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Latin America



All Reason.com articles with the "Latin America" tag.



Published: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 03:41:04 -0500

 



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 Walmart.com. 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 Brazil's notorious notary industry, which is a major source of red tape. The government requires that Brazili[...]



Giancarlo Ibarguen, R.I.P.

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

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

(image)

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:

frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ETeDkZexhHg" height="340" width="560">




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:

width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H3Jph-eMjX8" frameborder="0">

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="https://www.youtube.com/embed/r7OZGtudqyI" 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 that my definition of an American is to be as Mexican as I want. So for me, my definition of Latino is to do wh[...]



Ending the Global Drug War: Voices from the Front Lines

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

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/a1dG-80D-2E" 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. Reason.tv attended the event and spoke with a number of the featured speakers, including: Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com 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 the black market. In fact, drug warriors argue that violence of the sort that killed some 60,000 people after [...]



WATCH: A Ride-Along With Guatemala's Volunteer Ambulance Drivers on the Front Lines of America's Drug War

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:00:00 -0400

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5U2CaOBoWHs" frameborder="0">

Guatemala is a major drug corridor between South America and Mexico. Narco gangs thrive in rural areas and along the southeastern border, while street gangs who profit from extortion, kidnapping, and bribery dominate the urban centers. As a result, the country's capital, Guatemala City, has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

This is the environment in which Guatemala's bomberos voluntarios—a phrase that roughly translates to "volunteer firefighters" but really encompasses a group of first responders who act as firefighters, ambulance drivers, and paramedics—operate every day.

When Reason TV visited the headquarters of Guatemala City's official, government-sanctioned and -funded first responders—the bomberos municipales—officals downplayed the city's drug and violence problems and insisted that Guatemala is a safe place to live and visit. But the voluntarios, who receive some money from the government but seemingly maintain enough independence to avoid the same level of political pressure, had a different story to tell.

"The municipal bomberos receive funding from the government and the municipality," says Herber Diaz, one of the few paid, full-time paramedics on the force. "They have more equipment, and more people. But the trust the people have in us is there because we do everything. They're selective in their job." 

Watch the above video for an intense look inside the world of Guatemala's volunteer bomberos, a group of men who on a daily basis save lives, race along treacherous roads where motorists are slow to pull over, and witness the results of cold-blooded executions on the city streets, all in a country with a government corrupted by organized crime, and all for little or no pay.

Click the link below for downloadable versions of this video.

Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Field Production by Ross Kenyon and Zachary Caceres. Music by Chris Zabriskie (http://chriszabriskie.com).




A Ride-Along With Guatemala's Volunteer Ambulance Drivers on the Front Lines of America's Drug War

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 09:30:00 -0400

Guatemala is a major drug corridor between South America and Mexico. Narco gangs thrive in rural areas and along the southeastern border, while street gangs who profit from extortion, kidnapping, and bribery dominate the urban centers. As a result, the country's capital, Guatemala City, has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

This is the environment in which Guatemala's bomberos voluntarios—a phrase that roughly translates to "volunteer firefighters" but really encompasses a group of first responders who act as firefighters, ambulance drivers, and paramedics—operate every day.

When Reason TV visited the headquarters of Guatemala City's official, government-sanctioned and -funded first responders—the bomberos municipales—officals downplayed the city's drug and violence problems and insisted that Guatemala is a safe place to live and visit. But the voluntarios, who receive some money from the government but seemingly maintain enough independence to avoid the same level of political pressure, had a different story to tell.

"The municipal bomberos receive funding from the government and the municipality," says Herber Diaz, one of the few paid, full-time paramedics on the force. "They have more equipment, and more people. But the trust the people have in us is there because we do everything. They're selective in their job." 

Watch the above video for an intense look inside the world of Guatemala's volunteer bomberos, a group of men who on a daily basis save lives, race along treacherous roads where motorists are slow to pull over, and witness the results of cold-blooded executions on the city streets, all in a country with a government corrupted by organized crime, and all for little or no pay.

Scroll down for downloadable versions of this video.

Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Field Production by Ross Kenyon and Zachary Caceres. Music by Chris Zabriskie (http://chriszabriskie.com).




The Superpower Should Retire

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:03:00 -0400

This afternoon President Barack Obama announced that he is sending "up to 300" troops to Iraq—not for combat, he swears, but merely as "military advisors." (When I was growing up, in the aftermath of Vietnam, "these are just advisors" was a punchline.) The unreconstructed neocons are pushing for a much deeper intervention, with Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan editorializing in The Weekly Standard that we should "act boldly and decisively"—always dangerous words in the mouths of those two—by "not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground." (*) Meanwhile, Kagan's brother and fellow hawk Robert has been the talk of D.C. for the last few weeks, thanks to his New Republic feature "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire." The New York Times even tells us that the president invited him to the White House "to compare world views." Robert Kagan's article is, to be fair, a genuinely interesting document. It is deeply wrong, but it is wrong in an informative way: This really is how a lot of America's foreign policy elite sees the world. Its sweeping critique is aimed not at that familiar bogeyman, "isolationism," but at people who are "not isolationists" and "favor the liberal world order insofar as they can see how it touches them" but "are no longer prepared to sacrifice very much to uphold it." Its unexamined assumption is that our sacrifices have been keeping the world order afloat. "In the half-century following World War II," Kagan claims, the United States successfully established, protected, and advanced a liberal world order, carving out a vast "free world" within which an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity could flower in Western Europe, East Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. Although tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union sometimes rose to dangerous levels, the period was characterized above all by peace among the great powers. The United States and the Soviet Union did not come to blows, and just as importantly, the American presence in Europe and East Asia put an end to the cycles of war that had torn both regions since the late nineteenth century. The number of democracies in the world grew dramatically. The international trading system expanded and deepened. Most of the world enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity. There was no shortage of disasters and near-disasters, as well as the two costly wars in Asia—but the strategy was largely successful, so much so that the Soviet empire finally collapsed or voluntarily withdrew, peacefully, under the pressure of the West's economic and political success, and the liberal order then expanded to include the rest of Europe and most of Asia. All of this was the result of many forces—the political and economic integration of Europe, the success of Japan and Germany, and the rise of other successful Asian economies—but none of it would have been possible without a United States willing and able to play the abnormal and unusual role of preserver and defender of a liberal world order. Think about what's missing from that passage. Despite the passing allusion to the Western Hemisphere, Kagan says nothing about Latin America, where the effect of the Cold War was not to advance liberty and self-government but to beat them back. The space that the United States "carved out" there, to borrow Kagan's phrase, included several viciously repressive regimes, many of them installed with Washington's assistance. And the contested spaces were ripped apart by proxy wars between the eastern and western alliances. (As Kagan says, America and Russia "did not come to blows." But people [...]



Should America Open Its Borders?

Sun, 11 May 2014 09:00:00 -0400

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Does America need more or less immigration? Should we let the free market decide how many immigrant workers the economy can support? Or should a responsible government manage the flow of labor?

"Should America Open Its Borders?" is the latest from Reason TV. Watch above or click the link below for full text, links, downloadable versions, and more.