CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

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Inter-American Relations

Inter-American Relations

George W. Bush pledged to focus on Latin America during his second term but shifted his focus to the War on Terror in the advent of 9/11. A heavy-handed approach towards the region, dominated by the simplistic dictum that â’‘¬Å“you are with us or against usâ’‘¬Â, and an overemphasis on militaristic and repressive policiesâ’‘¬‘€on drugs and immigration, for exampleâ’‘¬‘€generated widespread resentment. The rise of democratically elected leftist regimes both capitalized from and fostered the resurgence of anti-Americanism, leading some commentators to declare that the US had â’‘¬Å“lostâ’‘¬Â the region, opening it up to the influence of adversarial powers like China, Russia, or even Iran.

When elected, President Obama pledged a return to multilateralism, and offered to engage countries in the region as equal partners. He argued that the nature of the threats facing the Western Hemisphere in the twenty first centuryâ’‘¬‘€organized crime, environmental degradation, climate changeâ’‘¬‘€were beyond the pale of any individual country, and should be tackled jointly. This new rhetoric, accompanied by the recognition of a shared responsibility for the drug trade, given demand fordrugs and supply of arms originating in the US, created an auspicious moment for US-Latin American relations. Yet, tensions reemerged as policy differences became manifest between the US andregional powers, particularly with regard to the expansion of a military base agreement with Colombia and the handling of the democratic and diplomatic impasse generated by the coup against Zelaya in Honduras. Moreover, Obamaâ’‘¬’”¢s inability to move forward in any of the substantive policy issues most relevant to the region, from comprehensive immigration reform to the ratification of free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, created a sense of stasis.

The Obama administration did reverse Bush-era restrictions on travel to Cuba, eliminated the limits on remittances, opened the way to investment in key areas, and accepted the premise of a conditional return of Cuba to the OAS. However, it showed little willingness to go further in reversing the embargo, widely perceived as a failed policy and universally resented in the region. Obama has also further committed the US, through Plan Merida and the Central American and Caribbean Security Initiatives, to a war on drugs increasingly decried as ineffective and evendangerous. This led to claims that Obamaâ’‘¬’”¢s policies towards the region exhibit substantive continuity with those inherited from his predecessor. Nonetheless, regional polls show that the President enjoys high popularity in Latin America and that majorities now express favorable views of the US and its influence in the region, which suggests that the administrationâ’‘¬’”¢s efforts to appear more even-handed in its approach to the region are favorably perceived.

It could be argued that the US has little choice but to engage the region on this basis. While the US is mired in political stalemate and suffering from lackluster economic growth Latin America seems to be on the rise, enjoying an era of social, political, and economic success. Its governments are democratically elected, economic growth is solid, and strides have been made against poverty and inequality, often through the introduction of innovative policies. There has been a shift in global power towards emerging economies, which has enabled them to adopt a more assertive and independent stance in international relations, including with the United States. Still, challenges remain. Most economies in the region continue to rely excessively on commodity exports, fueled by demand from China, for their growth. Some countries have experienced a weakening of democratic institutions. And the region is still a long way from fully escaping the ravages of poverty and inequality. While the tenor of relations has indeed changed, the US will remain a significant and important regional player. This was evidenced by Obamaâ’‘¬’”¢s 2011 trip to the region, which was framed by the themes of respect and partnership. The choice of destinationsâ’‘¬‘€Brazil, Chile, and El Salvadorâ’‘¬‘€suggested a focus on likeminded allies with the greatest potential for mutually beneficial partnerships. For example, at least 10 partnership agreements were signed with Brazil during the trip,ranging from trade and energy to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, the administration avoided openly sparring with countries that oppose it, thereby attempting to move forward on the basis of mutual respect.

In sum, inter-American relations have evolved in their complexity. Integration has continued apace and there are broad areas of common interest and much to gain, but the rules of engagement have been altered. While the US is still the most powerful player it must now deal with more autonomous and assertive regional players that are increasingly willing and able to diversify their relations with extra regional players.

Key general research questions in this area include the following:

  • How will American interests in the region continue to evolve and what are the implications?
  • How might policy towards the region evolve, if at all, under the currently divided US Congress? What are the implications for the region of the presidential campaign of 2012?
  • Will the US continue to pursue a policy of partnership and respect? What are its implications?
  • What can be expected of regional integration efforts? With what consequences?
  • What is the future role of regional and sub-regional institutions?
  • What are the implications for Inter-American relations of the new found assertiveness and autonomy of regional powers?
  • What are the threats of rising arms purchases in the region and a potential arms race between regional powers?
  • Is there a danger of the resurgence of democratic slippage, or even authoritarianism? How might these affect Inter-American relations?
  • What are the greatest threats to peace and stability in the region?
  • What is the best approach to deal with transnational security issues like gangs, the drug trade, and other forms of international crime?

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Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay

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Join the Environmental Studies Program and the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University in welcoming Daniel Renfrew, West Virginia University, who will giving a talk titled Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay on Thursday, February 21 at 5:00 PM in the Stone Auditorium as part of the EVST Focus on the Environment (FOTE) Speaker Series.

Life without Lead examines the social, political and environmental dimensions of a devastating lead poisoning epidemic. Drawing from a political ecology of health perspective, Daniel Renfrew situates the Uruguayan lead contamination crisis in relation to neoliberal reform, globalization, and the resurgence of the political Left in Latin America. He traces the rise of an environmental social justice movement and the local and transnational circulation of environmental ideologies and contested science. Through fine-grained ethnographic analysis, this book shows how combating contamination intersected with class politics, explores the relationship of lead poisoning to poverty, and debates the best way to identify and manage an unprecedented local environmental health problem.

Daniel Renfrew is an associate professor of Anthropology. He received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Binghamton University, State University of New York in 2007. Dr. Renfrew joined the WVU faculty in Fall 2008 after a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Towson University. Dr. Renfrew’s research interests span the environmental, urban, critical medical and political anthropology sub-fields, and his research draws from and contributes to interdisciplinary scholarship on political ecology, social movements, science and technology studies, and Latin American studies. His research has focused in particular on anthropological and political ecological analyses of environmental conflicts.

CIPR Speaker Series Critical Issues in Democractic Governance welcomes Sara Niedzwiecki

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Join the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies in welcoming Dr. Sara Niedzwieckia as part of the spring speaker series Critical Issues in Democratic Governance, on Friday, February 22, in 110A Jones Hall. Dr. Niedzwiecki will give a talk entitled Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America. Social policies can transform the lives of the poor and marginalized, yet implementation often limits their access. By examining variation in political motivations, state capacity, and policy legacies, it explains why some social policies are implemented more effectively than others, why some deliver votes to incumbent governments while others do not, and why regionally elected executives block the implementation of some but not all national policies. This analysis combines case studies with statistical analysis of conditional cash transfers and health policies in Argentina and Brazil.

The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.

Dr. Niedzwiecki is an assistant professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2014). Her research focuses on comparative welfare states, multilevel governance, and Latin America. She is interested in the process through which social policies are formed and implemented in Latin America and beyond. Additionally, she studies the territorial structure of government, with an emphasis on the measurement of the authority of regional governments across countries.

Dr. Niedzwiecki’s forthcoming book examines the conditions under which social policies are successfully implemented in decentralized countries. More specifically, she examines how politics and capacity at state and local levels shape the implementation of healthcare and Conditional Cash Transfers. It draws from extensive fieldwork conducted in Brazil and Argentina.

David Smilde to join TULASO and debate team to discuss Venezuelan politics and US involvement

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Tulane Undergraduate Latin American Studies Organization (TULASO) and the Tulane Debate Team are proud to present a debate on the recent political crisis in Venezuela on Tuesday, February 26th at 8:00 PM in Jones 102. Professor David Smilde, the Charles A. And Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations and a Senior Fellow for the Washington Office on Latin America, will be participating in the event. Professor Smilde will be providing his expertise to give a background on Venezuelan internal politics while the debate will focus on U.S. involvement in Venezuela.

All are welcome to come view and learn from the debate as well as enjoy some delicious Latin American food.

Email Sofia Zemser at szemser@tulane.edu for additional information.

Follow TULASO on Facebook and Instagram (@tulanetulaso) to stay up to date on upcoming events.

Exiles within Exiles: The Extraordinary Life of Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary

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Join us in welcoming James N. Green for a talk entitled Exiles within Exiles: The Extraordinary Life of Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary on Wednesday, February 27, at 4:00 PM in Jones Hall 100A.

The talk is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Christopher Dunn.

James N. Green is the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Professor of Modern Latin American History and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Director of the Brazil Initiative at Brown University. He received his doctorate in Latin American history, with a specialization in Brazil, at UCLA in 1996. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and lived eight years in Brazil. He served as the Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University from 2005 to 2008. He is a past president of the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) and served as the President of the New England Council on Latin American Studies (NECLAS) in 2008 and 2009. He is currently the Director of Brown’s Brazil Initiative; the Executive Director of the Brazilian Studies Association, housed at Brown; and the Director of the Opening the Archives Project.

The event is sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Department of History.

Critical Issues in Democratic Governance: Spring 2019 CIPR Series

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Latin America faces major threats to democratic governance, but there are also new opportunities for grassroots mobilization and social policy expansion. In Critical Issues in Democratic Governance the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research will host speakers to discuss emerging issues that have surfaced in democratic governance in the region. In Brazil, the AIDS movement constructed a powerful new advocacy coalition, with coordination between bureaucrats and activities. In Argentina and Brazil, there are sharp contrasts in the social welfare policies that governors and mayors have implemented, with profound consequences for livelihood of the poor and marginalized. Finally, the outbreak of violence across Latin America, under democratic regimes raises questions about how criminal organizations compete for influence over transnational illicit networks and infiltrate the state.

Spring 2019 Schedule

February 8, 2019
State-Sponsored Activism: Bureaucrats and Social Movements in Democratic Brazil
Jessica Rich, Marquette University

February 22, 2019
4:00 – 6:00 PM
Greenleaf Conference Room in Jones 100A
Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America
Sara Niedzwiecki, University of California, Santa Cruz

April 5, 2019
Homicidal Ecologies: Illicit Economies and Complicit States in Latin America
Deborah Yashar, Princeton University

Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.