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POLSC324: Latin American/Caribbean Politics

Unit 5: Current Regional Issues   The final unit of this course concludes by examining some major issues that currently confront the nation: regional economic integration, the war on drugs, immigration (both internal and external, and globalization.  Economic integration among Latin American countries has long been a goal of many governments of the region.  Looking toward the European Union as a kind of model, the purpose of such integration was to not only achieve economic self-sufficiency but also to cultivate greater economic self-reliance in their pursuit of development goals and regional security. 

Since the independence of Central and South American colonies, regional integration has been attempted in various forms with varying degrees of success.  The goals of integration have included the promotion of regional trade, lessening dependence on the U.S., and creating a common identity and sense of purpose that would bind together the countries of the continents of South, Central, and North America (Mexico).  The first true efforts at aligning American interests across the continents did not begin until as late as 1826, with the Congress of Panama, organized and led by the visionary Simon Bolivar (founder of Venezuela).  Over the last 175 years, these efforts continued but were met with limited success.  For example, there have been over 20 region-wide conferences and conventions of the Americas designed to more fully integrate the two continents.  One reason was the resistance by the United States, which was wary of any efforts of Latin American countries to integrate, knowing that successful integration would provide a counter-weight to U.S. influence in the region.  Instead, the U.S. pushed for the creation of an organization in which it was the leader, creating the Organization of American States (formalized in 1890), with headquarters in Washington, D.C.  In 1994, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico entered the North American Free Trade Association agreement (NAFTA), the goal of which was to promote free trade on all goods and services in the North American continent.  The success of NAFTA then encouraged a more ambitious integration effort, known as Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), developed in 1998.  This effort, however, has floundered, especially after the election of leftist governments in several countries that sought to distance themselves from the U.S., such as the election of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.  Chavez is the leftist leader of Venezuela’s populist revolution, created the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (formalized in 2004), an effort to establish economic and security self-reliance independently of the U.S.  However, political tensions continue to play an important part in preventing true integration (for example, ongoing border disputes between Venezuela and Colombia), and the U.S. has continued to use its economic might and security concerns to prevent the autonomous integration of Latin America.

The next issue that Unit 5 examines is the War on Drugs.  The trafficking of illegal drugs (especially cocaine) and the United States’ effort to stop it has resulted in continued anti-American resentment, political violence and terrorism, social instability, and economic slowdown in the traditional (legal) economies of the region.  The War on Drugs pits drug cartels and leftist guerilla movements against the governments of the Latin America.  In the 1980s, Colombia was the epicenter of this war, becoming one of the most dangerous and violent countries of the world, with Medellin earning the dubious distinction as the “murder capital” of the world.  By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the main battleground shifted to Mexico, where today thousands of people are killed each year in drug-related violence.

A third major issue confronting the region is immigration.  As with all developing countries around the world, Latin American people are on the move: from countryside to cities, and from country to country.  By far, the biggest magnet for Latin Americans is the U.S., which continues to attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, people in search of economic security, better living conditions, and fulfillment of their dreams.  This vast migration is fueled by a series of factors, which push, pull, and facilitate the movement of people across borders, often in highly dangerous conditions.  In this unit, you will look at both the causes and consequences of immigration and how it affects the political development of the region.

Finally, the unit concludes with an examination of a new actor in the region: China.  China’s fast-paced industrialization and thirst for raw materials provides a renewed impetus for economic growth in the region and also provides a potential counterweight to U.S. influence.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 15.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 4 hours ☐    Sub-subunit 5.2.1: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 5.2.2: 2 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.2.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.4: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 5.5: 2 hours
 

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Assess the effectiveness of various efforts at trade integration as a strategy for achieving regional development goals. - Describe the impact of the USA’s “war on drugs” on the socio-economic development and political stability of Mexico, Colombia, and other Latin American suppliers of cocaine and other illegal drugs. - Enumerate the causes and consequences of legal and illegal immigration on the development of Latin America and the region’s political relations with the USA. - Explain the effectiveness of using oil as a political tool by the Venezuelan government. - Explain why China has become more influential in Latin America.

5.1 Regional Integration and Trade   5.1.1 History of Regional Integration Efforts   - Reading: United Nations: The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s “Historical Background to Latin American Integration” Link: United Nations: The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s “Historical Background to Latin American Integration” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article and take notes to answer the following questions:
 
1. When did Latin America take the first steps toward regional integration?
2. What were some of the obstacles faced in achieving regional integration in the 1960s and 1970s?
 
This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
 
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5.1.2 Challenges of Regional Integration   - Web Media: YouTube: The University of Chicago’s Latin American Briefing Series: “The Challenges of Latin America—The Importance of Increased Economic and Political Integration” Link: YouTube: The University of Chicago’s Latin American Briefing Series: “The Challenges of Latin America—The Importance of Increased Economic and Political Integration” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this entire video (59:26 minutes) in which Ambassador Charles E. Shapiro discusses many challenges faced by Latin America.  Ambassador Shapiro has held numerous posts in Latin American affairs and is a well-respected diplomat.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:

 1. What has gone well in Latin American during the last decade?  
 2. What are some current issues that create economic and political
obstacles to deepening regional integration?  
    
 This video and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the
webpage displayed above.

5.2 The War on Drugs   5.2.1 History of America’s War on Drugs   - Reading: NPR’s “Timeline: America’s War on Drugs” Link: NPR’s “Timeline: America’s War on Drugs” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Review the outline, and answer the following questions:

 1. When was the “war on drugs” declared, and by which president?  
 2. During the 1970s and 1980s, which Latin American country became
the leader of cocaine exports?  
 3. What were the main provisions of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act?  
 4. What was Plan Colombia (2000) designed to accomplish?  
 5. Today, which country is the largest transit country for illegal
drugs coming into the U.S.?  
    
 This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the
webpage displayed above.

5.2.2 Colombia and the War on Drugs   - Web Media: YouTube: “Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure” Link: YouTube: “Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure” (YouTube)
 
Instructions:  Please click on the “Watch Now” icon to launch the video, view the video in its entirety (56:24 minutes), and answer the following questions:

 1. Is the war on drugs in Colombia the most cost-effective method
for dealing with the U.S. drug problem?  
 2.  How has Plan Colombia affected Colombian society and
politics?  
 3.  What does the term “La Violencia” refer to in Colombian
history?  
 4. How is the war on drugs related to other violence in the country
conducted by the paramilitary groups?  
    
 This video and the questions should take about 2 hours to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the
webpage displayed above.  
  

5.2.3 Mexico and the War on Drugs   - Web Media: YouTube: AlJazeera English’s “Fault Lines’ Mexico, Impunity, and Profits” Link: YouTube: AlJazeera English’s “Fault Lines’ Mexico, Impunity, and Profits” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: In the 1990s, the epicenter of the war on drugs shifted from Colombia to Mexico.  This video focuses on the fate of Juarez, a city just across the border from El Paso, Texas.  Juarez has the highest crime and murder rate of any city in the world; the overwhelming cause of which has been the internecine war among drug gangs and cartels.  Watch this video in its entirety (24:32 minutes), take notes, and answer the following questions:

 1. On average, how many murders per year are committed in Juarez?  
 2. What percentage of the murders are investigated and resolved?  
 3. Why are so few murders resolved?  
 4. How did NAFTA contribute to the violence problem that Mexico
today faces?  
 5. What kind of solution/action is needed to resolve the violence
in this city?  
    
 This video and the questions should take about 1 hour to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the
webpage displayed above.

5.3 Immigration   - Web Media: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: The Immigration Issue” Link: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: The Immigration Issue” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this video in its entirety (27:53 minutes).  Latin America constitutes the largest source by far for immigrants, both legal and illegal, into the United States.  There are many factors that promote immigration: “push” factors are those circumstances in the home country that encourage people to leave, such as lack of jobs, low wages, high crime, political violence, discrimination, and poor education.  Immigration is also encouraged by “pull” factors in the U.S.:  high standard of living, relative stability and security, higher paying jobs, and the existence of family members who already live in the United States.  Finally, there are “facilitating” factors: the presence of long, mostly open land borders (especially with Canada and Mexico) and sea borders, as well as U.S. immigration laws that allow families to reunite rather easily or grant U.S. citizenship to any person born on U.S. soil.  The debate on immigration focuses on whether immigration creates a net benefit or cost to the U.S.  On the negative side, many argue that immigrants take away jobs, increase crime, and weigh down social welfare programs and schools with extra burden of support.  On the positive side, there are those who argue that immigrants satisfy the need of the job market for low-wage laborers, contribute entrepreneurial talents, and add to demographic and cultural diversity that is part of America’s “melting pot” culture.
 
As you view the video, take notes and answer to the following question:

 1. What are some of the proposed solutions to the problem of
illegal immigration offered by various speakers in the video?  
    
 This video and the question should take about 1 hour to complete.  
    
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displayed on the webpage above.

5.4 Petro-Politics   5.4.1 Politics of Oil in Latin America   - Web Media: Internet Archive: Tony Philips’ “The Politics of Oil in Latin America” Link: Internet Archive: Tony Philips’ “The Politics of Oil in Latin America” (Adobe Flash, RealPlayer, QuickTime, or MPEG4)
 
Instructions: This video (6 minutes) takes a critical look at the politics of oil in 3 countries:  Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela.  Tony Philips is a well-known British writer who is strongly critical of free-market capitalism.  As you watch this video, take notes and answer the following questions:
 
1.     Describe the tactic of “divide and conquer” that has been used by powerful elites to control the oil resources of Bolivia.
2.     Describe the tactic of privatization used in Argentina to give international business elites ability to control the Argentina oil resources
3.     Describe the tactic of coup d’ etat used by business elites in Venezuela in their failed attempt to control Venezuela’s vast oil resources.
 
This video and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
 
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5.4.2 Venezuela’s Oil Politics   - Reading: Council on Foreign Relations: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson’s “Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy” Link: Council on Foreign Relations: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson’s “Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this entire article, which provides an in-depth view of Venezuela’s oil politics.  Venezuela is the hemisphere’s largest producer of oil and has used its oil wealth for political purposes more than any other country of the world. Venezuela is not only America’s biggest supplier, but it also has the world’s largest reserves of oil in the world, exceeding that of Saudi Arabia.  However, the anti-American leftist President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has used his country’s oil wealth to pursue a number of policies designed to promote his socialist agenda at home and to strengthen his country’s autonomy with respect to the U.S. and abroad.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:

 1.     What have been the positive and negative effects of
Venezuela’s dependence on oil export revenues?  
 2.     What kinds of social projects have been funded by the oil
revenues?  Have these projects succeeded in reducing poverty and
inequality in the nation?  
 3.     How has Chavez used his country’s oil wealth to play a
leading role in regional integration in South America?  
    
 This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

5.5 China and Latin America   5.5.1 China’s Interests in Latin America   - Web Media: YouTube: World Focus Online’s “China Extends Interests to Latin America” Link: YouTube: World Focus Online’s “China Extends Interests to Latin America” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this short video (3 minutes) to learn about China’s growing interests and involvement in Central and South America.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:
 
1. Describe the challenges posed by the rapid increase of trade between Central America and China.
2. What are China’s main interests in South America?
3. According to Chris Sabatini, does China have military and political interests in Latin America?

 This video and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

5.5.2 China’s Challenge   - Reading: Policy Innovations: Kevin Gallagher’s “Latin America's China Challenge  
Link: Policy Innovations: Kevin Gallagher’s “Latin America's China Challenge” (HTML)
 
Instructions: From the Latin American perspective, globalization has created more opportunities for the countries of the region to develop ties outside the United States’ sphere of influence.  China’s hunger for minerals, oil, and other raw materials has given a big boost to Latin American exports and has helped them redress their former balance of payments deficits. 
Read this article for an overview of the growing ties with China, and pay special attention to the fact that Latin America’s relationship with China is a kind of “double-edged sword.”  Take notes from the article and answer the following questions:

 1. What kinds of products are Latin American countries exporting to
China?   
 2. Which countries of Latin America are benefitting the most?  
 3. In the longer term, why is this new-found economic relationship
with China potentially harmful?  

 This article and the questions should take about 1 hour to
complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: YouTube: USC-US China Institute: Kevin Gallagher’s “Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization” Link: YouTube: USC-US China Institute: Kevin Gallagher’s “Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the video lecture presented by Kevin Gallagher in its entirety (approximately 27 minutes).  Note that this resource corresponds to the article in the reading for this subunit.
     
    This video should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: USC-US China Institute: Kevin Gallagher’s “Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization” Link: YouTube: USC-US China Institute: Kevin Gallagher’s “Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the video lecture presented by Kevin Gallagher in its entirety (approximately 27 minutes).  Note that this resource corresponds to the article in the reading for this subunit.
     
    This video should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.