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Entries in LATAM (25)

10:04AM

The only solution to our immigration "crisis" that matters

In the 1950s, there was a scare (mostly in NYC) about the seemingly endless influx of Puerto Ricans (you remember "West Side Story" and Leonard Bernstein's attempt to dance the problem away?), but the stream thinned out dramatically when the local GDP per capita reached somewhere in the region of 40% of the US's number.  When it got to that point, all things being equal, PRs preferred staying in PR.

This dynamic is well know and has been pointed out many times before in print.

Point of these charts from WAPO story about how returning migrant workers are bolstering Mexico's middle class is that we are reaching that point on Mexico, where - commensurately and with no surprise - the birth rate falls dramatically.

No, it doesn't end the flow of immigrants from LATAM writ large, but the point is made:  as long as a huge opportunity disaparity exists, they will come.  If you want a more manageable flow, you need to whittle down that delta along the lines I just described.

From the story:

 For a generation, the men of this town have headed north to the land of the mighty dollar, breaking U.S. immigration laws to dig swimming pools in Memphis and grind meat in Chicago.

In the United States, they were illegal aliens. Back home, they are new entrepreneurs using the billions of dollars earned “on the other side” to create a Mexican middle class.

The migrants “did something bad to do something good,” said Mexican economist Luis de la Calle.

Where remittances from El Norte were once mostly used to help hungry families back home simply survive, surveys now reveal that the longer a migrant stays up north, the more likely the cash transfers will be used to start new businesses or to pay for homes, farm equipment and school tuitions.

From Santa Maria del Refugio, a once rural, now almost suburban, community of 2,500 in central Mexico’s Guanajuato state, young men have gone to the United States seeking the social mobility they could not find at home.

Their money, and many of the workers themselves, have since returned, as the U.S. economy slowed in the global recession. For the first time in 40 years, net migration is effectively zero. About the same number of Mexicans left the United States last year as arrived. Migration experts expect the northward flow to pick up again as the U.S. economy improves. It is also possible that as Mexico provides more opportunity for upward mobility, some potential migrants will stay home.

In Santa Maria, dollars scrimped and saved in the United States have transformed a poor pueblo into a town of curbed sidewalks, Internet cafes and rows of two-story homes rising on a hillside where scrawny cattle once grazed.

“Look at this place — it’s practically a city now,” said Roberto Mandujano, 50, who moved back to his home town and opened a hardware store five years ago. “There was nothing here when I left.”

Mandujano is a member of a new demographic in Mexico, the anxious, tenacious, growing middle class who own homes and cars and take vacations. They see the United States more as a model than an exploiter.

Another argument for the US focusing more on amping up growth across LATAM: If we want to grow long-term above what history says we should be restricted to as a mature economy, then the best way to achieve that is for countries in our neighborhood to be experiencing rapid growth. [NOTE: this is ultimately why China will need to cool it on seabed territoriality disputes, but no, this logic does not rule out Beijing's stupid behavior in the meantime - as humans have an unlimited potential for letting idiocy trump logic.]

The resurrection of cheap energy in the US is the lure we should use in such an integration effort, and yes, we should most definitely be thinking about adding more stars to our flag.

You either get busy growing or you get busy shrinking in this globalized world.

10:57AM

Chart of the day: Economist's listing of top 15 natural gas resources

On the unconvential (shale): the usual list that I work with, with the addition of Russia as #3 in world.  Most experts don't talk all that much about Russia because, with all their conventional gas, there's not a great need to exploit.

But the real kicker for me in the charts is the bottom right one, which is a stunner: by 2030 the projection that gas, coal and oil all converge in the high 20s as basically equal shares in world primary energy usage.  Several stories here:

 

  • Gas displacing coal (not surprising)
  • Long slow increase in nat gas production/use
  • And then the true stunner of such a huge drop in oil (about 45% in 1970 to high 20s in 2030).

 

Fascinating stuff.

8:33AM

Chart of the day: remittance "corridors"

From the Economist.

I just love global maps indicating flows - naturally.

What do we see here?

Per my vernacular, in sheer volumen we see New Core being fed remittances by expats living in Old Core.  But when it comes to countries relying heavily on remittances as percentage of GDP, it tends to be mostly Old/some New Core and it all pretty much goes to Gap countries.

Per my flow concept:  whatever the resource, it flows from regions where it is plentiful (here, earning opportunities) to where it is less so.  Yes, we think of India, China, Mexico as New Core and thus "made," but all share the reality of significant numbers of rural poor.  In truth, in most New Core countries, there is massive internal remittances flows.

What I love about this:  this is the best foreign aid there is, because people use it as they see fit.  

You may say to yourself:  What a drain on Core - especially US!

Studies have shown, however, that expats living in new countries spend something like 90% of their earnings in-country, sending about 1/10th home.  It's just that those flows still number in the billions, swamping anything we do on official developmental aid.

12:02AM

Chart of the day: You can import the milk cows. The water is another story

Fascinating WSJ piece on China importing cows like crazy to build up its dairy stock.

Since 2009, China has become the world's most important buyer of dairy cows, driving up prices for calves world-wide and putting pressure on other markets such as alfalfa and bull semen. China has imported nearly 250,000 live heifers, or cows that haven't yet reproduced, since 2009, according to data tracker Global Trade Information Services. Last year it spent more than $250 million on 100,000 foreign heifers, about 25 ships worth.

China old cows were European and it has a cattle ban on North America since the mad-cow disease scare in 2003, so it's buying up stock in Australia, New Zeland - even as far as Uruguay.

Story describes the setting-up of modern American-style dairy farms (our cows outproduce the world on a per-head basis), but the trick is the amount of fresh water they require.  All the places they import these cows from are relatively water rich (more global freshwater share than population share), whereas China is 22% of the world pop with 7% of the water.

Tricky business, that.

But clearly, the attempt shows how intent China is on continuing to try and remain food self-sufficient. China won't succeed, but it'll try like all get out.

12:02AM

Chart of the Day: Different listing of shale gas reserves globally

Previous one I had found (and used in brief) said:

  1. China 36.1 trillion cubic meters
  2. US 24.4
  3. Argentina 21.9
  4. Mexico 19.3
  5. South Africa (didn't write down because not in Pac)
  6. Australia 11.2
  7. Canada 11.0

Here's an old post that has similar 1-5 ranking expressed in tcf (like below), and the weird thing is, it agrees exactly with the FT numbers for China, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa but puts the US at 862.

This one, in bit FT full-pager says:

  1. China 1,275 tcf
  2. Argentina 774
  3. Mexico 681
  4. South Africa 485
  5. US 482
  6. Australia 396
  7. Canada 388

Big difference is US ranking/estimate.

Second one says EIA, as in U.S. Energy Information Agency, so I guess you gotta go with that one.  

Or is this just weird mistake by FT?

No mistake.  After some quick Googling it turns out the EIA said 862tcf a year ago and says 482tcf now, reducing its estimate of recoverable shale gas by 42%!

Betcha some industry experts refute that!

Will have to see where that number goes over time.

12:03AM

GM casts its global lot with Shanghai Automotive

Favorite subject of mine, that I highlight in the current brief: the creation of what fmr IMB CEO Sam Palmisano calls "globally integrated enterprises."

GM links itself up with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp to create a GIE that looks to take on Honda, Tata, VW, etc on a global basis while cementing GM's participation in China's booming domestic car market.

GM's tie-up with SAIC is considered one of the region's most successful. GM and its partners in China have a 14% share of the auto market, the world's largest. The company's sales volumes have grown 41% since 2009.

GM chief exec: "SAIC is the principal relationship that we have around the globe now [italics mine] and we expect that to be the case in the future."

GM and SAIC are now jointly eyeing exports to LATAM and eventual production there.

Amazing stuff, as GM impresses with its bold global vision and execution.

11:32AM

West Hemisphere way behind on integrating intra-regional trade

Per the 10 March Economist editorial on Latin America's growing fears about being recaptured by China as just a source of commodities (deindustrialization) and per the recent Wikistrat sim on North America's Energy Export Boom where we discussed, in one master narrative, the notion of NAFTA using the lure of cheaper and cleaner energy to re-energize the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative.

Now, you have to understand that this chart is misleading, because it counts intra-EU trade while not counting interstate trade within the multinational union known as the US.  If the stats were equalized on that scale, then the NorthAm numbers would be unreal.

But larger point about Latam's numbers being small (and presumably the W Hem numbers being commensurately low) is valid.  The US and the rest have not made the regional trade integration effort that is possible here, as South America is beginning to recognize its mistake is not pursuing FTAA.

People will paint this as de-globalization, but it's not a binary choice.  Globalization tends to push regions to up their regional integration for all sort of reasons, the primary one being the title of the editorial here: "unity is strength" in trade negoations.

But the long-term advantage here is substantial: if you want to grow, then you want to have high trade flows with faster-growing neighbors first and foremost.  China is doing that in SE Asia but US is not doing the same in W Hem, thus the strategic impulse now to go after things like reviving FTAA.

10:22AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Positive Narrative for U.S. Foreign Policy

Where is the positive vision for U.S. foreign policy in this election? President Barack Obama and on-again, off-again “presumptive” GOP nominee Mitt Romney now duel over who is more anti-declinist when it comes to America’s power trajectory, with both slyly attaching their candidacies to the notion that “the worst” is now behind us. On that score, Obama implicitly tags predecessor George W. Bush, while Romney promises a swift end to all things Obama. 

Halftime in America? Indeed.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:37AM

WPR's The New Rules: U.S. Must Engage With World Beyond Security Threats

Thanks to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the two wars they spawned, it seemed like the near entirety of President George W. Bush’s two terms in office were characterized by efforts to define, harness and exploit fear. Despite living in the most peaceful, prosperous and predictable period in world history, Americans became convinced that they faced an unending era of war, impoverishment and chaos. That muddled mindset put us painfully out of touch with the rest of the planet.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

7:05AM

Chart of the Day: LATAM doing it right in the Middle


Great and expansive front-page WSJ feature from 15th.

Disappointing to the anti-globalization crowd, but it's been very, very good to LATAM, decreasing its poor and increasing its middle class in a steady fashion since Cold War's end.

A realistic snapshot:

The expanding middle is benefiting from a strong period of economic growth—fueled by high commodity prices in many countries—along with more aggressive social programs with a decided focus on education.

But the advances are still tenuous, and the possibility of a global recession haunts the prospects of los emergentes—the emerging ones—as marketers call the newly minted middle-class members.

Protecting what's gone on there is such a huge - even worldwide - responsibility. Ditto for Africa.

We don't do it out of anything but common sense. Check out the rising demand function:

This is the opportunity we piss away with our insane "war on drugs."

The world is booming and all we see is fear.

8:46AM

WPR's The New Rules: After Iraq and Afghanistan, Time to End the War on Drugs

Americans today are enjoying the most peaceful period, on a per capita basis, in human history, with virtually all of the remaining mass violence in the system occurring not between organized militaries, but rather sub- and transnationally -- that is, within nation-states and across their borders. The frequency, length and lethality of conflicts are all down from Cold War highs, despite the growth in both numbers of countries and world population. Nonetheless, most Americans continue to have extremely misdirected fears and impressions regarding the global security landscape. We see a world of wars and believe them all to be of our creating, when in fact it is globalization's initially destabilizing advance that creates the vast bulk of the civil strife into which our military forces are drawn -- to the tune of well more than 150 crisis responses since Cold War's end.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

11:28AM

Latin America turning to East, but not exactly in China's pocket yet.

The FT has a curious headline on this piece, which kicks off a special section on "new trade routes" for Latin America.  It says, "China is now region's biggest partner."

A region once known for instability has sailed through the global financial crisis. Poverty is falling, the middle classes booming, and asset markets bubbling.

This is due to a spectacular expansion of commodity-based trade. Over the past decade, fast-growing emerging countries, be they in Asia, India or Africa, have shown a near insatiable demand for the commodities that Latin America has in such abundance, whether Argentine soya, Brazilian iron ore, Chilean copper or Peruvian gold.

The change has been rapid: in 1999, trade betwen Latin America and China was a mere $8bn. By 2009, according to UN figures, it had grown 16 times to $130bn. By comparison, bilateral trade with the US rose by just a half over the same period.

Less well appreciated is how intra-Latin American trade has grown over the same period. During the colonial years, neighbouring countries were more likely to trade with Europe than each other. Now, growing business and infrastructure links are bridging Latin America’s huge geographical obstacles – its vast forests and giant mountain ranges – knitting the region’s economies together.

If anything, the pace of change has increased since the global financial crisis. Developed markets remain mired in sluggish growth and high debt. Meanwhile, emerging economies are surging ahead; they now account for three-quarters of global economic growth, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

The rising middle classes of the emerging world are behind this shift. They aspire to own the same homes and cars, and eat the same foods, as their peers in the developed world. As a result, their economies have a higher propensity to consume the commodities that Latin America produces.

Most dynamic new partner, yes, but the same piece later states that US trade with the region was $486B in 2009, or "almost four times China's total." If US trade grew by half over the last decade, then it grew in the range of about $150B, or more than China's entire amount.

Piece also says that 90% of the FDI flowing into the region's two biggest economies, Mexico and Brazil, come from OECD or Old Core economies.

Would seem that an editor got excited.

11:17AM

Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer and David Gordon cite top geo-pol risks for 2011

David Gordon is an old friend, who, as the National Intelligence Officer for economics and globalization in the National Intelligence Council, came to most of my wargames at the Naval War College and World Trade Center in NYC.  He later became Vice Chair of the NIC and then head of policy and planning at State in the final Bush years (when diplomacy made quite the comeback).  One of the smartest guys I know and just a great guy all around.  After Bush ended, he left government and went to direct research at Ian Bremmer's Eurasia Group, which specializes in political risk consulting.

Ian, you know from his books ("J Curve," "Fat Tail," "End of the Free Market"), all of which have made it into my own books or columns.  Ian and I did a back-and-forth on his "The Call" blog at Foreign Policy regarding the last one.  Ian is deservedly recognized as THE political risk guru out there (he often writes with Nouriel Roubini) and he's done an amazing job of building up Eurasia Group from nothing in just over a dozen years.  Having worked with Steve DeAngelis is building up Enterra Solutions over the past 6 years, I truly appreciate what that takes.  

I've been working for Dave and Ian since January as a consultant on a project for the government that's been a lot of fun and there are others in the hopper, so this is turning out to be a nice working relationship in addition to my other affiliations.  I've missed working for the USG these past few years, so it's been great to get back to that sort of analysis.

The top ten risks cited will also sound familiar enough to readers of this blog.  Here's the opening, plus the list as links to the report:

The risks that exercise us most usually center on a country, an issue, an event. We worry over political chaos before or after an election, a coup in a fragile regime, or military conflict with a rogue nation. But for the first time since we've been writing, the political risk environment is much broader this year. It's the change in the world order itself that gives us most cause for concern.

Two years after the financial crisis, there's a strong argument to be made for optimism. The American economy is poised for (at least modest) growth and emerging markets are still churning ahead. By that logic, it's high time for governments, captains of industry, banks, and citizens to get back to business. Time to leave behind record gold prices and put the trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines back to work.

But that conclusion implies a level of confidence, if not quite comfort, with where the world is headed. Whatever your expected shape of economic recovery—a U-curve, V-curve, L-curve, or something else—we're entering an entirely new world order. That means new ways for states to relate with one another both politically and economically. It means new areas of conflict. 2011 looks to be the year that our understanding of how the world works becomes out of date.

This is scary not because it's incomprehensible but because the scale of change is so great that it becomes difficult to manage. Few of us have experienced a transition of this scope. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago, it was fashionable, briefly, to herald a new world order. The pronouncements were premature. Soviet collapse remade the global security balance, but its economic impact was considerably more modest. The advanced industrialized economies had ruled the global economic system; the end of the cold war meant a move from the G7 to the "G7 plus one." Globalization sped up a bit, the West had new countries to invest in (at least for a while), and some of the old ones (Germany) got stronger. "Plus one" didn't imply a new world order.

That's not true today. After the financial crisis, the G7 was replaced by the G20. This change brought no challenge to America's global military supremacy. But the rules of the economic road are a different story and the new geopolitical order is shaped not by a military balance but by an economic one. This new world order marks the end of a decades-long agreement on how the global economy should function. This is world-changing indeed, because the dominant economic trend of the last half century, globalization, now faces a direct challenge from geopolitics.


The rise of this new order will have a profound impact on nearly all of the world's big-picture, long-term trends. A lack of coordinated governance on key economic issues will become entrenched and give rise to lasting international conflict. States and corporations will become more closely aligned in both developed and developing states. Most significantly, we'll see a shift in the highest levels of global conflict to the region where globalization and geopolitics collide with greatest force: for the past twenty years, the sharpest geopolitical tensions were to be found in the Middle East; we'll now see a decisive and long-term shift of those tensions to Asia.

All the risks we're looking at in 2011—conflict from the North Korean succession process, the unwillingness of China to budge under international pressure, the lack of political and economic coordination in Europe, currency controls intensifying global economic misalignment, the geopolitics of cybersecurity—are intensified by this transition to a new world order. The red herrings on our list avoid risk in spite of it.

Surprisingly, and despite all the anxiety these changes have created, there's no name for this new era. We propose the G-Zero. This is the lens through which we'll understand global events in the coming years. It's our top risk for 2011.

THE RISKS

1 The G-Zero
2 Europe
3 Cybersecurity and geopolitics
4 China
5 North Korea
6 Capital controls
7 US gridlock
8 Pakistan
9 Mexico
10 Emerging markets
*Red herrings

Being Mr. Counterintuitive, I like the "red herrings" the best. They are Iran, Turkey, Sudan and Nigeria. I like the optimism on each.

8:59AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Wish List for the New Year

To kick off 2011, I thought I'd put together my top-10 international affairs wish list for the year, going from left to right on my wall map. But like Spinal Tap, only better, my list goes to 12:

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:03AM

Does China rebalance the world economy in its search for resources?

FT full-pager analysis definitely worth a read.

It explores the notion that China's reach for raw materials around the planet is creating such a self-sustaining bond between Asia and Latin America/Africa as to constitute a real rebalancing in the works--truly post-American consumer, so to speak.

China's outbound FDI was about $5B in 2003.  By 2013 it could be $100B, with two-thirds staying in Asia (a pattern found among all Asia states), one-sixth going to LATAM and presumable most of the rest going to Africa.  On this basis, China comes out of nowhere to become Brazil's biggest trade partner and--next year--its biggest foreign investor (filling up all those CHINAMAX mega ships with iron ore and what not).

Meanwhile, with China experimenting through Hong Kong with letting foreign companies hold and thus settle their business with China in yuan, Beijing is described--accurately I think--as rerunning the same strategy they pursued with the US over the previous three decades:  recycling the trade surplus back into the partner's financial nets so as to stimulate further demand of Chinese exports.  In effect, that means China will run up trade surpluses with a lot of poor countries just like it did with rich America.  We'll see how that works in terms of triggering a political backlash.  My guess is that it won't run three decades before China feels the friction.

And yet, is this not what we asked for?

Well, not exactly.  What we really wanted was for Asia's stubborn trade surplus with America (ably consolidated by China over the past two decades) to shift over into something far more even. This isn't happening, in large part because China seeks to have its cake (surplus with America) and eat it too (replicate it across the Gap).

The one good thing:  by slowly increasing the circulation of the yuan, Beijing progressively loses control of its exchange and interest rates, meaning it becomes harder to "cheat" through monetary means.

12:08AM

How inscrutable China pre-empts possibility of "resource wars"

Guardian piece via WPR's Media Roundup.

Top of the story:

Blades slicing through the morning heat, the helicopter rose from the tarmac and swept into a cobalt sky, high above Rio's Guanabara Bay.

It powered north-east over deserted beaches, dense Atlantic rainforest and fishing boats that bobbed lazily in the ocean below. Then finally, 80 minutes on, the destination came into view: a gigantic concrete pier that juts nearly two miles out into the South Atlantic and boasts an unusual nickname: the Highway to China.

Dotted with orange-clad construction workers and propped up by dozens of 38-tonne pillars, this vast concrete structure is part of the Superporto do Acu, a £1.6bn port and industrial complex that is being erected on the Rio coastline, on an area equivalent to 12,000 football pitches.

Reputedly the largest industrial port complex of its type in the world, Açu is also one of the most visible symbols of China's rapidly accelerating drive into Brazil and South America as it looks to guarantee access to much-needed natural resources and bolster its support base in the developing world.

When Acu opens for business in 2012, its 10-berth pier will play host to a globetrotting armada of cargo ships, among them the 380-metre long Chinamax – the largest vessel of its type, capable of ferrying 400,000 tonnes of cargo.

Millions of tonnes of iron ore, grain, soy and millions of barrels of oil are expected to pass along the "Highway" each year on their way east, where they will alleviate China's seemingly unquenchable thirst for natural resources.

"This project marks a new phase in relations between Brazil and China," Rio's economic development secretary, Julio Bueno, said during the recent visit of about 100 Chinese businessmen to the port complex, which is being built by the Brazilian logistics company LLX and should receive billions of dollars of Chinese investment.

This new phase of engagement with Brazil and South America, is part of China's "going out strategy" – an economic and, some say, diplomatic push for Chinese companies, many of them state-run, to invest abroad, snapping up access to minerals, energy and food by pouring the country's colossal foreign reserves into overseas companies and projects.

Ah, I thought we were going to fight the Chinese for access to all these resources, when it turns out China can just buy them and Brazil is more than happy to sell them in bulk on long-term contracts.

Where do they come up with these devious tricks?

"What, no f--king assassin's mace?"  A.J. whines to Carm and Tony.  Disgusted, he surfs off the History Channel over to MTV.

And an entire continent falls to the Chinese, because, as everyone in America knows, if you're the biggest buyer of South American commodities, everybody down there obeys your every wish and command!

12:07AM

Castro: I was misquoted, and, oh yeah, you're all fired

Naturally, Castro now says The Atlantic misquoted his alleged admittance that Cuba socialism was a failure, but actions speak louder than words.

This WSJ front-pager declares "Cuba unveils huge layoffs in tilt toward free market."  How that gets spun as a non-admission of model failure is beyond me, but Fidel is a master liar.

Castro can declare America bankrupt, but we did it the natural way.  His version was just a willful pursuit of a known bad and corrupt strategy.

We've long known that little bro Raul wanted to start down this path years ago.  Now, Castro gets to watch the dismantling of his system while still breathing air, because job creation in Cuba's tiny private sector simply won't match the need unless the system is radically redrawn.

Not everybody gets to watch their funeral, but Fidel will.  No wonder he's suddenly so philosophical.

12:05AM

Castro, post-near-death, admits his rule has been a failure

Associated Press report by way of Stewart Ross.

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports on his blog there what will surely be the headline of an upcoming piece (thus we are all eating up The Atlantic's teaser): in his interview of Fidel Castro, the back-from-the-dead dictator admits that Cuban socialism does not work and isn't worth exporting anywhere.

Now if he would only apologize for all the political prisoners whose lives he's ruined, the opponents he had killed and what not, I think we'd have the beginning of a beautiful confession of a life badly led.

Would that all of his victims could ponder such things in their old age. The old bastard might find it within himself to do the right thing and put a bullet into his head.

12:08AM

Venezuela: living in a gangsta' paradise

Simon Romero piece in NYT (I read it in International Herald Tribune coming back from Ethiopia) on how Venezuela is the murder capital of the world, which means Chavez can't even do authoritarianism well.

Turns out, as the piece argues, that citizens of Baghdad are a lot safer than those of Caracas:  same population, with 4600 civilian deaths in Iraq in 2009, but 16,000 murders in Venezuela.  Amazingly, even Mexico's drug war is less deadly (murders in Venezuela over the same time period are about 50% higher).

Caracas is without peer:  200 murders per 100k versus 22 in Bogota (Columbia) and 14 in Sao Paulo (Brazil), two cities usually held up as crime-ridden.

Murder rates in Venezuela have now tripled since Chavez took power ini 1998.

Sad state of affairs:

Reasons for the surge are complex and varied, experts say. While many Latin American economies are growing fast, Venezuela’s has continued to shrink. The gap between rich and poor remains wide, despite spending on anti-poverty programs, fueling resentment. Adding to that, the nation is awash in millions of illegal firearms.

Police salaries remain low, sapping motivation. And in a country with the highest inflation rate in the hemisphere, more than 30 percent a year, some officers have turned to supplementing their incomes with crimes like kidnappings.

But some crime specialists say another factor has to be considered: Mr. Chávez’s government itself. The judicial system has grown increasingly politicized, losing independent judges and aligning itself more closely with Mr. Chávez’s political movement. Many experienced state employees have had to leave public service, or even the country.

More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.

Haven't seen Oliver Stone's paean to Chavez, but I wonder if he covered any of this in his documentary.

10:00AM

WPR's The New Rules: Putting the Brakes on China until Beijing Can

In late-July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gently put China on notice regarding its increasingly aggressive claims over the near-entirety of the South China Sea by proposing a formal international legal process to resolve territorial disputes there.  Naturally, the Chinese were not pleased, but the proposal was a great move by the Obama administration. Every step that China takes to build up its military power naturally triggers a strong balancing desire throughout the rest of Asia.  But with none of those far-smaller economies looking to anger “rising China,” somebody needs to give voice to those fears and create vehicles for organizing the sought-after balancing.

That somebody can only be the United States.

Read the rest of the column at World Politics Review.