April 25, 2017

Book, Haiti: From Revolutionary Slaves to Powerless Citizens: Essays on the Politics and Economics of Underdevelopment, 1804-2013

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Haiti: From Revolutionary Slaves to Powerless Citizens: Essays on the Politics and Economics of Underdevelopment, 1804-2013
by Alex Dupuy

This title focuses on Haiti from an international perspective. Haiti has endured undue influence from successive French and US governments; its fragile 'democracy' has been founded on subordination to and dominance of foreign powers. This book examines Haiti's position within the global economic and political order, and how the more dominant members of the international community have, in varying ways, exploited the country over the last 200 years.

April 24, 2017

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.

April 21, 2017

Political Report # 1246 Authentic Hope in the Twilight of Failed Neoliberal Capitalism

In the wake of the most backward-looking presidential campaign in modern US history, it is now clear that we live in what the late sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman described as a "retrotopia," a society in which fear of the future has caused mass nostalgia for a past that never existed. The current retrotopian movement is a reaction to an institutional politics, on both the left and right, that for nearly four decades has posited the future as an inevitable continuation of globalized neoliberal capitalism.
In spite of being packaged in the guise of 24/7 wired modernity, this vision of the future is horrifying to voters because it is a formulation in which they do not matter. Tayyab Mahmud, director of the Center for Global Justice at Seattle University School of Law, notes that as the "iron hand of the state works in concert with the hidden hand of the market" to maximize profits worldwide, people increasingly feel like pawns at the mercy of deeply impersonal global forces over which they have no control. Nearly 1 billion people, Mahmud reports, are already considered to be a form of "surplus humanity" for whom modern capitalism has no use. Even for those who might not feel immediately threatened, incessant resource wars, the seemingly ubiquitous threat of terrorism and apocalyptic environmental degradation create a sense of subliminal dread about the future.
Donald Trump was the first major US political figure to talk consistently in the hyper-nostalgic language of retrotopia, and he did so using overtly racist, sexist and xenophobic appeals to paint a vision of a society in which the power of white men would once again be resurgent. This strategy, though not sufficient to secure the popular vote, resonated with tens of millions of anxious voters who heard in Trump's retrotopian fantasies a rejection of the idea that the only political option was a suffocating extension of the neoliberal present into the indefinite future. Rather than accept this neoliberal version of the future, even if it was sweetened with tepid incremental reforms, many of them chose to invest their hopes in the imaginary glories of an idealized past conveniently scrubbed of civil rights and environmental activism.

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.

April 19, 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.

April 18, 2017

Book, Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know

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Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Miguel Tinker Salas

Among the top ten oil exporters in the world and a founding member of OPEC, Venezuela currently supplies 11 percent of U.S. crude oil imports. But when the country elected the fiery populist politician Hugo Chavez in 1998, tensions rose with this key trading partner and relations have been strained ever since. 

April 17, 2017

Political Report # 1245 Amazon rainforest's final frontier under threat from oil and soya

Celso Carlos has made a modest living for 10 years growing manioc and coconuts and rearing poultry on a few hectares of lowland in Brazil's northern Amazon.
But three years ago, out of the blue, Carlos was told by an Amapá state judge that he had to move because his land had been bought by a businessman living more than 1,500 miles away in São Paulo. Within months, fences had been put up, and Carlos and other assentados, or settlers, had been forced off their land.
Carlos's land - along with hundreds of thousands more hectares across Amapá state - is the new frontier of global agribusiness. It lies unused for now but will almost certainly be sold on and used for soya production. The ubiquitous crop, which is part of most western diets and feeds billions of animals, will most likely be shipped as animal feed to the UK from a new Amapá port.
Having swept through Brazil and much of Latin America, causing ecological and social devastation by displacing people, ripping up the savannah and driving forest destruction, soya is now poised to do the same in Amapá, Brazil's least developed and most forgotten state, says Sisto Hagro, a Catholic priest.
Hagro, who works with the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) to defend peasant farmers' rights, blames government corruption and greed for what he calls a massive land grab. The state, he says, is illegally redistributing land bestowed on it by the federal government and moving existing smallholders to promote large-scale agribusiness. It is then legitimising its actions by changing its laws, he claims.

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.

April 14, 2017

Political Report # 1244 Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum for Facing Death Threats Detained at US Border for 60 Days

Mendez Pineda is seeking political asylum over death threats in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
Reporters Without Borders is calling on U.S. authorities to admit Mexican journalist Martin Mendez Pineda into the United States, detained at the border for the past 60 days while fleeing threats of violence in his home country to seek asylum north of the border.
In a statement released Wednesday, the group explained that Mendez Pineda, the target of attacks and death threats in his home state of Guerrero, has been waiting for a response to his political asylum request since Feb. 5.
While he passed the "credible fear interview" on March 1, which authorities use to decide whether a real threat exists, and would ordinarily have been allowed to enter the United States, he instead has been detained under "deplorable conditions," according to his lawyer.
"We call on ICE to release Martin Mendez Pineda without delay," Emmanuel Colombie, the head of the Latin America bureau of Reporters Without Borders, also known as RSF, said in the statement. "This journalist, who has been persecuted and threatened with death in his country, must be allowed to present his case for political asylum freely and with dignity before an immigration judge."
After covering a number of violent arrests made by federal police officers in February, Mendez Pineda, a former journalist with Novedades Acapulco, was attacked by these same police officers. Weeks later, armed men threatened to kill him outside his home. He then decided to resign from Novedades Acapulco, file a complaint with Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and flee to the United States.
According to the RSF, journalism is a dangerous job in Guerrero, with 11 journalists having been murdered in Guerrero since 2003. The most recent victim was Cecilio Pineda Birto, a crime reporter who was gunned down in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero last month.
The rest of Mexico is just as deadly for reporters - the country is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in the Western hemisphere.
Recently, the newspaper Norte was forced to shut down in the city of Juarez. Its editor penned an editorial informing readers of the publication's decision to shut down, citing the story of Miroslava Breach, a journalist from a city nearby who was shot in the head eight times while she was in her car with her child. The slain La Jornada reporter, who often collaborated with Norte, was left with a note by the gunman that read, "For being a loudmouth."
And just last month, a spate of other murders took place, with two journalists killed in Veracruz, in addition to the ones in Guerrero and Chihuahua. An armed attack on a journalist in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, also left his bodyguard dead.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that at least 38 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992 for motives linked to their reporting, with another 50 slain in the same time period for unclear reasons.
A recent report by the Inter-American Press Association found that 13 journalists have been killed in Latin America just in the last 6 months, with Mexico leading in the number of these deaths. Since last October, Mexico has seen 5 journalists murdered; Peru has seen three; Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, two; and Honduras, one.
Meanwhile, a new report by press freedom group Article 19, found that people who kill journalists in Mexico get away with murder 99.7 percent of the time. It points out that 2016 was "the most violent year for the press in Mexico" with a record of 426 attacks and 11 journalists murdered, the largest number in the last 10 years.

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