About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Endemic Violence

In the last two weeks Public Radio shows "All Things Considered" and "On The Media" have either proclaimed (Ari Shapiro on ATC talking about Honduras) or let their guests get away with (Bob Garfield, On the Media talking about Rio) calling violence in Latin America "endemic."

These old stereotypes of the fiery, violent Latino who is born to kill and has no control of their emotions are as old as the Anglo-Iberian feud itself. "Those places" like Brazil and Central America are tagged as having been bathed in violence passed from parent to child and exist in a time warp of barbarism. When the media speaks of this violence as "endemic" it creates justifications for coups, assassinations, and general disregard of the national sovereignty of the nations of the Americas in order to bring civilization to the barbarians of the south. While one might expect better of outlets like NPR or PRI, they can often be as bad as a Wall Street Journal article from Mary Anastasia O'Grady herself.

C'mon, NPR, you can do better than this.

For further reading (I'm looking at you media types), see Phillip Powell's Tree of Hate or Greg Grandin's Empire's Workshop. Maybe even treat yourself to Duncan Green's Faces of Latin America or the classic Open Veins of Latin America by Galeano.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is Mary Anastasia O'Grady Really That Ignorant of Argentine Economic History?

Foaming at the mouth - this time with glee - Wall Street Journal Chicago-school huckster and snake oil salesperson Mary Anastasia O'Grady has declared that Argentina has entered into an era of "hope" because Kristina Kirchner isn't on the October ballot. Thus, a reign of terror has come to an end. As O'Grady barks in the WSJ (13 Sept 2015): "Biblical pestilence, plagues, fire, drought, floods, even skyrocketing prices are scary, but not more so than the continuation of the insidious kirchnerismo."

Of course, she goes on to say that all of Argentina's economic woes are the product of Nestor and Kristina Kirchener, that ruled in succession from 2003 to 2015. Kirchener, she says, "took office in 2003 as the country was struggling to recover from a currency and debt crisis." That is a really great way of saying a total economic and political collapse and four-year great depression caused by the economic shenanigans and crony capitalism of Carlos Menem - himself a convicted arms smuggler and bribe-taker. Even before Menem there was an incredible inflation crisis, and prior to that, the right-wing military dictatorship left Argentina with a massive debt before it collapsed. 

It burns me up that the right comes into places like Argentina and gives you a dirty war and total financial collapse and from O'grady you get it being called "a currency and debt crisis." When the left comes in and implements policies that pull the bulk of Argentines out of poverty - but that still fail to fix the overall problem's of Argentina's economy - it is worse than Biblical plagues. 

I don't think Mary Anastasia O'Grady is stupid - so I can only assume she is so doggedly wed to her narrow narrative of fascist-governments-licking-the-boots-of-American-and-British-bankers-and-massive-poverty-is-fantastic that she knowingly omits the past. Argentina has trouble of a nature that neither the right nor left has successfully offered the best solutions for. Instead of using her influence at the WSJ and with American capital to analyze the situation, O'Grady uses it to build more enmity between "us" and "them." Giving Mary Anastasia O'Grady a soap box to stand on is like those parents that took their nine-year-old to the gun range and gave her an uzi: too much power in the hands of somebody that just doesn't know what they are doing. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Puzzle Complete! Three Cheers and a Graham Cracker for Mary Anastasia O'Grady

The WSJ attack dog on Latin America Mary Anastasia O'grady has finished her floor puzzle. When in October of last year O'Grady went after Bolivia as some sort of commie-narco-fascist state, I mentioned that:

My guess is that O'Grady finally worked her way down as far as Bolivia with her Fisher Price "Nations of South America" floor puzzle and so decided to drop her discounted and tired theories on Bolivia.  Look out, Chile, she's coming for you next.

Congratulations, Mary! This autumn Michele Bachelet - elected for a second time after a failed experiment with rightist policies after her first presidency - is O'Grady's commie boogie-man. O'Grady lays out the case that because Bachelet is looking to lower the cost of education in Chile, it is stifling innovation and driving off investment, killing the "Chilean Miracle." If we peg Chile's economic "woes" (which they hardly are) singly to the president in charge (which I think is naive and foolish thinking for any political group to do), then we might need to take into account that:

- Chile's real economic "miracle" occurred with the return to democracy and the electoral success of center-left and leftist parties.

- Under Bachelet's first presidency, Chile experienced steady growth in exports, investment, and GDP.

- The economic "disaster" in Chile started under the Sebastián Piñera term which only ended in March of 2014.

Simplistic and foolish reflections like O'Grady's lead to knee-jerk reactions and, judging by the comments on her column in the WSJ, the auto-politico-erotic stimulation of reinforcing views already held on domestic economic disputes. Nothing learned, nothing studied, everything gambled.

I'd suggest that looking at a longer string of charts on Chile we see steady growth since the return to democracy (unlike the incredible late 70s early 80s collapse under Pinochet) with occasional market corrections. I'd suggest that the center-left and left investment in a social safety net that is turning poor Chileans into consumers has been helpful.  I'd also suggest that the domestic unrest experienced under Piñera warned off investors who are unrest-averse (as O'Grady herself keeps yammering on about regarding the rule of law in Latin America). That, and a number of difficult domestic natural disasters during Piñera's presidency have also caused economic challenges. Perhaps I should blame the "unlucky" Piñera for those, too - since we're down with O'Grady-style magical thinking these days.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Bolivian Narco-Islamo-Commie State: Folks at WSJ are Bored This Week

Somebody let Wall Street Journal fiction writer Mary Anastasia O'Grady slip the leash this week and she's arguing that Bolivia has become a narco-islamo-communist terror state.  She tried before to argue that Nicaragua and Venezuela were harboring terrorists headed to the U.S. (all tosh) and now she's put Bolivia in her rifle scope of malarkey.  My guess is that O'Grady finally worked her way down as far as Bolivia with her Fisher Price "Nations of South America" floor puzzle and so decided to drop her discounted and tired theories on Bolivia.  Look out, Chile, she's coming for you next.

So, what is the evidence.  Well, the phrase "unconfirmed reports" most certainly make an appearance, so let's skip those moments. She also states that there is a narco problem because a Bolivian headed for Lebanon was detained by Bolivian officials for trying to smuggle 392 kilos of cocaine to Lebabnon.  Wait... the so-called narco-terror state arrested a guy for smuggling and that is proof of a coordinated state-run cocaine money for shoe bombs operation?  Never mind her confusion of the use of the coca leaf for daily use and the refinement of coca for cocaine.

She also quotes "global security specialist" Joseph Humire's testimony before the U.S. Congress that Iran is using its embassy to convert people to radical Islam and smuggle people.  It may be uncomfortably straw-man, but Humire is a former Koch brothers employee and currently a member of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation which is dedicated to the spread of free-market growth around the world.  With Bolivia sitting on vast deposits of lithium set to fuel Bolivia's quasi-socialist dream with minimal U.S. involvement and profits (they are dealing with China, Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands), angling for reasons to make Bolivia a target of U.S. security paranoia is a comfortable fit for Humire (and, frankly, O'Grady).

Read the "article" here, and take a look at the comical video below where the closest we get to sourcing is the "I've heard stories" trope.


Monday, December 31, 2012

Protesting the Reform of Article 24 Continues

The news from Veracruz is that (mostly Protestants) were out in the streets before Christmas protesting the reforms of Article 24.  The fuss over this began back in late 2011 and early 2012, with opponents of the reform saying that any changes to the article would kill the secular state and provide huge benefits to the Catholic Church.  The reform - which would allow the Catholic Church to teach religious classes in public schools - has been under fire from protesters for nearly a year now.  It looks like with the new PRI government another attempt is being made to hamper those changes.  See here.

Before anybody in the United States gets too anti-Catholic about this, I would point out that California schools reserve rooms for religiously observant students to conduct prayers and religious club meetings, and in many western states like Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, LDS students can take "seminary" classes in the public school buildings during "release" time.

The reform would also make other changes, as well.

Además de permitir al clero dar catecismo en las escuelas, esta reforma le otorga la facultad para poseer y administrar medios de comunicación, participar en el ejército y la marina mediante capellanías y obispados castrenses, así como en la política electoral, ocupar puestos de elección popular y recibir subvenciones económicas del erario para sus actividades religiosas y las visitas papales.  (See more from this story here.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Whole New World ...

We have entered a new age... an age where politicians aren't afraid to think out of the box, color outside the lines, or draw new maps.  Maps, apparently, that lack the rest of the Americas.  "Fracaso" to both the parties for failing to engage the question of guns and drugs in the US relationship with Mexico, for ignoring Cuba, skipping over US coups in Latin America, disregarding the failed war on drugs through interdiction, and the apparently invisible economic relationship of intertwined labor and capital with this hemisphere.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chavez. Again.

As everybody that follows Latin America knows by now, Hugo Chavez has pulled off another electoral victory.  He's wielded the power of incumbency in a centralized economic state like a pro and benefited from the loyalty of increased state sponsored projects - not something that any incumbent can disitance themselves from.  I think, however, that he did himself and Venezuela a disservice on two fronts.

1) By choosing to run again he provokes a reaction that will dramatically seek to overturn his policies - which would undermine his entire project.  He also stifles a second tier of leadership that could replace him and creates another personalist regime in Latin America - and those are hit and miss on the legacy front.

2) Getting to the top required flinging a lot of mud - and he's going to have to work over time to clean that up.  For a comparison of Chavez to Mitt Romney, see this short commentary by the NY Magazine.