitalized).

If only this trend would make it down to Mexico, the birthplace of chocolate. Domestic chocolate has even more milk and sugar than regular Hershey's. Dark Chocolate cannot be found anywhere, not even imported versions. They import Swiss milk chocolate, but not one bar of Dark Chocolate. I even tried the local candy store in my neighborhood (pictured below, picture compliments of Brian).

It's a sad day when the birthplace of chocolate, Mexico, can't produce a decent bar of chocolate. [Note: several other places claim to be the birthplace of chocolate.]

posted by Michelle @ 9:32 PM, 2 comments

Master of the slow burn...the Mexican Bureaucracy

I could spit bullets.

It all began last summer, when the Fulbright program began processing my immigration paperwork. First, Migration sent my visa authorization to consulate in El Paso, instead of Austin. And of course, consulates cannot transfer paperwork, it has to go back to Mexico City.

So we wait, in Austin. A week. Ten days. Finally, the Fulbright office says come across the border and just get a tourist permit (good for 6 mos.) and we'll change it once you're here. By then, I had missed the first week of class.

First week in September: I submit my visa paperwork again.

Eight months later: I still do not have my visa.

Since Migration has already taken away my tourist visa in order to process my new visa, I have no migration paper work. To leave the country next week, I have to file a request with immigration and pay $20.

The Fulbright officer tells me this is no problem. You do it at the airport, the day of your flight. Or, you go to the main Migration offices where it takes 48 hours. The same day sounds better, but just to be certain, I decide to call the Migration office at the airport.

As soon as I receive this information today at 1pm, I look the number up on the internet to call airport Migration. The helpful page has 9 numbers listed, all of which are disconnected.

So I look up the number for airport information. They give me the number for Migration.

I call.

A young woman (and damnit, I didn't get her name) insists that they no longer process permits to leave and return at the airport. Only permits to leave for good, wherre you turn in all your visa paperwork. She is quite clear about this. She says I must process the request with the Migration office in Polanco (the other side of town).

I ask: Is this a new policy? Yes. Since when? A long time. When? January.


I look up the number for the Polanco Office. I call. A woman there tells me that I have two options. I can go to Polanco where the process takes 48 hours. Or..... I can go to the airport. Hmmmm.... I explain that someone at the airport just told me that they no longer process the permits to leave and return. Just to leave for good. This is a new policy since January. This woman asks me to wait. She leaves. She comes back. She says the other person must have been mistaken.


I call the same number that I called earlier for the airport Migration office. A man answers. I explain my situation and what I need. How do I get a permit to leave and return?

He says, you come here with a copy of your visa application, your passport, and flight coupon and $20 and we process the permit. Do I need to bring copies of the passport and flight coupon or just the originals? Just the originals. How long does this take? A couple of hours, but it's always best to come sooner rather than later. During what hours does the office process the requests? Between 9am and 6pm.

Then, I ask him: Why did a young woman tell me just 30 mintues ago that your office no longer processes permits to leave and return? She was quite clear that you only process permits to leave for good. Really? Hold on, maybe our policy has changed.

He transfers me to another young woman. I ask her: Do you process permits to leave and return? Yes. What do I need to bring? a copy of your visa application, your passport, and flight coupon and $20. Do I need to bring copies of my passport and airline ticket? No. How long does it take? Not long. When can I come? Between 9am and 6pm.

Fine. I decide that I should do this today, just to be sure there are no snafoos.

I go print my copy of my visa application with all the government stamps, etc. and drive across town to the airport.

I find the tiny office hidden in the bowels of the airport where 3 sunburned Argentines are getting their tourist permits extended. Three young women are in the next room doing apparently nothing except chatting and twirling their hair around their fingers. It's everything you imagine a backwater immigration office to be. I wait.

The nice guy looks at my paperwork, has me fill out two forms with carbon paper between to make extra copies, and then starts to tell me that I need to make copies of my passport and plane ticket, go pay the money and come back. I say, no. I was told I did not need to make photocopies. Raquel specifically told me that I did not need to make copies. Ok, he says, I'll make the copies.

Then he sends me off to the bank. He says we're almost done and by the time I get back, my permission will be ready. It is now 3:20. He says I can go to any bank in the airport to pay the $20 to the government's checking account. Every bank but one has a line of 50 people with only 2 tellers working. I go to the bank with no line, which also happens to be the bank that once charged me $2 to pay my water bill even though the bill clearly says that I can pay at that bank without paying a commission. They don't accept these deposits.

I go back to one of the other banks and wait in line for 30 minutes. I deposit the $20 and go back to the Migration office.

Of course, the nice guy is gone and has been replaced by someone with a really ugly eyebrow piercing (those are my pet peeve). I smile, and hand him all my paperwork and my receipt for the deposit. He says, ok, I'll see you tomorrow.

What?? Yes, he says, the paperwork takes 24 hours. In Polanco it takes 48. I ask, then why have several people told me that it would only take a few hours? He doesn't know. He claims he's the only one that processes these types of requests and it always takes 24 hours. He has to call Polanco to make sure I'm not trying to escape the country. [more about this in a minute]

Ok. Well, can I wait until before my flight on Wednesday to pick it up? Yes. You only process this paperwork 9am-6pm, even though the office opens at 7am. Can I come at 7am to get my permit? Yes, but really the office opens sometime between 7 and 7:30am. But I can pick up my permit then? Yes, assuming it is approved when I call Polanco. Well, can I call first to find out if it has been approved? Why certainly, after 6pm tomorrow. Ask for me.

The irony is that if I got in the car and drove for Texas, I would have none of these problems. They would not check for my tourist permit at the border. They would not stamp my passport. In August, when we came to Mexico, they did not stamp our passports. At Christmas, we drove back to Texas, they did not stamp our passports or ask for our tourist cards back. When we drove back in January, they did not stamp our passports again. According to our passports, we were never in Mexico last fall. And now, they want to micromanage my departure for a five day trip and make sure that I don't owe any immigration fines? How ridulous.

Ok. So this is really too long for a blog post, but I just had to put it out there.

I still don't know if I should waste 2 hours and another $5 parking (not to mention the stress of driving in the City) to go back and get my permit before Wednesday.

posted by Michelle @ 5:49 PM, 2 comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Intersting U.S. social security projections

As one who studies pensions in Latin America, I feel a special need to express my opposition to Bush's privatization plan, as I've said before.

Here's a nice post from People Get Ready that puts the social security 'crisis' in perspective. I don't need to add much. The graph says it all.

posted by Michelle @ 10:50 PM, 0 comments

Geez...would they just get on with the desafuero already

Today, the Chamber of Deputies was supposed to vote on the desafuero of Mexico City Mayor AMLO. You see, he (or someone under him) ignored a court order to stop building a road (quite near my host university, as a matter of fact) on an expropriated piece of land. The road was a short cut to a private hospital.

(I recognized the road on the way to VIPS for lunch, a Wal-Mart owned Denny's-like chain; you can't avoid Wal-Mart in Mexico. I only recognized the road because last fall, I saw a news program where they were interviewing a gardener about how fast the grass would grow on that slope, as a means of estimating when construction on the road stopped. I have a picture. I'll post it sometime.)

So now, the powers that be in the national government (the PAN and PRI parties) want to desafuero AMLO, or remove his immunity from prosecution as a public official.

Why would they want to do this? Because AMLO leads the polls as the most popular candidate from any political party for the Presidency in 2006. Oh, and he's a lefty. So the PAN and PRI have banded together (no wait, they denied any collusion) to desafuero AMLO and effectively make him ineligible to run for President.

So today was supposed to be one of the first votes. And it has been delayed until Friday. [read: they need more time to negotiate some back-door deals]

All this, while the markets are getting nervous. I'm not really sure just why the markets are nervous. Sure, 80% of Mexico City residents are against the desafuero, and in a country where bumper stickers are rare, people have attached homemade signs to their cars against the desafuero. (And since they have enough money to have a car, they are at least middle class.)

The markets shouldn't be nervous because AMLO is doing nothing to mobilize the millions of people who support him. It's quite astonishing really. He could be making speeches and urging his supporters to storm Congress, but instead he is calm and resigned.

Even more ridiculous is the claim that the attorney general's office is keeping an eye on AMLO to make sure that he doesn't flee prosecution. AMLO has said he'll run for President from jail; why do they need to watch him? It's all hype.

And AMLO's the only one coming out looking good in all this. He'll let himself be martyred to prove his point: the PAN and PRI are intent on keeping power, through legal schenanigans if necessary. I don't understand how the PAN and the PRI can miss it. It seems so obvious, and I'm not even Mexican.

posted by Michelle @ 10:20 PM, 0 comments

Rosie's blog

Very strange. With links to Rosie's site.

posted by Michelle @ 12:49 PM, 0 comments

Even funnier. Plaigarism blog a hoax.

Still funny, maybe even funnier. Laura K. Krisher drama a hoax, according to this post.

Hee hee hee. All that righteous indignation on both sides of the issue. Still an important lesson for undergrads, though. How do *you* know if that site selling term papers isn't run by a bunch of profs? I regularly google text from shady papers, and with google scholar, that's easier than ever.

Students regularly underestimate their profs. I've been able to spot plagiarized work in a stack of 150+ papers, even just skimming them. Even more interesting was the case where I announced in class that the students that had turned in identical work would be submitted to the honor board, and a pair of *different* students came forward. They received clemency and a zero on the assignment. (Usually, honor board penalties are a zero on the assignment and a one-letter grade reduction in the final course grade.) Then there's the kid that emailed me his 'paper' which was all goobledlygook. Of course, a young female professor would never be smart enough to figure out that it was really homemade goobledlygook. I would never know that documents can be opened in a text editor. It was even more obvious when there was no complaint that I hadn't graded the paper. That one still stings because there was no reduction in final grade handed out by the honor board, just the zero. I wanted the kid to have to retake the course.

Lesson: don't underestimate your profs, they may be quicker than you think, and don't believe everything you read on the internet.

posted by Michelle @ 11:16 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Laura K. Krishna continued....

Names have now been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Read the follow-ups here, and here. Full story to be posted tomorrow.

posted by Michelle @ 10:15 PM, 0 comments

This is totally hilarious...

Check out this post, that I found via Bitch Ph.D.

Laura, a university student, contacted a blogger online to write her a paper on Hinduism. His profile said he was a Hindu, after all. He posted their IM conversations, a copy of the paper, and then proceeded to email a link to his blog entry to the president of her university. Some Karma.

posted by Michelle @ 5:27 PM, 0 comments

More desafuero news...

AMLO claims after desafuero, the Senate will try to dissolve independence of DF government

A million signatures against the desafuero were delivered to the Chamber of Deputies. Among them: Paco Ignacio Taibo II, mystery novelist

PAN fears that the PRI Deputies are delaying a vote.

President of Mexican stock exchange says that markets are nervous about the desafuero vote.

posted by Michelle @ 5:15 PM, 0 comments

All desafuero, all the time

PAN ready to vote in favor of AMLO desafuero

AMLO ready and serene before desafuero vote

Secretary of State denies PAN has negotiated with PRI for desafuero

Supreme Court questions desafuero

Fox meets with PAN leadership before desafuero vote

Various scenarios possible in desafuero vote

...and in other news, academic conference on The Smiths planned. Will Morrissey make a special guest appearance?

posted by Michelle @ 8:24 AM, 0 comments

Monday, March 28, 2005

AJPS review policies...continued

In a recent post to the on-going PolMeth debate regarding AJPS review policies (see my earlier post), John Aldrich (current president of the MWPSA) adds these points>:

It is indefensible to say that formal models ought not to be reviewed because they cannot produce useful results for political science. The editors (assuming Kim writes for Jan as well), don't make that claim. They make the claim that the recent history of peer reviewers "effectively make it a policy for the journal." I interpret that to mean that peer reviewers have concluded, case by case, that the manuscript they were reviewing was a formal model that did not have results in it worth publishing in a major general journal (a comment I have made on more than one occasion as reviewer). (Apparently, from the e-mail traffic to PolMeth, this is a "policy" with repeated and on going exceptions.)

Clearly the numerous exceptions to this rule that have been published suggest that its not much of an iron-clad rule anyway.

His more important point is this:
At the departmental/collegiate level, we need to stop what is a common strategy of saying to our deans and tenure committees that there are three major general journals and, especially in American and formal, a very, very few specialized journals worth publishing in in the discipline. To be able to say that there are other quality journals, of course, there need to be other quality journals, and that exercise may be underway as I write this.

Here, here. I second this. But I suspect that such institutional changes will be slower than re-weaving the social fabric of Ciudad Juarez. Political scientists are an elitist bunch.

posted by Michelle @ 10:13 AM, 0 comments

Discussion of murders of women in Ciudad Juarez

Today, there's an article about the problem of impunity in the murder of women in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas in La Jornada. The problem is that hundreds of (primarily) young women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez over the last decade, and no one has been able to solve the mystery. Bodies are left in the desert.

In all likelihood, the murders are a combination of a serial killer, domestic violence victims, and other copycats. I've heard that it's common for men to threaten their wives by saying they'll take them to the desert and no one will ever figure out what happened. No doubt many killers use the m.o. of all the other murders to hide their crimes of passion or for profit. (Someone I spoke with recently said that some people think that some of the killings are the result of a 'sport' played by young men from prominent Mexican families. It's clear how so many murders has created suspicion and distrust.)

According to the article cited above, one of the first steps to solving these crimes and bringing he perpetrators to justices will be to reweave the social fabric. While this may be true, I'm not optimistic about the prospects.

In other news, labor law reforms are being derailed.

posted by Michelle @ 9:55 AM, 1 comments

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Coming soon....Fuji Kola!

I heard about this first on Wait Wait, but have found other references online. Apparently, a relative of former Peruvian President/Dictator Fujimori has applied for a trademark for "Fuji Kola". They don't have investors yet, but believe that all the publicity surrounding the registration of the trademark bodes well for the future. According to the announcement on the Fujimori website,
...que podria lanzarse muy pronto al mercado con algún slogan como “Fuji Kola, la gaseosa del retorno”, para que con parte de los ingresos por las regalías de la marca se pudiera contribuir con nuestro fondo para la campaña electoral.

Ojalá que Fuji Kola pudiera apagar la sed del descontento popular. Sabemos que la única forma de calmar los ánimos de la gente, es mediante medidas efectivas para solucionar los graves problemas sociales embalsado durante cuatro años.

Pero Kenji y quien habla también, no pueden dejar de dar las gracias a los amigos de la prensa por la amplia publicidad a esta nueva marca.

Oops. I certaninly wouldn't want to give them good press. According to the site, they hope that they will be able to use proceeds from the soda to fund Fujimori's future electoral campaigns. They "hope that Fuji Kola can quench the thirst of popular dissent." Unlikely.

Here's a BBC World article on Fuji Kola (en espanol).

posted by Michelle @ 4:22 PM, 0 comments

No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

posted by Michelle @ 3:26 PM, 0 comments

Interesting post on social security privatization in U.S.

Since I'm always interested in pension-related topics, I found this post on First Draft pretty interesting. Good to know that Cheney is getting hit hard by constituents. I know that several of the very pro-Bush Republicans in my life are firmly against privatizing social security.

Having researched and read a lot about the privatized pension systems in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, I'm very skeptical of Bush's plans. I've written to my Georgia congressmen, and they all send me form letters in response.

An interesting note about those, though. The form letters I received last fall from my Senators were all very pro-pension-privatization and talked about how much they supported Bush's plans. In February, when I emailed them again after Bush's state of the union address, those form email responses had changed. In the new versions, they still said they wanted a reform to social security to avert the 'crisis' but were vague on details and certainly did not mention their support for Bush's plan.

posted by Michelle @ 12:02 PM, 1 comments

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Dude and friends abide....

Another reason I was meant to live in SoCal (Southern California). NPR Weekend edition did a story on Lebowski Fests. Listen to the story. It's the new Rocky Horror Picture Show. Here's the Fest Website. And a video from the festival.

Employed?....What day is this?

You're out of your element, Donnie.

I'm not taking it bowling; I'm not renting it shoes, Dude.

posted by Michelle @ 6:14 PM, 0 comments

This is why I refuse to watch the local news

Listen to this story from Friday's All Things Considered. [Beware: Will open with WMP.]

Another reason to distrust the Bush admin, too.

posted by Michelle @ 5:49 PM, 0 comments


I really should be working on my paper for the Midwest (yes, I haven't finished it yet), but instead I've been distracted by a current discussion on a email list for political methodologists. It all began with an email from an untenured professor who had an article rejected without review by the AJPS. The AJPS is usually referred to as one of the 'big 3' journals in political science, and many top-tier political science departments have explicit or implicit policies that all untenured profs must publish in the big 3 to get tenure. This means that every untenured person dreams of the day their work will appear in one of the big 3. In any event, this email post created quite a discussion on the PolMeth listserv.

The rejection letter, according to the post, said:

"Over the last year or so our reviewer panels in all fields have consistently recommended that papers which only advance formal theoretical formulations without systematic theory tests should not be published in the AJPS. We interpret this change in peer reviewer sentiment as a result of the EITM movement. Whatever its cause, this change is quite consistent. Thus we are not accepting for review papers that fail to meet these reviewer expectations."

[Note: The EITM 'movement' is a program funded by the NSF. Read more about it here.]

Several of the PolMeth members proceeded to lament the fact that such an important and prestigious journal (at least for promotion and tenure getting purposes) would reject out of hand an article with a formal model, but no empirical test of the model.

This led me to wonder two things (or at least two things that I'm willing to voice openly):
1. In the AJPS editor's response to the email, he explains that the policy has the unamimous support of the AJPS editorial board and that it was instituted in order to relieve pressures on reviewers.

I wonder how much of an iron-clad rule this really is.

I suspect that if a theory only (i.e., formal model with no empirical test) paper were submitted by Dr. SuperSmart with a Well-Endowed Chair of Nonsense Science of IvyLeague University that made a substantial advance to theory (instead of just a minor tweak to existing models), the AJPS editors would send it out for review for two reasons. First, it's Dr. SuperSmart, and she has a proven track record (and might even be eligible for a Nobel Prize, if there were one for Political Science). Second, it's a paper with a substantial advance to theory. Now, maybe this is unfair, since I haven't read the paper in question, but it's the big elephant in the room in this email discussion. Maybe that explanation in the form letter was a nice way of letting the untenured prof down lightly. I suspect the AJPS policy is not as much of a hard and fast rule and the PolMethers assume that it is. Me thinks they doth protest too much.

2. I find it mildly amusing that a group of formal modelers are complaining about an editorial policy that might relegate their "pure theory" contributions to 'specialized' or [gasp] second-tier journals. Now, I should clarify that I am NOT a member of the Prestroika movement in political science; I do not wear a badge at political science meetings. I am, however, a comparativist whose research employs both qualitative and quantitative methods.

As a comparativist, I understand that there are some papers that I might write (or avoid writing by blogging or think about writing but then never write becasue they wouldn't get published) that would never get published in AJPS because it is a general interest journal of political science. What that means is that the AJPS has a responsibility to publish articles of interest to a WIDE political science audience. My (imaginary) article on the political preferences of Mexico City sex workers would probably not be of general interest to political scientists, so AJPS should probably not bother reviewing it (and more importantly, I wouldn't waste their and my time sending it to them).

The amusing part of the PolMeth discussion is that, apparently, many members of the list believe that a theory only (again, I feel the need to reiterate that this would a be a highly technical formal model only) paper would be of general interest. Why shouldn't it be? They are interested in it? Well, I may be interested in the political preferences of Mexico City sex workers, but I realize that not all political scientists may be interested in that topic. Further, I recognize that the potential research spin-offs of my sex worker article are fairly narrow. I suspect that if the potential research spin-offs (or contribution) of a pure formal theory article with no empirical test were obvious and compelling, then I bet the good editors at AJPS would send it out for review.

[Clearly, these guys have never had an NSF reviewer suggest rejecting their proposal mainly because it lacks a formal a research area where 95% of the papers published are not formal. The formal modellers do hold positions of gatekeeping and power, and they are so dismayed to find that there might be one journal where they do not set the agenda.]

3. [I guess I have a third idea to add...] I think many faculty abuse the review process and highly efficient journals like AJPS suffer. I have had at least three different colleagues suggest that I send a paper to AJPS just because of the short turn-around time, even though I am skeptical that it would be appropriate for that journal. Now, however, that I know they are rejecting all those formal theory papers, maybe I should send my empirical (but theory-light...i.e., no formal model) paper to AJPS.

A completely unrelated comment

While looking for discussions about EITM, etc., I cam across a blog that links to a blog that links to get the idea. I came across this blog by Mike Munger of Duke University. I was in a methods class that he teaches at Duke. Mike is a funny guy, which is ok if you have the hudspah (spelling?) to stand up to him or at least take his kidding. In our class, that wasn't always the case. Oh, I could dish it back but I distinctly recall a meek-mannered Duke grad student who looked like he was going to cry once during class. But, I digress. I particularly like this post, and its link to this other blog post.

I really must get back to that paper for the Midwest. BTW, it will be qualitative and not of general interest, but hey, maybe I should send it to the AJPS anyway.

posted by Michelle @ 1:22 PM, 0 comments

It's a slow news day, which....

....makes for more interesting news.

In my favorite lefty paper, La Jornada, there's an interesting article about an NGO that works with Mexico City prostitutes, handing out condoms, giving them medical care.

[Really, I mainly read the Jornada because the other papers are mostly subscription only, making it difficult to write about their stories.]

Anyway, according to the article, the NGO was started by two students who wanted to study the sex industry and realized that the needed to do more. The article talks about how they initially sold condoms for $.50, but even that was too much for the women to pay. Now, they have special black & red condoms that sell for $.10, and some of the former prostitutes have opened their own condom stores.

Another article discusses (albiet briefly) abortion policy in Mexico. I didn't know this before, but apparently, Article 4 of the Constitution "reconoce el derecho de las personas a decidir de manera libre, responsable e informada sobre el número de hijos que desea."

From the UNAM website, Article 4 of the constitution, which was last amended in 2001:










Bad abortions are the third leading cause of maternal death in Mexico. Though abortion in case of rape is legal in all states, abortion under other circumstances is illegal.

Given the large Catholic population and the role of the Church, abortion is complicated in Latin America. One of my friends from grad school has written about abortion policy in the Southern Cone. Merike Blofield doesn't have a personal site that I can link to, and none of her papers show up in Google Scholar. We'll just have to remain in the dark until her book is published.

posted by Michelle @ 9:45 AM, 0 comments

Friday, March 25, 2005

Catch up on the pension debate with PBS

I recently came across the following PBS site, which includes clips from a 'debate' between two social security experts regarding the Chilean pension privatization. Pinera is the architect of the Chilean reform that was enacted in 1981 under the military dictarship. Of course, he is a big proponent of mandatory privatized social security, since he created it. Bertranou is an analyst for the International Labor Organization and has published many articles on social security in peer-reviewed journals. The ILO, as an institution, tends to be more critical of pension privatization.

posted by Michelle @ 4:34 PM, 0 comments

Good Friday

One of the first in a series of formal procedures and votes in the AMLO desafuero case is likely Wednesday. A small group of legislators in the Chamber of Deputies will vote on whether to pass the desafuero case on to the judicial committee. You can read one analysis here.

Pension news

Military pensions are paultry. No surprise there.

Critique of ISSSTE pension privatization by academic.

posted by Michelle @ 12:48 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, March 24, 2005

It's semana santa in the big city

....which means that all is quiet and tranquil.

There has been very little news worth commenting upon, but here are some interesting stories from this week's paper.

The pensions most will receive under the privatized pension system will be paultry (big surprise here) According to the article, 70% of those contributing to the Afores receive between 1 and 2 times the minimum wage, and their contributions will not be enough to provide a minimum pension. Thus, the state will have to step in and make up the difference. Beware....those who would privatize the U.S. pension system. Here's a related story on recent wage policies.

The desafuero could create instability in Mexican markets. Also, the PRI is trying to carefully back away from the desafuero.

The Mexican equivalent of the White House accepted nearly 10,000 toys and 9,000 small home appliances that were confiscated by customs last November and December. The complaint is that the First Lady probably diverted these to her charitable causes instead of allowing them to be distributed through formal government charity/family programs.

Fox is finishing a meeting with Bush and the PM of Canada (I would call him by name, but no one would know who I was talking about). Big topics were immigration and security, not necessarily in that order. I don't have much to add to those discussions, but here's an interesting article on the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., over half of whom are Mexican.

posted by Michelle @ 6:52 PM, 0 comments

Friday, March 18, 2005

Local entrepreneurs say "no" to a new Wal-mart in Cabo

Local reps of a national business organization, CONACINTRA, expressed their opposition to the opening of a new store run by Wal-Mart in Cabo San Lucas. The article in La Jornada says:

"La ética con que opera Wal-Mart en México ha sido duramente cuestionada, inclusive por sus propios competidores, debido a las prácticas monopólicas que utiliza para acaparar el mercado de consumidores", dijo a la prensa Armando Covarrubias, presidente local de Canacintra. De acuerdo con el organismo empresarial, "contrariamente a lo que se piensa, (en Wal-Mart) no son creadores de fuentes de empleo, pues estos negocios traen a su propio personal, con excepción de cajeros, personal de intendencia y vigilantes".

Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in Mexico. They own several store and restaurant chains. You can read about the new Wal-Mart-owned store near the pyramids north of Mexico City and a first-hand account of discrimination at a local Wal-Mart supermarket in an earlier post.

In many ways, it's not that suprising that members of CANCINTRA would be opposed to Wal-mart. Historically, CANACINTRA has represented largely small and medium enterprises, many of which benefitted from decades of government protectionism and subsidies. The Canacintra tends to be more lefty when it comes to state protectionism and state involvement in the economy. For instance, the Canacintra was one of the only employers' associations to consistently support social security benefits for workers.

Desafuero updates

The discussion here will get briefer and briefer. The desafuero debate is tiring; bumper stickers, flyers, and little pins all proclaim general disatisfaction with the desafuero. I've never seen a spontaneous or planned expression of support for the desafuero in Mexico City. No bumper stickers saying "throw the bum out," no lapel pins or buttons with a big AMLO prohibited sign. Nothing.

The archbishop has (supposedly) expressed his belief that the desafuero should not occur, if politicians are responsive to the preferences of the citizens. (Since when has the Mexican government been responsive, though?)

At the same time, the PRI and PAN have agreed to pursue the desafuero of AMLO in April. (Great, just when I want to be interviewing them about labor-party relations and social security reforms....but then again, it's not about me.)

An op-ed piece by a retired UNAM professor arguing against the desafuero.

Other news about internal political party clashes and leadership disputes

An article about Gordillo and what should happen should she become President of the PRI.

An article on the "crisis panista".

posted by Michelle @ 6:37 PM, 0 comments

BTW, I've added an RSS feed to the blog. Here's the link:

posted by Michelle @ 12:13 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Strike averted, electricians get 6.5% raise...

...if only our raises at Georgia Tech were so generous...maybe we need to unionize. You can read about the resolution of the labor conflict in La Jornada here.

In a strange twist, Secretary of State Creel (and likely PAN candidate in 2006 for President if he isn't edged out by the current First Lady) issued a statement through the PAN CEN indicating that his statements were misrepresented in a NYTimes article published yesterday. According to the story in La Jornada,

El titular de la Secretaría de Gobernación, Santiago Creel Miranda, aseguró anoche, ante el Comité Ejecutivo Nacional del Partido Acción Nacional, que no declaró al periódico The New York Times que si Andrés Manuel López Obrador llega a la Presidencia arruinaría la economía; lo que sí dije, sostuvo, es que el presidente Vicente Fox tiene una política económica totalmente diferente a la del jefe de Gobierno de la ciudad....

...en un comunicado, la Secretaría de Gobernación desmintió al diario estadunidense, que atribuyó textualmente a Creel Miranda haber dicho que "(Andrés Manuel) López Obrador en la Presidencia sería un desastre económico"

So essentially, he's denying saying that if AMLO becomes President of Mexico that it would ruin the economy or be an economic disaster. All he admits to doing is pointing out the difference between Fox and AMLO policies.

That's fine, because I could not find any such statement in the NYTimes article (free registration required). The reporter interprets Creel's comments as meaning that he thinks AMLO would be an economic disaster, but he does not attribute those comments to Creel. Here's the excerpt:

Santiago Creel, the current secretary of government who is seen as the most likely candidate for president from Mr. Fox's conservative National Action Party, known as PAN, made it plain in a recent interview he thought a López presidency would be an economic disaster.

"What is clear is that he has rejected all the economic reforms that we have put forward, all of them," Mr. Creel said. "And it's clear that his government has raised the level of public debt in a very important way and has also raised the levels of subsidies, making a pretty artificial economy."

A subtle distinction, yes, but I still think Creel doth protest too much.

In national labor news, the FSTSE is being attacked on all sides. Yet another group of government employee unions are separating from the FSTSE to form their own Federation. They're not joining Gordillo's FEDESSP either; they want true union democracy. I'm too tired to comment, so you can read all about it in this article.

And, the debate about universal old-age minimum pensions continues. AMLO responds to Fox's comments. (Again, the article mentions WB support for such pensions, and apparently AMLO waved a recent issue of The Economist to support his claim. I, however, could find no article in the online version of the Economist citing either AMLO's pension program or WB support for such programs elsewhere....)

posted by Michelle @ 11:10 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New president for the World Bank?

Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank. According to an article in the NYTimes, Mr. Wolfowitz developed a passion for development issues when he was Ambassador to Indonesia. And that makes him qualified to be president of the World Bank? Previous presidents have been well-respected economists. As pointed out in an article about the appointment in The Economist online, there is a tradition that the the president of the World Bank is usually from the U.S. and the president of the IMF is usually European. (Formally, voting on such positions is weighted by contributions to the funds, which explains why the U.S. and developed nations of Europe get more votes.) We can only hope that the Europeans try to stop Bush, but the tone of these articles suggests that it's a long-shot.

P.S. We still have power, so a strike must have been averted. More on that tomorrow...

posted by Michelle @ 7:09 PM, 0 comments

the lights go out in Mexico

Contract negotiations between the SME (electricians' union) and the national power company broke down last night, and the union is prepared to leave their jobs on strike today at noon. If they do so, they'll leave the power stations running on automatic. The union initially demanded a 15% raise in salaries, but would settle for 3.5%, but campany negotiatiors would not give in. According to the article in La Jornada, this would leave the following areas without power,
...el Distrito Federal y zona conurbada, el estado de México, Hidalgo, parte del estado de Puebla, Cuernavaca y Toluca

...ya que se pondrían las banderas rojinegras en todos las plantas generadoras, oficinas y centros de trabajo de Luz y Fuerza del Centro.

Los trabajadores ya tienen listo un operativo para cerrar todas las instalaciones a la hora marcada, dejando los interruptores operando en automático, y aunque no los bajarían para quitar el servicio, sí se retirarían de los centros de trabajo sin hacerse responsables de si fallan los sistemas de generación eléctrica o el abastecimiento. A partir de las 12 horas, si no hay arreglo, los 38 mil electricistas pararán.

This may be the last post for a while if the strike occurs, but I'm guessing there will be some resolution. It will be interesting to see what effect a strike, if it occurs, would have on the political process aimed at privatizing the electricity sector.

In Congress yesterday, PRD and PAN members chimed in on the dabate about universal pensions for the elderly. Both sides came out to defend their leaders, Fox and AMLO. You can read about the details in this article.

And finally, according to one of several academics who have written about the PAN, the new President of the PAN signals that the First Lady will be in a good position to become the party's candidate in 2006. (I say "one of several" because my good buddy Steve Wuhs has also written about the PAN, and when his book is published, it will be more up-to-date than the one mentioned in the article.)

posted by Michelle @ 10:20 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Both the PAN and the PRD are like the PRI

I guess that is about the worst insult you can hurl at a political party in Mexico, and those are the headlines in La Jorndad today. First, Tatiana Clouthier, a Diputado (that's a Representative) for the PAN has left the party, claiming that the Fox administration prefers to form alliances and work with the PRI instead of his own party, the PAN. Dip. Clouthier is the daughter of one of the PRI's founders, Manuel Clothier. According to Diputada Clouthier's letter of renunciation, which is cited in this article,

"Entré a las filas del PAN movida por un ideal y principios que llamaban, había proyecto: democratizar a México, hacer ciudadanía y llegar al poder para servir. El bien común estaba por encima de los intereses particulares de personas y de grupos. Hoy, creo que se está buscando más el poder por el poder, y quienes encabezan al partido son una muestra clara de ello: el fin justifica los medios.

"El PAN se sacó al priísta que, 'dicen', todos llevamos dentro, y éste afloró en la práctica: compra de voluntades, regalar o intercambiar puestos, amenazar... Nos alejamos de lo que nos diferencia de otros partidos: el poder socializado en aras de servir. Nos estamos convirtiendo, sin mucho esfuerzo, en una mala copia del PRI."

"Ya no se actúa por convicción".

At her press conference, she had the following exchange with reporters, as it is reported in La Jornada,
-¿Se sumará a otro partido que defienda los principios de los que usted habla?

-Sigo pensando, a pesar de la renuncia, que el PAN sigue siendo la opción menos mala, y lo recalco: busco una nueva opción por otros caminos, los caminos ciudadanos.

-¿Alguna opción específica?

-No hay partidos ahorita. Y le diría que el partido que se está creando está peor. Con Elba Esther Gordillo, no voy.

-¿Está decepcionada también del proceso donde se eligió a Manuel Espino? Sus compañeros afirman que esa dirigencia se decidió en Los Pinos, en una reunión con Vicente Fox.

-No soy delegada, no soy consejera. No voto; habría que preguntar a nuestros compañeros que lo operaron cómo se dieron estas cosas; preguntar a los que vieron qué pasó. Comparto con usted, de alguna manera: no fue en Los Pinos, fue en un lugar peor.

-¿De qué peor lugar habla?

-Hay que preguntarle a Durazo.

''Espino no me paga''

Señaló que no se incorporará a otra fracción parlamentaria en el Congreso, porque ''no me salí para irme a un basurero''.

-¿Habló de su renuncia con Manuel Espino?

-Espino no me paga, no es mi marido y no duerme conmigo.

''Parte de no tomar esta decisión la semana pasada tenía que ver con algunas consideraciones para no provocar ruptura familiar. Las paces están hechas, el respeto está puesto y cada quien ha decidido el camino que debe seguir.''

She's not joining up with Gordillo (the S.G. of the PRI and leader of the new FEDESSP) or any other party, but is going to look for other options? A new party? A party-less political career? Hmmmm....

In a related story, leaders of the PAN respond to Clouthier's departure and what it means for the party. Apparently, the PAN has also taken a less hard line on the desafuero votes in the legislature. The party has issued new guidelines, encouraging members to vote on the basis of the case's merit and not political considerations. This article suggests the softened position is in part a response to Clothier's departure.

In related PAN news, the First Lady, Marta Sahagun, formally joined the Policy Commission of the Party's leadership. You can read about various appointments, including hers in this article.

The second PRI insult comes from Enrique Jackson, the PRI's leader in the Senate. According to another article in La Jornada, the PRD is a clone of the PRI, in part because many of the PRD leaders are ex-PRIistas. The comment was made during a speech at a local university where he was trying to urge unity in the PRI, which seems to be coming apart at the seams.

The PRD has other problems, in addition to be called PRI-like. Their internal membership roles are in disarray, which may cause problems for upcoming internal elections.

In completely unrelated social security news, the national social security institute workers' union (SNTSS) has received a setback in their legal battle to stop the implementation of reforms to the social security law that would restrict their pension and retirement benefits. The union claims that benefits are determined by their labor contract, not the law, and they plan to use a national strike to defend their benefits if necessary.

posted by Michelle @ 11:57 AM, 0 comments

Monday, March 14, 2005

Pensions for old-timers, source of political debate

That's what the headlines should read today in Mexico. Yesterday, La Jornada reported that President Fox said that universal (i.e., they go to everyone) cash pensions for old people are "terribly unfair." That might be the leftist paper stretching it a bit. Fox has pledged not to discuss AMLO's desafuero, and instead is going to focus on the Mayor's public policies. (See this post for a brief discussoin of the desafuero.) So this weekend, the President criticized the Mayor's program that gives about $50 a month to elderly citizens, regardless of work status or income. According to the report of Fox's radio adress in La Jornada, Fox said:
"A mí me parece terriblemente injusto que a otros, simple y sencillamente por estar como adultos mayores, se les cubra con el dinero precisamente de quienes trabajan"....

Para el jefe del Ejecutivo lo que se debe promover, cuando se habla de pensiones y jubilaciones, es que "durante su vida productiva las personas vayan haciendo un poquito de ahorro, porque de otra manera se requeriría una cifra escalofriante de recursos".

In response, AMLO has said that what is unjust is a huge banking system bailout program, and that his pension plan should be extended to all of Mexico. According to an article in today's La Jornada:
Durante su conferencia de prensa matutina, poco antes de encabezar en la Plaza de la Constitución la entrega de pensión alimentaria a 2 mil 774 nuevos beneficiarios, se pronunció porque este derecho se extienda a todo el país. Durante su discurso en la plancha del Zócalo señaló que "hasta el Banco Mundial recomienda a otros gobiernos aplicar el programa de pensión universal ciudadana que se desarrolla en el Distrito Federal . Y ellos (el gobierno federal) están diciendo que es injusto".

Señaló que para sostener este programa a escala nacional se requerirían 20 mil millones de pesos al año, que si bien no es una suma fácil de conseguir, "yo sostengo que si hay un plan de austeridad en el gobierno federal cada año se pueden ahorrar cien mil millones de pesos y de ahí saldría para garantizar el derecho a la pensión alimenticia y alcanzaría para otras cosas, como becas para personas con discapacidad y la construcción de más viviendas, escuelas y hospitales".

AMLO seems to be claiming that his universal pension plan in the DF is so well conceived that even the World Bank is recommending it to other governments. I'll believe that when I see it.

In direct response to Fox's comments, AMLO said:
"Ayer escuchaba yo que decían que era injusto el programa de adultos mayores, lo que me pareció un despropósito. Yo nada más digo aquí, en la plaza, que injusto es haber aumentado el gasto corriente del gobierno federal en tres años de 700 mil millones de pesos a un billón. Eso sí es injusto: hacer crecer el aparato burocrático, los privilegios para los de arriba."

This is just one episode in the on-going political struggle between the President and the Mayor.

posted by Michelle @ 10:01 AM, 0 comments

Friday, March 11, 2005

More drama in the Mexican labor movement

I can't recall if I've written about this before. Over the last year and a half, a significant number of the unions associated with the FSTSE (the official federation of unions of government employees) have left the FSTSE. They applied for formal recognition as a new Federation of unions of government workers, and were approved recently by the Secretary of Labor, who registers unions. That confused me, because according to the 1938 law that regulates government employees, all government employee unions had to belong to one federation. This was a tool of control. Well, that confusion was cleared up last week sometime, when I read that the case had been decided by the Mexican Supreme Court. The SC decided that the portion of the law that limited government employees to only one national Federation was an unconstitutional restriction on the right to organize. So the FEDESSP is now legal, and claims to represent 8 out of 10 government employees. That's a mass exodus from the FSTSE.

Of course, the political backstory behind the creation of the FEDESSP is more complicated. Officially, they organized to be the 'democratic' labor movement of government employees and to protest the way the FSTSE has not been militant enough in favor of workers' interests. (This last part is pretty true, considering the complacency of all 'official', i.e., affiliated with the PRI, labor unions). The backstory takes one of two forms. That the leader of one of the teachers unions Gordillo started the FEDESSP because of her personal differences with the leader of the FSTSE, Joel Ayala (who incidently, looking at my research notes from 3 years ago, has a not-so-nice staff and is difficult to get an interview with). The other version claims that Gordillo created the FEDESSP as a personal political vehicle. She is the PRI's Secretary General, and will become the President of the party when the current President (Madrazo) steps down to run for President of the country. (See a related article calling for him to step down.) It could be that both versions are true.

In any event, the article that prompted this post claims that the FEDESSP is now going to sue the FSTSE in court to take control of the FSTSE infrastructure (buildings, land, equipment, etc.). Since the FEDESSP is now claiming to represent 8 of 10 workers, they want the union facilities that correspond to those unions contributions. The article says that unions have already begun holding back their dues from the FSTSE.

posted by Michelle @ 1:03 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cardenas claims he's the only hope for the left.

That's the headline in an article from La Jornada based on a recent interview with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano.

For those that don't know, Cardenas was a PRIista earlier in life. His father was the famous leftist Mexican president, Lazaro Cardenas, who is usually credited with creating the tripartite (labor, peasants, middle classes) corporatist system of the PRI which helped the party maintain power for seven decades. In the mid-1980s, young Cardenas (though I guess he wasn't really that young even then) left the PRI with a group of other PRIistas, who were collectively known as the Democratic Current within the party. They were in part upset with the party's direction and that the Cardenas group was unlikely to have significant influence (i.e., get to pick) the PRI's presidential candidate for the 1988 elections. They were sore losers, so they left. Cardenas launched his own campaign for President, and probably won, except that the central vote counting machine in Mexico City 'broke' for a week, and when the final results were announced, Salinas, the PRI candidate had won with a narrow margin (less than a couple of percent). Cardenas was robbed of the presidency, or so many Mexicans believe.

Since then, he organized the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) and has run as that party's candidate in 1994 and 2000. In many ways, the PRD has been his party.

Until recently.

The current mayor of Mexico City, AMLO or peje or Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has become the most popular political figure of the PRD. Most expect him to be elected president in 2006, that is, if he's allowed to run. The Fox administration has been trying to disqualify him by accusing him of criminal activity related to an unfinished highway project in the city. The city government appropriated land, the appropriation was challenged in court, the court issued an injunction to stop construction, and allegedly construction was not stopped. AMLO has been accused of ignoring a court injunction by allowing the road construction to continue. For Professors Ackerman, this conflict has become a crucial issue for the future of democracy in Mexico.

Anyway, back to Mr. Cardenas. He's no longer the political cat's meow; he has been replaced by AMLO. And how does he respond? By saying that he's the only politician able to bring the PRD together and to win in 2006. How is that possible? According to Cardenas:

El PRD se va a presentar. No creo que haya desafuero. El PRD se va a presentar y creo que yo voy a ganar la elección. Creo que soy la única posibilidad que existe en la izquierda de construir una mayoría política en torno de mi candidatura....No es que se empeñe. Vamos a ir a una elección interna entre los perredistas y ahí habrá una decisión democrática.

He's referring to the PRD internal primaries. He thinks he can win those, and maybe he can. Maybe party members will remain loyal to Cardenas, though he's clearly not the most popular PRDista available. Or maybe Cardenas is confused.

posted by Michelle @ 9:53 AM, 0 comments

Sunday, March 06, 2005

President Fox's party, the PAN, is very happy with the announcement by the PRI that it has changed its party statutes to allow more private participation in the energy sector--the privatization of energy. In an article today in La Jornada, Fox's Secretary of State and a PAN presidential hopeful for 2006, Santiago Creel welcomed the change in the PRI, saying:

...que finalmente en el quinto año de gobierno de Vicente Fox Quesada el PRI se haya dado cuenta de la necesidad de abrir el sector energético y que ahora dé otro paso y nos acompañe a legislar la reforma del sector. Nunca es tarde; siempre hay tiempo para legislar...

It's never too late to legislate. Congress is in its last working session of the Fox administration, so there are going to be lots of last minute attempts to get stalled reforms passed.

The article also mentions that the President of the CCE (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial), the organization that represents several business associations, said the CCE was glad to hear of the changes in the PRI statutes and would change its lobbying strategy. The change in lobbying strategy is due to the wide variety of legislative agendas of the political parties, according to the leader of the CCE. They plan to organize their specialists into groups according to reform (taxes, energy, etc.) and then try to talk to the parties. They have formal meetings planned with each of the three largest political parties to discuss their reform agenda. Contrast this strategy with that of the unions, who are busy bickering among themselves and rarely hire private consultants to do studies to support their side of an issue.

In addition to energy reform, the Fox administration is heaving pushing a privatization of the public sector workers' pension system, administered by the ISSSTE. According to this article in La Jornada, Treasury officials have been meeting with members of the Chamber of Deputies in order to get them to support the reform proposal:
Según la Secretaría de Hacienda, los beneficios de la reforma al sistema de pensiones en el ISSSTE, manifestados en su propuesta, son los siguientes: "en un sistema de cuentas individuales, las aportaciones están ligadas a los beneficios, ya que la pensión para cada trabajador sería en la mayoría de los casos igual a sus contribuciones más los intereses; el sistema estará en equilibrio permanente y se elimina la trayectoria explosiva del déficit".

Se plantea un gancho para convencer a los trabajadores de que no abandonarán el actual sistema pensionario con las manos vacías. Se les plantea recibir un bono de reconocimiento a sus años de trabajo y servicio entregado a la administración federal.

It will be interesting to see whether Fox's administration is able to push this reform through at the last minute, too.

posted by Michelle @ 4:37 PM, 0 comments

Saturday, March 05, 2005

This weekend the PRI held their national congress in Puebla, during which they revised their platform and some party rules. The PRI is the political party that dominated Mexican politics and the state since the 1920s. It lost the presidency in 2000 for the first time in over seven decades. La Jornada has an article summarizing the main results of the congress.

The PRI is very divided right now due to a clash between the President of the party (Madrazo) and the Secretary General (Gordillo). The Secretary General recently founded a new 'democratic' federation of unions of government employees, which critics have said is only a political vehicle for the leader. She is also the leader of a current within the party called the Democratic Union, which has opposed Madrazo's candidacy for president. According to the PRI statutes, if the President of the party becomes the party's candidate for President (which most expect him to do), then the Secretary General automatically becomes the party's president. Since the Secretary General is such a controversial figure, many of the supporters of Madrazo do not want the current Secretary General to become president of the party when Madrazo becomes the party's candidate.

Apparently, members of the Democratic Union claimed that there were voting irregularities at the congress, including during important meetings of the rules committee. Some of the Democratic Union left the congress in disgust. Most of the rule changes had to do with candidate issues, such as whether a person who was elected to the Chamber of Deputies on a party list (rather than winning a district election) could be elected to the Senate in the very next election by the same means (and vice versa). The party also passed a law requiring those that want to be a party candidate for office to pay for their own public opinion surveys to document their viability and public support as a candidate. Though some complained that such a requirement would mean that only older and richer candidates would have the funds to run for office, the rules committee approved the new rule.

According to La Jornada, changes in the party's statutes also open the door for the PRI to support privatization of the energy sector, which is a contentious issue right now.

Other parties will be holding similar congresses in the next month or so, and conventions to choose their presidential candidates will occur in September.

posted by Michelle @ 10:36 PM, 0 comments

Friday, March 04, 2005

It seems that the new President in Uruguay is keeping some of his campaign promises already, including a package of economic relief for the poor. There's a follow-up article in the NY Times. According to the article:

As his first official action, Dr. Vázquez announced a sweeping "Social Emergency Plan" that contains food, health, job and housing components. The program, whose cost is estimated at $100 million, is to be aimed at the hundreds of thousands of Uruguayans who have fallen below the poverty line as a result of economic crises of recent years....

The new president's second act in office was to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Ties were broken in 2002 as a result of a dispute that began when Dr. Vázquez's predecessor, Jorge Batlle Ibáñez, suggested that human rights observers be sent to Cuba to document abuses there.

The economic crises mentioned in the text above were largely a result of the extreme economic crisis in Argentina. Uruguay's large neighbor had to devalue it's currency by 2/3s in 2001 and quickly went into a economic decline not seen since the Depression.

posted by Michelle @ 10:07 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Uruguay's new president has been inaugurated.

Today Dr. Tabaré Vázquez assumed the presidency in Uruguay. He is one of many leftist presidents elected in the last few years in Latin America. The most famous leftist president in the region right now is of course, President Lula da Silva of Brazil. If Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the popular leftist mayor of Mexico City is allowed to run for president in 2006, many think he will win. (The Fox administration has been trying to strip him of his immunity so that he can be prosecuted for allegedly ignoring a court order to stop construction on a road--near my work BTW--on expropriated land. News programs actually had segments showing the deserted road project and interviewed gardeners to determine whether the height of the grass on the cleared area was consistent with an end to construction around the time of the court order. It's enough for its own post.)

In an article in the New York Times (free subscription required), they make much of the recent election of lefties south of the border:

Uruguay's shift consolidates what has become the new leftist consensus in South America. Three-quarters of the region's 355 million people are now governed by left-leaning leaders, all of whom have emerged in the past six years to redefine what the left means today.

They are not so much a red tide as a pink one. Doctrinaire socialism carries the day far less than pragmatism, an important change in tone and policy that makes this political moment decidedly new.

The emphasis on pink is an important one because most of these leaders have been fairly moderate once in office. They may campaign as heavy lefties (and even Lula had to soften his edges this last time he ran), most of the president's mentioned pursue a slightly left of center agenda once in office. They do not expropriate industries, run up huge spending deficits, etc. Instead, they are very sensitive to market pressures and may even move more to the center than their constituents would like, just to make sure investors do not get spooked. In many ways, they have to be more careful than their conservative counterparts because the markets distrust them more.

Oh, BTW, one of the Dr.'s first acts as President was to resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been restricted three years ago. I guess for some that would be enough to paint the new administration red.

posted by Michelle @ 10:12 PM, 0 comments

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