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Latin America

All articles with the "Latin America" tag.

Published: Tue, 24 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:10:38 -0400


Students Are Bringing Capitalism to Latin America

Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:21:00 -0400

President Trump's move to raise "barriers to people, to goods, to services," says Gabriel Calzada Alvarez, executive president of Guatemala's Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM), "is a danger not just for Central America [but] for the U.S. and for the world." The great irony, Calzada says, is that the U.S. has benefited immensely from free trade and immigration and "now wants to raise barriers." Calzada sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest 2017 to talk about the impact of trade restrictions on Latin America, the changing role of higher education, and how students are bringing capitalism to the region. UFM, a private, secular university in Guatemala City, teaches free market economics and emphasizes the importance of intellectual debate on campus. "Being uncomfortable because of the ideas of others is one of the experiences you have to have," says Calzada. Edited by Paul Detrick. Shot by Justin Monticello and Meredith Bragg. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: You run a university in Guatemala that was established in 1971, and it's rare there because it's a private university. What is the essential mission of higher education in the 21st century? Gabriel Calzada: Well, I think in the 21st century, since you have basically all the content in your mobile device, universities have to move the focus from giving content–they have been doing this for many years–to creating experiences, interactions. We will see a shift from grades, from having focus in the grades, to have a focus in a portfolio of experiences that you can show. The universities that will survive are universities that will create safe space, but not safe space in the sense that we usually hear, that are places where you have the right not to be offended or bothered, but the safe places in the sense that you create a space where students can commit errors and can learn from those errors without the problems of these errors in real life. Gillespie: In the United States, a lot of the discussion and discourse about higher education has to do with this encroachment of safe spaces, of political correctness, of speech codes, and the inability of faculty and students and outside speakers who come to enrich the environment are not allowed to speak freely. Is that also a problem in Guatemala, or does it take a different form there? Calzada: Not at all. In Guatemala, students speak freely. We try to foster debate. We think that being uncomfortable because of the ideas of others is one of the experiences you have to have at the university. Gillespie: You're opening a campus in Spain. How will that help fulfill the vision that you were talking about, about having a portfolio of experiences? What will be going on there? Calzada: Going to a different culture is already a great experience, but fundamentally, going to a place where regulation has been going so far, so that the students can learn what are the results of big government. Then, of course, we want to offer the European public an opportunity to have a classical liberal, libertarian education that is currently very difficult in the European space. I think with the UFM experience, we can offer new programs that will be very original, very different from the type of programs that Spaniards and Europeans are used to. Gillespie: Does it make sense to talk about a direction for Latin America, and is that direction going in the right way or the wrong way? I mean, there seem to be so many different things. There's your experiences in Guatemala. There are certain countries that are liberalizing. Then there are countries like Venezuela, which seems to really be in very- Calzada: Collapsing. Gillespie: ... deep threat. Yeah. Then also in Brazil, as well as elsewhere, you see both good things and bad things happening at the same time. What is your sense? Is Latin America, which has gone through various phases of liberalization and then kind[...]

Venezuela: At the Edge of a Deeper Chasm

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 05:00:00 -0400

Guayana City, Venezuela—Once the Latin American country with the highest growth rate, now the poorest in the hemisphere, Venezuela is in free fall. Hundreds are dying from diseases, some of them all but eradicated, because of a shortage of medicines and vaccines. According to the consultancy firm Econometrica, 2.1 million Venezuelans are now eating from the garbage. Its citizens are at war with the military. The situation has so deteriorated U.S. President Donald Trump surprised Latin American leaders this past Friday when he said, "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary." Trump later added, "Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they're dying." The real enemy responsible for this lethal landscape is not foreign. This destruction has come from within. For almost two decades, Venezuela's socialist government has managed to undermine every institution that kept the country afloat. When Hugo Chavez ascended to the presidency in 1998, he had an agenda: Bring socialism to Venezuela, then export it to the rest of Latin America. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has continued the country's hurtle down a slope paved by the total destruction of the means of production. Indeed, he has managed to sharpen the slope. On May 29, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the National Assembly in contempt and usurped its functions. That unleashed a series of protests, which in turn generated a wave of repression that has so far killed more than 130 people and imprisoned nearly 1,400. Maduro declared victory at the end of July with an illegal election. The company that provided the voting system alleges that the results were tampered with. Sixteen people died violently on polling day. The violence, the repression, the assault on fundamental human rights, and the rupture of the constitutional order have prompted opposition leaders to defend two critical articles in the Constitution: Article 333: This Constitution shall not cease to be in effect if it ceases to be observed due to acts of force or because or repeal in any manner other than as provided for herein. In such eventuality, every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect. Article 350: The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights. T-shirt Soldiers The resistance is mainly composed of teens and young adults born under socialism, fighting to defend the country from what they believe will be the deeper abyss of communism. T-shirt soldiers, they call them. "Bubble" is a 23-year-old journalism student who set aside his studies for a "greater good." Raised in a leftist household, he grew tired of watching poverty take over everything, including his own home. Bubble and some 20 other resistance members call the place where they are entrenched "Mangokistan." Los Mangos—a residential area in the port city of Guayana, in Bolívar State, in the eastern part of the country—has become a place of perpetual war. The Bolivarian Intelligence Service has the area under surveillance. It seizes people on any pretense. Walking down the street can get you arrested. The area was recently attacked for more than 20 hours, just because the resistance blocked the streets. What they mostly resisted was the constant tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them by the National Guard. "I left my home because my parents support the government, when sometimes we didn't have enough to buy groceries," Bubble tells me. "Now I live in the different places of those who back us. The truth is that we are doing this because we are tired of seeing people starving and dying of the lack of medicine. Living under these conditions is feeling helpless, like we have no future. We do not follow opposition leaders, we are not politicians. We are willing[...]

Venezuela Reminds Us That Socialism Frequently Leads to Dictatorship

Tue, 04 Apr 2017 07:00:00 -0400

On March 29, the Supreme Court of Venezuela dissolved the country's elected legislature, allowing Venezuela's top court to write future laws. The court is filled with allies of Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, while the legislature is dominated by Maduro's opponents, and the court's ruling was seen as the latest step on Venezuela's descent into a full-fledged dictatorship. But following international outcry—as well as the appearance of cracks within Maduro's own party—the court reversed itself just a few days later, on April 1. Thus, the uneasy standoff between Venezeula's legislature and executive is set to continue. Last week's episode is only the latest reminder of the tendency of socialism to lead to dictatorship, as identified by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek in The Road to Serfdom. In 1944, when he wrote his book, Hayek noted that the crimes of the German National Socialists and Soviet Communists were, in great part, the result of growing state control over the economy. As he explained, growing state interference in the economy leads to massive inefficiencies and long queues outside empty shops. A state of perpetual economic crisis then leads to calls for more planning. But economic planning is inimical to freedom. As there can be no agreement on a single plan in a free society, the centralization of economic decision-making has to be accompanied by centralization of political power in the hands of a small elite. When, in the end, the failure of central planning becomes undeniable, totalitarian regimes tend to silence the dissenters—sometimes through mass murder. Hayek was fortunate enough to live to see the defeat of both the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes. Unfortunately, there are still places where Hayek's most dire warnings remain relevant. Nicolas Maduro's Venezuela is one such place. Beginning in 1999, when Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, became President, the government has played an ever-increasing role in the Venezuelan economy. Price and wage controls were put in place, trade was restricted, and private property was expropriated—often without compensation. Partly as a result of those economically illiterate actions (the fall in the price of oil, which Venezuela depends on, did not have such dire consequences in any other oil-rich country), Venezuela's economy tanked and public opposition to the ruling regime increased. Thus, the 2015 parliamentary election saw the opposition to Maduro's leftist policies capture a super-majority in the country's National Assembly. Unfortunately, socialism, in spite of its manifest failings and Hayek's warnings, refuses to go away. Wannabe socialists are thus destined to learn not from history, but from their own mistakes. In the meantime, ordinary people suffer. To give just one example, between 1999, when Hugo Chavez took over as President, and 2016, average per capita income in Venezuela rose by 2 percent. In the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, it rose by 41 percent. A similar story can be observed in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, Chavez's erstwhile friend, has been in charge of his unfortunate country since 1980. Since then, Africa's income per person rose by 48 percent. In Zimbabwe, a socialist dictatorship, it has declined by 25 percent. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. [...]

Colombia's President Urges Drug Peace While Accepting Nobel Peace Prize

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 09:30:00 -0500

(image) When he was head of the U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John F. Kelly, Donald Trump's pick to run the Department of Homeland Security, complained that marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado and Washington had made Latin American officials less inclined to participate in the war on drugs. But open disenchantment with the drug war among foreign allies predates the first votes to legalize marijuana in the United States. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for instance, has been calling for a different approach since 2011. Santos, formerly a hardline drug warrior, reiterated his readiness for drug peace on Saturday, when he picked up a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Colombian government's long-running conflict with the rebel group FARC:

We have moral authority to state that, after decades of fighting against drug trafficking, the world has still been unable to control this scourge that fuels violence and corruption throughout our global community.

It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States.

The manner in which this war against drugs is being waged is equally or perhaps even more harmful than all the wars the world is fighting today, combined.

Saying Colombia has "paid the highest cost in deaths and sacrifices" to enforce America's pharmacological taboos, Santos argued that it is "time to change our strategy." He previously said, "I would talk about legalizing marijuana and more than just marijuana." Similar sentiments have been voiced in recent years by other Latin American leaders, including Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, Uruguayan President José Mujica, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former Mexican presidents Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox.

How Bitcoin Is Undermining Socialism in Latin America

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:00:00 -0500

"People are driven by their self-interest [which is why] they're always going to use the best tool [at their disposal]," says bitcoin entrepreneur Rodrigo Souza. "And that's why I think technology is going to drive us to a freer society."

Souza has played an important role in the growing popularity of bitcoin in Latin America. In addition to being an outspoken libertarian and a popular YouTube personality, he's the founder and CEO of BlinkTrade, which operates the largest bitcoin exchanges in Vietnam, Pakistan, Venezuela, Brazil, and the second largest in Chile.

In the U.S., bitcoin is used mainly by libertarians and tech geeks, but, as Souza explains, it's catching on in Latin America solely for practical reasons. Venezuelans are using bitcoins to buy food and medicine from abroad, routing around the government capital controls that make it virtually impossible to spend government-issued bolivars outside the country. In Brazil, bitcoin users are escaping tariffs that can run as high as 60 percent.

In our latest podcast, Souza and I discuss how bitcoin is being used in Venezuela and Brazil, Souza's personal experience with inflation in Latin America, his libertarianism, and more.

Souza is also featured in my recent article, "The Secret, Dangerous World of Venezuelan Bitcoin Mining" from our January 2017 issue, and the video, "3 Ways Bitcoin Is Promoting Freedom in Latin America."

Click below to listen to that conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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3 Ways Bitcoin Is Promoting Freedom in Latin America

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:03:00 -0500

In Venezuela's capital city of Caracas, a hungry mob recently broke into a zoo to eat a horse. One cause of the food crisis is government currency controls that make it very expensive to buy goods from other countries. But Venezuelans are bypassing these restrictions using the internet-based currency bitcoin. And there are similar phenomena in neighboring countries. Bitcoin is catching on especially fast in Latin America because it gives individuals a way around protectionism and other destructive government policies that are common in the region. Here are three ways that bitcoin is promoting economic freedom in Latin America. 1. Bypassing Monetary Controls Rodrigo Souza is a U.S.-based entrepreneur and the founder of BlinkTrade, which operates the exchange for SurBitcoin, an online marketplace where Venezuelans buy and sell government-issued bolivars for bitcoins. SurBitcoin's monthly trade volume has tripled in the last year alone as more and more Venezuelans have started using bitcoin. An advantage of bitcoin is that while the government regulates and restricts the flow of money in and out of the country through the banking system, bitcoin circumvents the banks because it's an internet based currency. And now a growing community of Venezuelans are using their bitcoins to buy food from e-commerce sites like Amazon and The packages are routed to one of a handful of Miami-based courier services and then shipped to Venezuela, where they're delivered to the homes of people trapped in this starving nation. 2. Bypassing Tariffs When the iPhone 6 went on sale in Brazil last year, the price was so absurdly high that it became became a punchline on late night talk shows. The explanation for the high price is that the country charges an import tariff on foreign goods that runs as high as 60 percent. But again the government enforces this policy through the banking system. Today, a growing number of Brazilians are getting around import tax by going around the banking system to purchase products like iPhones. This way the government simply has no way of tracking how much Brazilians are spending when buying goods from abroad. Bitcoin is also an effective tool for avoiding taxes when moving investment capital into Brazil. Thiago Cesar is the founder and CEO of BitOne. The company helps clients get around a 27.5 percent foreign exchange tax when bringing money into the country by using bitcoin. And circumventing protectionist tariffs isn't just for investors. Average Brazilians traveling abroad will find that they're atomically hit with a 6.38 percent levy everytime they swipe a debit or credit card. Many have realized that if they use a bitcoin credit card from Xapo or Advcash, they can escape the tax altogether. 3. Cutting Red Tape Starting a new business in Brazil takes about 14 times as long as it does in the United States. And in the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, the country ranked a dismal 122nd. Brazilian entrepreneur Edilson Osório believes that bitcoin can help solve this problem—not the currency itself, but rather the database file where transactions are recorded in the bitcoin network. That database is known as the blockchain, and it's a computer file with a unique architecture that means that it can never be altered or tampered with. Writing information to the blockchain is like inscribing a message in wet cement. This incorruptible file, enthusiasts believe, has the potential to fill the void left by Latin America's weak government institutions. For example, in Honduras, one company has explored moving land titles from ancient paper volumes to the bitcoin blockchain where citizens of the country can verify that they haven't been secretly altered. (The project later stalled.) Osório has a similar vision for how the blockchain can provide the trust that's sometimes missing from Brazil's government institutions. Specifically, his idea is to use the blockchain to disrupt [...]

Giancarlo Ibarguen, R.I.P.

Wed, 09 Mar 2016 14:08:00 -0500

Giancarlo Ibarguen, leader of the Guatemalan Universidad Francisco Marroquin, has died.


Ivan Osorio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes on Ibarguen's contributions to the cause of liberty:

He helped build UFM into a major institution dedicated to the ideas of liberty...[UFM is] A full-fledged university, since its founding in 1971, UFM sought not only to eschew the Marxist economic theories that were in fashion then (even more than today, and especially in Latin America), but to revive the study of the great classical liberal thinkers.

In addition to his pioneering work in higher education, Giancarlo also played a critical role in advancing liberalization in telecommunications in Guatemala, helping to create a dynamic competitive telecom market.

Michael Strong, an activist in the "startup cities" movement that Ibarguen was a big player in (he co-founded the Startup Cities Institute), eulogizes him on Strong's Facebook:

While being a quiet, honest, doer he was also an amazing intellect, an engineer who had read as widely as anyone I know. I would mention relatively esoteric corners of the world of thought (e.g. the intersection of the work of Donald T. Campbell and that of Hayek), and Gianca was one of the very few people who, of course, had already read the relevant thinkers and thought about these connections himself.

I have known a dozen Nobel laureates, a dozen billionaires, dozens of CEOs, a couple of MacArthur "Genius" Award winners, and more. While not as high profile as many of these people, as a great human being, Gianca is in a class of his own. Beyond all of his worldly achievements, he was a warm, attentive, compassionate, human being with a sparkle in his eye and love for all that represented the true, the good, and the beautiful. He invariably took action to support and promote every human being who could contribute to the greater good.

On a personal note, Ibarguen was very helpful to me in guiding my understanding of the ideas and processes behind the idea of "startup cities" under whatever rubric, and the particulars of the efforts to launch such in Honduras, as detailed in my May 2013 Reason feature "The Blank Slate State."

Reason TV interviewed Ibarguen in 2011 on the drug war in Guatemala:

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How to Run a Drug Cartel

Thu, 03 Mar 2016 09:00:00 -0500

To understand how drug cartels work, we should consider the industry as we would any other that has to deal with regular business problems–how to hire the best personnel, how to handle the competition, how to deliver product to customers, and so on. That is what Tom Wainwright sets out to do in his new book, Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel. "Regulatory approaches that in the ordinary business world would be discarded for their ineffectiveness have been allowed to endure for years in the world of counternarcotics," says the author, a former correspondent in Mexico for The Economist. He cites an example from the Andean countries to illustrate how the supply-side fight to reduce drug consumption is absolutely useless. The cost of the coca leaf is so low compared to the high price of cocaine in consumer countries that even if intervention in South America were to double the price of coca, it would have only a negligible impact on consumers in the United States or in Europe. While travelling two weeks ago in the Mexican state of Sonora, local businessmen told me several people were recently executed in the nearby city of Ciudad Obregón–allegedly, a settling of scores between drug dealers. They confirmed what Wainwright observes: Violence in Mexico tends to be higher in those states bordering the United States and in those with major ports. Drug dealers fight to control these few points of entry and exit. Since supply-side restrictions have almost no impact on drug consumption, the author recommends opening more points of entry on the northern border. At least that would reduce the violence considerably.  In an illicit industry, recruiting low-skilled workers is challenging because the jobs require discipline and a high level of trust. Prisons in Latin America have made drug traffickers' lives easier, since these have turned into virtual business schools, where the most experienced people in the business are put in touch with those interested in illegal activities. This is also where gangs gain strength, among other ways by requiring their members to get conspicuous tattoos to reduce the dangerous possibility of them leaving the organization. More than a decade ago, the Dominican Republic implemented a penitentiary reform recommended by Wainwright. The country has jails where gang leaders are separated from the rest of the inmates, fewer criminals are imprisoned, and real jobs are given to inmates, who are also allowed to keep a percentage of the earnings to share with their families. All of this reduces the convicts' dependence on gangs and helps them maintain contact with the legitimate outside world. Under the new system, only 3 percent of those who are released from prison are likely to commit another crime in the following three years, whereas there was a 50 percent recidivism rate under the old system. Wainwright describes how the homicide rate dropped by two thirds in El Salvador when the maras (gangs) reached a truce in 2012 so as to be able to collude in the domestic marketsomething that was undone when the next president withdrew his support, thus increasing violence once again. He also describes how drug cartels practice corporate social responsibility (church charity, providing public services, etc.) to maintain a certain level of support among the local population, and how the new competition resulting from marijuana legalization in parts of the United States is already taking away a significant amount of business (up to three quarters of the their current revenues, according to Mexican experts the author cites). Wainwright also predicts that when fully legalized, American marijuana companies will move to Mexico to export their products to the United States. That would be a more civilized world.[...]

Mexican Libertarians Use Social Media to Build Movement of Millennial Activists

Tue, 12 Jan 2016 10:35:00 -0500

A burgeoning libertarian movement is making its way across Latin America and Mexico is no exception, according to the PanAm Post, which recently interviewed Mexican Libertarian Party spokesman Francisco Javier Combaluzier. Although the party has not yet gained official recognition, said Combaluzier, "many citizens"—especially those in the younger generations—are getting involved nonetheless.  Asked about the "biggest challenges" for libertarians in Mexican society, Combaluzier responded:  There are very few of us who call ourselves [classical] liberals or libertarians, primarily because we are not taught to identify with these labels. There is little time devoted in schools to studying libertarian thinkers, philosophers, or economists. However, after talking to people on social media, we have realized that many agree with our views, despite not being able to identify them as libertarian. In that sense, one of our most important goals is to make people aware that their intuition of how things should be is actually rooted in libertarian principles. That way, they will understand why they shouldn’t be voting for collectivist candidates. Combaluzier said he's been inspired by the rise of classically liberal thought, activism, and even electoral successes in places such as Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, and Argentina. In Costa Rica, the Libertarian Movement Party—established in 1994—currently holds four of 57 spots in the country's Legislative Assembly. Combaluzier's emphasis on electoral politics in Mexico, however, puts him at odds with the Mexican Libertarian Movement, which seeks "to spontaneously bring about anarchism" and focuses efforts outside the electoral process, he said. And then we have libertarians like myself who believe we need to get in elections to achieve a peaceful change. We can’t wait for it to happen spontaneously, or by giving lectures that people may or may not attend. We think that in the next five years we can organize a critical mass of young people who are savvy social-media users, and create a movement that can draw considerable support. Read the whole interview here.  In America, Hispanic voters tend to poll almost as high as whites when it comes to libertarian leanings. In a Pew Hispanic Center poll from 2014, for instance, about 11 percent of all Hispanics, 12 percent of whites, and three percent of blacks identified as libertarian. There's some evidence this trend may be driven by millennials. Other recent polls found that while Hispanic Americans overall lean more Democrat than Republican, Hispanic millennials are much more likely than older counterparts to identify as independent (53 percent) and less likely to identify as particularly religious.[...]

Peace City

Tue, 01 Dec 2015 12:00:00 -0500

(image) In 1997, battered by their country's civil war, approximately 1,500 campesinos from San José, Colombia, established a zone they called the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartada. Henceforth, no armed groups would be welcome in their territory, be they leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, or soldiers and police.

In The Power of Staying Put, a monograph published by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Juan Masullo Jimenéz notes that 210 community members were assassinated in the ensuing years. But the villagers dug in, grew stronger, recovered a lot of the land they'd lost to the paramilitaries, and created a neutral, autonomous island in a civil war. Along the way, he adds, they created a self-managed community capable of "carrying out several state-like activities and building institutions...from which the state was left out." These functions include education, conflict resolution, building trails, keeping common areas clean, and running the local cacao operation.

Friday A/V Club: Advertisers Against Augusto Pinochet

Fri, 04 Sep 2015 10:50:00 -0400

(image) In 1988, Chile held a plebiscite on whether to extend the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The dictatorship lost. Pinochet reportedly didn't take that very well: According to Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall's book A Force More Powerful, he reacted by ordering his armed forces to impose martial law. But they refused to obey him, and he then agreed to step down.

The "no" campaign—that is, the campaign to vote against the dictatorship—was the subject of a feature film a few years ago, Pablo Larraín's No. I haven't seen that, so I can't speak to how good it is. (For an interesting critique of it, go here.) But I've seen some of the no team's TV ads, thanks to the fact that I was taking Spanish as an undergrad at the University of Michigan when the plebiscite took place. And they're probably not the sort of things that come to mind when you hear the phrase "protesting a right-wing Latin American dictatorship."

There were, to be sure, overtly political spots that highlighted the human rights abuses of the Pinochet regime. But the most iconic ads looked like this:

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If you told your friends that was a Chilean coffee commercial, they'd probably believe you. Compare it to other short films of the late '80s and early '90s, and you might get the impression there was some sort of global House Style that everyone felt the need to follow, whether they were promoting Soviet nostalgia or an American steakhouse. But there's a more direct reason why the spot looks like that: Some consultants from the U.S. helped with the campaign.

Twenty-seven years later, that ad doesn't evoke We're about to oust a brutal dictator so much as it says This is a transmission from the year 1-9-8-8. But it did help oust the dictator, so I'm not gonna knock it. Even though I've got that goddamn jingle stuck in my head now.

(For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

In Colombia's Civil War, Peasants Try to Build an Island of Peace

Thu, 03 Sep 2015 12:55:00 -0400

In 1997, battered by their country's civil war, around 800 peasants from northwestern Colombia "decided to protest in front of the government building and demand protection." And so they

(image) marched from San José to the city of Apartadó and established a temporary refuge in the city's coliseum. After some negotiations with a government-sponsored commission, they went back home and, upon their return, some leaders were assassinated. In view of this response, a group of about 1,500 San José villagers opted instead for self-organization in order to find a collective, campesino-based solution to the problem. After discussing possible courses of action, the villagers sought the support of external actors, stating their determination not to leave the village while, at the same time, opting out of war.

Inspired by a proposal by Monsignor Isaías Duarte Cancino, the then-Bishop of the Dioceses of Apartadó, San José villagers decided to formally declare themselves neutral to the conflict and establish a Peace Community. In doing so, they pledged not to participate in any possible way in the war and disavow any form of cooperation with all armed groups, including the national army and the police. In addition, with flags, symbols, billboards and fences, they explicitly delineated and designated physical areas where Community members stayed, while armed groups, without distinction, could not enter or pass through.

That's Juan Masullo Jiménez writing in The Power of Staying Put, a new monograph from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. The reaction to the peasants' project—dubbed the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó—was violent and sometimes lethal: 210 of the community's members would be assassinated in the ensuing years. But the villagers dug in, grew stronger, recovered a lot of the land they'd lost to paramilitary groups, and generally succeeded in creating a neutral and autonomous island in a civil war. Along the way, Masullo writes, they built a voluntary, self-managed community capable of "carrying out several state-like activities and building institutions...from which the state was left out." These functions include education, conflict resolution, building trails, keeping common areas clean, and running the local cacao operation, among other activities.

It's an interesting study, well worth a look. You can read a pdf of it here.

Bonus link: nonviolent resistance to the mob.

Are Republicans Having a Latino Moment?

Sat, 09 May 2015 15:00:00 -0400

width="560" height="340" src="" frameborder="0"> Originally published May 4, 2015. Initial text below: “You get all these rural Mexicans who hate the government, hate taxes, love guns, and love the liberty to get as drunk as they want. Perfect Republicans. But the Republicans will never know that,” says Gustavo Arellano, author of the OC Weekly's "¡Ask a Mexican!" column and author of the bookTaco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. “So there is that opening for libertarianism to get more Latinos that way.” Calls for restricting Latino immigration in the United States has damaged the Republican brand among the Hispanic electorate, says Arellano. Since George W. Bush won over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote after declaring that “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande,” Republicans lost that same segment to President Obama in 2012 by a two-to-one margin.  The GOP is hoping the 2016 election will bring Hispanics back to the conservative fold by offering up not one, but two Hispanic candidates—Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—for the presidential nomination.  But Arellano says that Cruz and Rubio are probably the worst candidates to attract Hispanic voters.  “Ted Cruz—I kind of feel bad for him because people make fun of him for not speaking Spanish. But a lot of people making fun of him for that also can’t speak Spanish,” says Arellano. “So I feel some sympathy for the guy, but I feel that people view him as being too much of a wonk to be president.” “On the other hand,” says Arellano, “Rubio is the Great Brown Hope for the GOP, but there’s just something about him that rubs Latinos the wrong way. He’s just a little bit too preachy and precious for everyone’s taste.” Aside from personal traits, another possible sticking point is the Cuban heritage of Rubio and Cruz.  “Mexicans, we love Cubans. We love the boxers. We love the baseball players. We love the singers. But when it comes to the political side of the Cuban-American experience, we despise them,” says Arellano. The problem, he says, stems from the "wet-foot, dry-foot policy" during the Cold War which automatically granted citizenship or refugee status that made it to American soil. “On the other hand, Mexicans—for over a century—we’ve been coming here, not only for jobs but also fleeing violence in our homeland…and fleeing economic desperation and yet we were always classified as illegals.” “There is no way someone who thinks of Mexicans as human beings will win the Republican nomination. Ever,” states Arellano. “What the Republicans need to learn if they want to stay a viable party that is they have to learn Mexicans are human. Undocumented people are human.” Yet Republican repugnance isn't the end of the story. The Democrats' policy of deportation—despite recent steps, Barack Obama has deported a record number of Hispanics—has left Hispanics in search of a political alternative. That, says Arellano, creates a giant opportunity for libertarians in both major parties. “Young Latinos, like all young people, hate both the Democrats and the Republicans. They hate the Republicans because they demonize Latinos. They hate the Democrats because they deport Latinos. So there’s no way on earth we want to stay with either of these parties.” His statements pan out. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that almost as many Hispanic Americans identify as libertarian as do whites.  “The great thing for me about a Latino identity is that you make it what you want of yourself,” says Arellano. “There’s this great line that an artist once said th[...]

Ending the Global Drug War: Voices from the Front Lines

Sun, 14 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400

width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"> As noted by Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy (which includes several Latin American ex-Presidents and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) issued a report called "Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work." Included were recommendations for forms of drug legalization, regulation and decriminalization of personal use. Sullum's takeaway from the report:  Citing "the horrific unintended consequences of punitive and prohibitionist laws and policies," Annan et al. argue that "harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies must be replaced by more humane and effective policies shaped by scientific evidence, public health principles and human rights standards." In contrast with the Obama administration's idea of drug policy reform, the commission says force is not an appropriate response to drug use: Governments not only should stop arresting and jailing people who consume psychoactive substances that politicians do not like; they should "stop imposing 'compulsory treatment' on people whose only offense is drug use or possession." The commissioners also recommend alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders such as farmers, mules, and street dealers, urging law enforcement agencies to "target the most violent and disruptive criminal groups" instead. But they add that "the most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation." In 2011, Reason TV spoke with a number of the statesmen who had a hand in the report, as well as journalists such as Glenn Greenwald and Mary Anastasia O'Grady: "Ending the Global Drug War: Voices from the Front Lines" About 6 minutes. Produced and Edited by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Joshua Swain, with help from Seth McKelvey.?? Graphics by Meredith Bragg. Original release date was December 13, 2011 and the original writeup is below. “Ever since the War on Drugs, everything has hit the fan,” says Romesh Bhattacharji, former Narcotics Commissioner of India. Rather than continue the unnecessary and costly drug war, Bhattacharji advises the United States to simply "Relax, take it easy, [and] tolerate.” Last month, at the Cato Institute’s “Ending the Global War on Drugs” conference, Bhattacharji’s sentiments were echoed by ex-drug czars, cops, politicians, intellectuals, liberal and conservative journalists, and even the former President of Brazil. attended the event and spoke with a number of the featured speakers, including: Glenn Greenwald, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal Tucker Carlson, The Daily Caller Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Speaker of the House of Deputies, Uruguay Leigh Maddox, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; University of Maryland School of Law Enrique Gomez Hurtado, former Senator, Colombia Larry Campbell, Senator, Canada Romesh Bhattacharji, former Narcotics Commissioner, India Eric Sterling, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Harry G. Levine, Queens College (N.Y.) Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Cato Institute About 6.15 minutes.?? Produced and Edited by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Joshua Swain, with help from Seth McKelvey.?? Graphics by Meredith Bragg. For more Reason coverage on the Drug War, go here. For Cato Institute Drug War coverage and research, go here. [...]

Drug War Refugees

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400

As thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America seek refuge in the United States, some commentators are blaming American drug users. "If there weren't a lot of Americans seeking marijuana and heroin and cocaine," says former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, "there would not be a drug war." Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady seems to agree. "This crisis was born of American self-indulgence," she writes. If so, it was not the self-indulgence of people who consume arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants. It was the self-indulgence of prohibitionists who insist on exporting their disastrous policy to other countries. Although O'Grady mentions "rethinking prohibition" as one possible response to the flood of refugees, she clouds the issue by saying "the demand for drugs…fuels criminality." In truth, the government's response to that demand fuels criminality by creating a black market in which thugs violently vie for artificially high profits. That policy is one of the main factors driving the recent surge in unaccompanied minors making their way to Texas from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The number of such children apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) more than doubled in fiscal year 2012, from 4,059 to 10,443, then doubled again in fiscal year 2013, to 21,537. The Obama administration expects the number to be about 90,000 this fiscal year. In a 2013 survey by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 66 percent of children from El Salvador, 44 percent of children from Honduras, and 20 percent of children from Guatemala mentioned "violence by organized armed criminal actors" as a reason for leaving home. CBP notes that Salvadoran and Honduran children "come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the US preferable to remaining at home." In a recent Military Times essay, Gen. John F. Kelly, who runs the U.S. Southern Command, estimates that "perhaps 80 percent" of the violence behind "the mass migration of children we are all of a sudden struggling with" is tied to the illegal drug trade. That sort of violence has intensified in Central America partly because of crackdowns on drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, which Honduran President Juan Hernandez identifies as "the root cause" of his country's astonishing homicide rate: 90 per 100,000 people, by far the highest in the world. "Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala…have left near-broken societies in their wake," Kelly writes. "Profits earned via the illicit drug trade have corrupted and destroyed public institutions in these countries and facilitated a culture of impunity…that delegitimizes the state and erodes its sovereignty." The ills that Kelly cites—violence, illicit profits, corruption, loss of respect for the rule of law—are entirely predictable consequences of prohibition. Yet his solution to the problems caused by prohibition is more enforcement of prohibition—specifically, more money for interdiction, which he claims has been "wildly successful in a relative sense." Really? "With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply," a 2013 study published by BMJ Open concluded, "illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing."  Intensified enforcement is not just futile but positively harmful, fostering violence by destabilizing th[...]