March 22, 2017

Political Report #1235 Argentina's Never-ending Environmental Disaster

Political Report # 1235
Argentina's Never-ending Environmental Disaster
By Daniel Gutman, IPS

A view of Buenos Aires from the point where the Riachuelo flows into the Rio de la Plata. To the left can be seen the famous Boca Juniors stadium. Chronicles from 200 years ago were already talking about the pollution in the river. (Credit: Courtesy of FARN)
Is it possible to spend 5.2 billion dollars to clean up a river which is just 64-km-long and get practically no results? Argentina is showing that it is.

As the government admitted to the Supreme Court of Justice in late 2016, that is the amount of public funds earmarked since July 2008 for the clean-up of the 64-km Matanzas-Riachuelo river, which has been identified as one of the worst cases of industrial pollution in the world.

March 16, 2017

A Partial Peace in Colombia

A Partial Peace in Colombia
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC leader Timoleón Jimenez (right) shake hands after signing peace accords; Cuban president Raúl Castro stands in the middle.

By Kevin Young, Against the Current
In November 2016 the Colombian Congress approved a peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, potentially ending a 50-year armed conflict that has killed at least 220,000 people--82 percent civilians--and displaced almost seven million. The accord includes mechanisms for disarmament and reintegration of guerrilla fighters, lenient sentencing for those who confess to committing acts of violence, and an allotment of ten congressional seats for FARC politicians for eight years. Separate peace talks with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla force are now underway.

María Inclán and Paul Almeida: Surveying Demonstrations in Mexico

María Inclán and Paul Almeida: Surveying Demonstrations in Mexico

Protest crowd assembled in the main square of Mexico City (photo by María Inclán)
Dr. María Inclán, from the Department of Political Studies at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico City, and Dr. Paul Almeida, from the Department of Sociology at UC Merced, were awarded a 2011 UC MEXUS-CONACYT Collaborative Grant to launch the pilot project, “Surveying Demonstrations in México,” for which they interviewed protest participants and non-participants. The research integrates into a larger international project, “Caught in the Act of Protest: Contextualizing Contestation” (, that seeks to create an inter-university network of research teams interested in collective action and protest surveying. So far nine countries have joined the project officially, and Almeida has undertaken protest surveys in three Central American countries and is in the process of conducting them in Argentina and Chile. With the support of the UC MEXUS-CONACYT collaborative grant, the team of Inclán and Almeida successfully conducted four different protest surveys in Mexico City: the annual rally and march commemorating the 1968 students’ massacre in Tlatelolco, a May Day rally, a LGBT Pride Parade, and one of the marches organized by the #YoSoy132 movement during the Mexico 2012 presidential electoral campaign.

The collaborative grant enabled Almeida to gain additional funding from the UC Pacific Rim Program to collect protest survey data in Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica and Inclán to receive support from CIDE’s Fondo de Apoyo a la Investigación (FAI) for four more protest surveys in Mexico City during 2012 and 2013. In 2015, Inclán also organized a two-day conference at CIDE with representation from each of the country research teams with the goal of producing an edited volume, currently in the making.

For additional information and publication references, please consult Dr. Inclán's or Dr. Almeida's web pages or their collaborative grant page.

El Equipo: the project’s research team (photo by Paul Almeida)

Original article and sources can be found here:

March 15, 2017

March Issue, Urban Latin America: Part 2: Planning Latin American Cities: Dependencies and "Best Practices"


Urban Latin America: Part 2: Planning Latin American Cities: Dependencies and "Best Practices"
Edited by: Tom Angotti and Clara Irazábal
                                           Issue 213 | Volume 44 | Number 2 | March 2017

Urban planning in Latin America reflects the historic dependencies and inequalities of peripheral capitalism. These were amplified by recent neoliberal reforms in housing, transportation and social policy. This issue looks critically at urban reforms in these areas, the role of social movements and the emergence of "best practices" including social urbanism, bus rapid transit, bicycle infrastructure, and participatory budgeting, with more to come in the next LAP issue.


Abstract, Dealing with Dangerous Spaces The Construction of Urban Policy in Medellín

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Dealing with Dangerous Spaces
The Construction of Urban Policy in Medellín
by Luisa Sotomayor

In Latin America, cities with security challenges are increasingly invoking urban planning policy to rebuild governance in neighborhoods perceived as unruly. While the state’s “arrival” in marginalized areas is long overdue, it is also embedded in complex histories of violence and socio-spatial marginalization. Medellín’s Comuna 13 has historically been materially and discursively constructed as a space of relegation. Interview and focus group data show how policy cycles for Comuna 13 evolved from discretionary programs (1978–2002) to securitization and (para)militarization (2000–2003) and then social urbanism, a program of participatory urban upgrading (2004–2011). The latter, a reformist approach, aims to provide better services, foster participation, and reduce socio-spatial segregation. Underlying these positive aims, however, two contradictions remain concealed: deep-seated inequality resulting from decades of normalized exclusion and the perpetuation of a regime of hypersecuritization and (para)policing that recreates itself under new governance and spatial arrangements.

March 13, 2017

Political Report # 1234 The Long History of Deportation Scare Tactics at the US-Mexico Border

The Trump administration's first moves on immigration enforcement represent an unprecedented hard-line position, envisioning thousands of new agents, enlisting local police as immigration enforcers, making virtually anyone a priority for deportation, bypassing immigration courts, and, of course, ordering the construction of the infamous wall along the Mexican border. And then there is the president's own rhetoric equating immigrants with criminals - after campaign talk characterizing Mexicans as rapists, this week he referred to his immigration policy as a "military operation" against gang members, "drug lords," and "bad dudes."
Despite the emotionally charged rollout of these policies, it remains to be seen whether they will be fully implemented; the money and manpower required to do so would be extraordinary. There are parallels between Trump's efforts and previous U.S. immigration crackdowns, when rhetoric about "criminal aliens," hyped-up raids, and inflated deportation numbers created what was essentially a "terror campaign" in Mexican immigrant communities, says Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"I think it would serve us to do our best to fight back against the scare campaign" promoting Trump's enforcement operations, she said. "I don't want to suggest that the terror isn't real. But we don't want to inflate it. I don't want to fulfill Trump's vision of mass deportation by fueling the panic and fear."

Abstract, Urban Governance and Economic Development in Medellín An “Urban Miracle”?

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Urban Governance and Economic Development in Medellín An “Urban Miracle”?
by Tobias Franz

Many of the academic analyses calling Medellín’s development an “urban miracle” fall short with regard to discussion of the political economic implications of institutional shifts. An emerging transnational capitalist class promoted ‘good governance’ reforms and the embedding of neoliberalism in the urban context. Medellín’s neoliberal development agenda is not only a market-led strategy but also a particular form of hierarchic rule and distribution of power. Increased economic activities in the tertiary sector, the promotion of flexible labor markets, and the incorporation of the city into the global economy at the lower end of the value chain have not served as sustainable growth escalators for Medellín’s economy. The city continues to have high rates of un- and underemployment and is still the country’s most unequal city. These developments can by no means be described as miraculous.

March 10, 2017

Abstract, Failed Markets The Crisis in the Private Production of Social Housing in Mexico

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Failed Markets
The Crisis in the Private Production of Social Housing in Mexico
by Alfonso Valenzuela Aguilera

A confluence between the state, the housing market, and the rationale of financial capital has led to excessive growth of social housing in Mexico in the past two decades. This growth has been one way of channeling excess capital into global financial markets rather than the result of a public policy to address the housing needs of the low-income population.

March 9, 2017

Abstract, The Future of Global Peripheral Cities

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The Future of Global Peripheral Cities
by Erminia Maricato

In June 2013 an unprecedented movement spearheaded by young people took to the streets of Brazilian cities. Despite the diversity of explanations of the protests, one thing became clear: the urban question was at the center of events. Brazil has become an international role model for its innovations in social policy and even urban policy. There have been social struggles for a democratic city. New policies, new programs, new projects, and a Ministry of Cities have been created. This democratic and participatory process has taken place in the context of fiscal adjustment and therefore contention over resources. When the federal government resumed investment in cities following a developmentalist project, capital linked to the production of space took over the leadership of the urban process and the virtuous cycle of urban policy declined. Investment in works directed by the real estate market in the context of mega-events such as the World Cup and the Olympics together with tax relief for the purchase of automobiles deepened the deterioration of urban living conditions, especially housing and mobility.