For most of the past decade Argentina had been the poster child of the IMF and Wall Street. No developing country in the 1990s had opened its financial markets more avidly, or privatized its state assets more fervidly. These structural reforms were supported by monetary reforms in 1991 that legally froze the peso/dollar exchange rate and tightly tied the money supply to the changing stock of hard currency reserves. To further gain Wall Street confidence, the Argentine government in 1991 announced a major foreign policy shift from nonalignment to an all-out pro-U.S. position–“in carnal embrace,” Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella sardonically put it.
“After our trip to Buenos Aires,” the investment firm of Merrill Lynch announced in early July, “our main impression is that the risks of a spiraling of the crisis in Argentina have increased.” Investors took the warning to heart. On July 11, in its efforts to raise funds on the bond market, the Argentine government was forced to offer interest rates of 14% on its three month bonds; only two weeks earlier, investors had demanded only 9% for similar bonds.
En la recta final hacia la Conferencia MundialIrene León
The Bush administration may think that it has struck a blow in favor of the Second Amendment by attempting to sabotage the recent UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms. But U.S. obstinacy has consequences in all the Americas, most notably Colombia and the surrounding region.
In the coming weeks, Congress will begin to debate the wisdom of sending a billion additional dollars to the Andes region of South America. According to the Bush administration, this money–added to the $1.3 billion the Clinton administration sent–will help the U.S. in its war on drugs.
Seven-and-a-half years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect, the situation of Mexico’s migrant workers in the United States is still being approached as if it were divorced from the two countries’ trade relationship; and calls by labor, human rights organizations, church groups, and progressive political constituents in favor of a policy recognizing migration’s link to trade continue to fall on deaf ears.
The inability of the Colombian State to control its national territory and diverse armed groups is perceived to pose a threat to the other countries of the Andean region. The danger posed by Colombia’s internal strife is not a typical scenario of external aggression or inter-state competition. Rather, violence in Colombia is a post-cold war conflict with multiple actors whose nature and origins vary greatly. Colombia’s case defies traditional scenarios that emphasize the role of the nation state as the leading actor in the international system; in this conflict, many of the parties involve actors across borders, including peasants, military and police forces, guerrilla movements, entrepreneurs and merchants, border populations, human rights organizations, smugglers, drug-traffickers, and illegal crop growers. While some of these actors engage in violence, not all of them do, yet all are deeply affected by the violence raging in Colombia today.
Guatemala today finds itself in the midst of a deep social, economic, and political crisis after the failure to meet the expectations raised by the 1996 signature of the Peace Accord. The peace process, once heralded by the United Nations as a “success story” because it ended 36 years of internal armed conflict, is at the point of stagnation. On July 12, 2001, the UN Under-Secretary General Iqbal Riza, upon completing his visit to the country, called for a dialogue among all social and political forces to save and reactivate the peace process.
The 14 undocumented Mexican migrants found dead on May 24 after their smuggler abandoned them in the scorching desert near Yuma, Arizona, are among the most recent of more than 600 casualties due to border patrol strategies that have upped the risks of illegal immigration since 1994. These strategies squeeze Mexican workers into the most dangerous crossings in the mountains and deserts of California and Arizona, and into the proverbial Valley of Death.
Washington’s contribution to Plan Colombia has been widely criticized for its emphasis on interdiction and aerial eradication at the expense of alternative development in the areas where coca and opium poppy are grown. Alternative development, as conceived in Plan Colombia, is offered to small farmers (those with less than three hectares of coca) who voluntarily eradicate their illegal plants within twelve months in exchange for credit, technical advice, and marketing assistance as they switch exclusively to legal crops or the care of livestock. Although the bulk of alternative development funds go to crop substitution, infrastructure improvements in roads, potable water, sewerage, electricity, education, and health services are also planned for the long term. Critics of Plan Colombia, such as the European Parliament, have called for increased spending on rural infrastructure and social programs as an alternative to the military buildup currently underway. The Bush administration seems to be responding positively to these critiques, and has proposed more spending on alternative development in the Andean region.