CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research

Multimedia

En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs The Americas Blog

la-blog-logo

Analysis Beyond the Echo Chamber

  FB-logo  Subscribe by E-mail  


New Report Highlights Rising Poverty and Inequality in Honduras Print
Written by Jake Johnston and Stephan Lefebvre   
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 00:00

A new CEPR report examines Honduras’ economy and finds that much of the economic and social progress experienced from 2006 – 2009 has been reversed in the years since. The paper shows that economic inequality in Honduras has increased dramatically since 2010, while poverty has worsened, unemployment has increased and underemployment has risen sharply, with many more workers receiving less than the minimum wage. While some of the decline was initially due to the global recession that began in 2008, much of it is a result of policy choices, including a decrease in social spending.

honduras-inequality-one-pager

Click for a larger image or check out the report, "Honduras Since the Coup: Economic and Social Indicators."

 
Honduras: Military Police as a Major Electoral Issue Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Thursday, 31 October 2013 18:46

The deployment of a new military police force, an initiative first proposed by National Party candidate, and president of the National Congress Juan Orlando Hernández, has emerged as an important contextual issue in U.S. media and analysis of Honduras’ fast-approaching presidential elections. Catherine Cheney, for example, wrote recently for World Politics Review:

Last week, in the midst of a political campaign that has focused heavily on public security, authorities in Honduras deployed 1,000 military police as part of an effort to address drug violence and organized crime in this Central American country, home to the highest homicide rate in the world.

The new police force is a demonstration of a central Hernández political campaign position in response to one of the biggest issues in the elections: soaring crime rates, and Honduras’ now infamous status as the “murder capital of the world.” As Henry Tricks wrote for The Economist:

…Mr Hernández has made security the central issue, even though polls show that the economy is just as much of a concern for most citizens. In relentless publicity slots, he accuses [LIBRE presidential candidate Xiomara] Castro of wanting to demilitarise the fight against crime (she denies this, saying she wants to use the military to secure the borders against drug traffickers). In contrast, he has put his weight behind the creation of a 5,000-strong military-police force, 1,000 of which have been deployed on city streets during the campaign.

Cheney cites experts who see the militarized police force as both poorly-trained and having a misplaced focus:

[Mark Ungar, a Latin America expert and professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center] said militarizing the police is harmful to both security and human rights, and diverts attention from reforming the police. “They’re not trained for security. They don’t know how to do criminal investigation or community policing. They’re trained to shoot,” Ungar said of the military police.

Read more...

 

 
AULA Blog on Venezuela Gets It Wrong Print
Written by Mark Weisbrot   
Thursday, 24 October 2013 15:33

On Monday, October 21, the AULA blog published by the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University had a post describing “[t]he dire state of the economy” in Venezuela that contained several errors:

  1. The authors state that “The opposition estimates an annual inflation rate of 49.4 percent.”  This is actually the official inflation rate for September 2012-September 2013, from the Venezuelan Central Bank – not an opposition estimate.  It’s also a sign that the authors are not familiar with the basic economic statistics of the country that they are writing about – in this case, one that was reported in all of the major news outlets in the Western Hemisphere a couple of weeks ago.
  2. Much worse, they assert that Venezuela had “a 29.9 percent increase in the poverty rate last year.”  In fact, Venezuela’s household poverty rate declined by 20 percent last year, almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas.  (The authors cite the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, but ECLAC does not have figures for last year, and ECLAC uses the same household survey data as the Venezuelan government, so it will show the same result in poverty when it analyzes this data. The World Bank has already posted the 2012 poverty data for Venezuela, showing the sharp decline in poverty for the year.)

Since the main analysis at the beginning of the article, about an alleged struggle between “pragmatists” and “ideologues” within the government, contains no links, references, or sources, the reader is left to wonder if this narrative is also fictional.  The piece ends with speculation about a possible military coup.

It’s true that most major media outlets have reached the point where there are practically no standards for reporting on Venezuela.  But this is a blog published by a university department, so we would expect higher standards than those of, e.g. Fox News.  There are plenty of haters around; in fact the vast majority of people who write about Venezuela hate the government.  It is surprising that this blog cannot find people who are better informed to express these views, or at least hire a student as fact-checker.

 
Honduras Elections: Violent Attacks Against Opposition Candidates Provoke Increasing Concern Print
Written by Alex Main   
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 13:06

Members of the U.S. Congress are keeping a close watch on Honduras’ upcoming general elections.  In June of this year, 24 U.S Senators signed a letter expressing concern about the human rights situation in Honduras and requesting that Secretary of State John Kerry “make every reasonable effort to help ensure that Honduras’ upcoming November 2013 elections are free, fair and peaceful.”  On October 15th three members of the House of Representatives chimed in with their own letter to Kerry stating that:

the freedom and fairness of [the November 24] election is very much at risk, as human rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly central, and ominous role in context of the election.

The House letter, signed by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Mike Honda (D-CA), noted that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras “had not spoken forcefully about the militarization of the police under the impetus of one of the candidates [or] expressed concern with the National Party’s concentration of institutional power through illegal means.”  The letter focused in particular on “the acts of violence and intimidation against leaders of opposition parties, especially members of LIBRE”, a new left-leaning political party that sprung from the movement of resistance against Honduras’ 2009 coup.  Grijalva and his three colleagues requested that the Department of State “speak forcefully” against these attacks and noted that:

According to COFADEH, Honduras' leading human rights group, at least sixteen activists and candidates from LIBRE have been assassinated since June of 2012. Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that the Honduras government has failed to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for these assassinations.

A few days later Agence France Presse (AFP) published an article that included an initial, albeit anonymous, U.S. government reaction to the Grijalva letter.  Unnamed State Department officials told AFP that they were also concerned about the police militarization taking place in Honduras, in the form of the new Military Police, launched with great fanfare by National Party presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández, in his capacity as president of the Honduran Congress.  The Military Police actually appears as one of Hernández’s five key electoral proposals on his campaign web page.  “In our view”, said one of the anonymous officials, “the creation of a military police distracts attention from civilian police reform efforts and strains limited resources.”  The State Department stated that it was not providing assistance of any kind to the new force.

Read more...

 

 
Are Honduran Election Polls Reliable? Print
Written by Joe Sammut   
Friday, 18 October 2013 15:02

The imminent Honduran presidential elections have been met with polls published by a surfeit of different polling firms. Unfortunately, however, these are notably inconsistent and show significant differences in their results. While the majority project Xiomara Castro, wife of the deposed President Zelaya, as the winner, there is a notable divergence in the size of the lead. In the scant coverage that they have given, the international press has paid almost exclusive attention to the polls conducted by the noted U.S. polling company, CID-Gallup.

Gallup has a lofty reputation in the U.S. as the first modern pollster. It accurately predicted the result of the 1936 presidential election by using modern sampling methods, and in the process destroyed the reputation of the Literary Digest poll, which had previously been considered the most accurate because of its much larger sample. This demonstrated the importance of representative sampling in order to reliably predict voting intentions. However, in Honduras, Gallup’s polling data has been divergent from actual electoral results, suggesting a bias towards the (right-wing) National Party.

This is important as Gallup is the most prolific, widely quoted and one of the longest standing pollsters in Honduras. In 2005, the last relatively free election in Honduras,1 Gallup in two separate polls predicted poll leads of 8 percent and 16 percent respectively in favor of the National Party candidate, Porfirio Lobo. These polls, coming just weeks before2 the actual election, were remarkably divergent from the actual result that Manuel Zelaya won with 45.6 percent of the vote to Lobo’s 42.2. This raises questions about the reliability of the recent poll by Gallup, paid for by the National Party controlled Congress, ahead of the coming election showing Xiomara Castro de Zelaya with a lead —within the margin of error— of just 2 percent.

Read more...

 

 
Militarization, Austerity and Privatization: What’s Happening in Paraguay? Print
Written by Sara Kozameh (guest post)   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:54

On August 15, Horacio Cartes, a millionaire, businessman, and alleged drug-trafficker assumed the presidency in Paraguay, leading the Colorado Party back into power after a four-year interruption from its 61-year rule by Fernando Lugo, who was deposed last year in a “parliamentary coup.” Cartes has been investigated by the U.S. government for money laundering and drug trafficking, according to this 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.

Since Cartes started his term eight weeks ago, several announcements have been made regarding Paraguay’s social and economic policy that are worth noting.

Militarization

Only a week after having taken office, Paraguay’s Congress –in which the Colorado Party has a majority in both houses– granted the president the power to deploy the military within the country to carry out policing activities. Despite opposition from human rights organizations who fear a return to dictatorship-era military operations, three days later Cartes ordered 400 military personnel to areas in which disputes over land tenure are ongoing. On August 28th the military entered an elementary school with demands to interview children on the whereabouts of suspected rebels and arrested several land rights activists and peasant leaders in the area.

The military powers granted to Cartes are especially alarming in a country that spent most of the 20th century either in political turmoil or under brutal dictatorship. The increased militarization of the Cartes regime is occurring in a context of growing discontent over public sector layoffs and privatization plans.

Read more...

 

 
The DEA’s Disappointing Response to Members of Congress Pressing for U.S. Investigation of Ahuas Killings Print
Written by Alexander Main   
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 13:37

Nearly 17 months ago, dozens of heavily-armed Honduran and U.S. police agents carried out a pre-dawn drug interdiction operation along the Patuca River that left two women, a teenager and a young man dead and several others injured.  There is no evidence that the dead victims or the 12 other individuals traveling on the same boat – six of whom were women and six of whom were children ranging in age from two to fourteen – had any ties to drug trafficking.  The tragic incident – which Rights Action and CEPR analyzed extensively in the report “Collateral Damage of a Drug War” – left over half a dozen orphans in its wake and deeply scarred the tightly knit indigenous community of Ahuas, where the shootings took place. 

As we noted in a recent follow-up report – “Still Waiting for Justice” – the judicial investigation of the incident remains woefully incomplete and neither the injured victims nor the relatives of the deceased victims have received any sort of compensation.  Particularly troubling is the fact that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which played a leading role in the May 11, 2012 operation, has failed to cooperate with Honduran investigators who have sought to question the DEA agents who participated in the mission and perform forensic exams on their firearms. 

In January of this year, 58 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concern about the Ahuas killings and asking for a U.S. investigation of the incident to be carried out.  A full six months later, the DEA sent the 58 members a response which made no reference to the request for an investigation and provided a description of the DEA’s role in the incident which contains significant inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims. 

CEPR has obtained a copy of this letter and is making it available online [PDF].  Here is the complete text of the paragraph of the letter that addresses the Ahuas killings:  

On May 11, 2012, the Honduran TRT, supported by DEA FAST, were recovering over 400 kilograms of cocaine when there was an exchange of gunfire between suspected drug traffickers and Honduran TRT members.  Although no injuries were confirmed nor injured persons identified immediately after the shooting, media reports and a report subsequently issued by the GOH stated that two men and two women were killed on May 11, 2012.  The GOH report also determined that neither of the female decedents was pregnant, and that no DEA FAST members fired their weapons during the May 11, 2012 incident.  According to the DEA’s Office of Inspections’ internal review, no DEA FAST members fired their weapons during the May 11, 2012 incident.  Contrary to media reports referenced in your letter, all operations conducted under Operation Anvil were led by the GOH, with support from DEA and DOS.  All operations are planned, coordinated and executed with input and agreement from DOS, DEA and the GOH. 

Let’s now take a closer look at the assertions that the DEA makes in this paragraph:

Read more...

 

 
New Report Details Multilateral Development Bank, U.S. Role in Human Rights Abuses in Río Blanco, Honduras Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Monday, 07 October 2013 10:27

A new report [PDF] from Rights Action examines the conflict in Río Blanco, Honduras, where the indigenous Lenca community has been involved in a stand-off against security forces and a major development company (Desarollos Energéticos, SA, or DESA) in order to prevent the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River. The report’s release comes just a few weeks after a court ordered the arrest of one of the most prominent figures opposing the dams, Berta Cáceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), on weapons and other charges that are widely seen as bogus. Two of Berta’s colleagues, Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina also face charges under accusations that they “had instigated the protests” that have blocked access to the project site for over 185 days, and Amnesty International has declared that “If they are imprisoned,” the organization “will consider them prisoners of conscience.”

The case has attracted international support for COPINH, the persecuted activists, and the Lenca community of Río Blanco, with over 11,000 people having signed a MoveOn.org petition urging the U.S. government to tell the Honduran authorities to drop the bogus charges. Protests have been held in several cities in the U.S. and various Latin American countries in support of Cáceres, Gómez and Molina and the Río Blanco community. "In Honduras it is increasingly clear that those who oppose a government plan may be imprisoned," Ana Marcia Aguiluz of the Center for Justice and International Law told the Associated Press.

The Rights Action report addresses the charges against Cáceres and her colleagues, concluding that:

The public prosecutor’s office and the judiciary have aggressively and tendentiously prosecuted accusations against Lenca community members, and the human rights activists who support them.  The state has subjected human rights defenders to penal processes for actions which are simply the legitimate defense of the rights of indigenous communities.  This has led to the impending imprisonment of one of Honduras’ most recognized indigenous rights activists, Berta Caceres.

Read more...

 

 
Petraeus' Statement on Plan Colombia at Odds With Reality Print
Written by Eileen O'Grady   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 08:45

Last week, former CIA director David Petraeus coauthored a column with the Brookings Institute’s Michael O’Hanlon hailing U.S. policy in Colombia as “one of the best stories on the national security front of the 21st century to date.” That same day, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stood before the United Nations in New York and recalled the more than 220,000 people who have been killed in the conflict over the past 50 years, emphasizing the “harsh and ugly reality of a conflict that [is] unfortunately, still in force.”

The juxtaposition of the two leaders’ statements points toward the U.S.’s ongoing focus on a militarized approach to the war on drugs, despite overwhelming evidence that suggests that Plan Colombia has been, according to Amnesty International, “a failure in every respect.”

Petraeus, a key driver of U.S. efforts to increase drone operations in the Middle East, touts Plan Colombia as a “success story” because of the massive increase in the size of Colombia’s armed forces and influx of new intelligence and targeting technology. Such measures for Colombia’s success remain predictably superficial, and are, moreover, divorced from the program’s stated aims to reduce cultivation and drug-related violence. While there has indeed been an increase in military presence since Plan Colombia’s inception in 2000, it has by no means been a victory for U.S. “security assistance.”

Read more...

 

 
Who “Calls the Shots” for NGO’s in Colombia? Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Saturday, 28 September 2013 11:13

La Silla Vacía, a Colombian news and opinion website, has been publishing top ten lists with profiles and full explanations on various topics to map the “most powerful” individuals and organizations in Colombia.  For example, there have been lists describing who has the most influence in congress, in negotiating land reform and rural land rights, and in shaping public opinion (hint: the top spot goes to a former president).  Yesterday, they profiled the most influential actors in Colombia’s NGOs and civil society networks.  Topping of that list was U.S. federal government agency USAID.* 

According to foreignassistance.gov, the U.S. government is spending about $354 million this year in foreign assistance to Colombia, of which about 98 percent comes from USAID and the State Department.  This amounts to a lot of influence on public policy mainly through funding dozens of NGOs, as the article from La Silla Vacía explains.  Of course, the term “NGO” is notoriously flexible.  As we can see common conventions dictate that organizations primarily funded by foreign governments –namely the U.S. government—are be labeled NGOs. 

From interviews with six directors or former directors of NGOs and two former ministers, Juan Esteban Lewin, the piece’s author, was able to get a sense for how USAID shifts public policy discussion in Colombia.  The amount of financial resources available through USAID affects which issues Colombian NGOs work on.  As they compete with each other for funding, the NGOs end up shifting their focus to more closely match USAID’s four main working areas (three of which are related to post-conflict peace).  On the other hand, since a good part of the funds actually end up in the hands of USAID subcontractors—the article names Olgoonik Technical Services, Management Systems International and Chemonics—the money flowing into Colombian nonprofits from the U.S. government agency isn’t as large as it first appears. 

The author quotes one interviewee as saying that international funders “call the shots” and “dole out prominence to local NGOs” (“tienen la sartén por el mango y le dosifican el protagonismo a las ONG locales”).

Read more...

 

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 9 of 26

CEPR.net
Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About The Americas Blog

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

For more information, sign up for our Latin America News Roundup or visit the archives.

Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chavez Colombia congress coup cuba DEA ecuador election elections Honduras human rights latin america Maduro media coverage mexico oas police Snowden State Department venezuela vulture funds world bank

+ All tags