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Latin Lessons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2013


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1 McCain stated, ‘I regret the military takeover in Honduras, but it's clear that President Zelaya was in violation of his country's constitution’. The Hill's Blog Briefing Room, 7 July 2009. Davis, who was working for the San Diego PR company of Vander Ark/Ratcliff even accompanied Micheletti to Costa Rica for the negotiations chaired by President Arias.

2 New York Times, 8 January 2010.

3 US aid amounting to some $36 million was suspended for a while, and diplomatic recognition of the Micheletti regime was formally withheld, but Washington's ambassador remained (almost volubly) in post, and Honduran–US relations were arguably the most active they had ever been.

4 ‘Panamax 2009 and Honduras: Did They or Didn't They Attend the Annual War Games?’, Council on Hemispheric Affairs (, analysis posted 22 September 2009.

5 DeMint told Fox News, ‘We have made a wrong call here. This is probably our best friend in the hemisphere, the most pro-American country, but we're trying to strangle them’, New York Times, 8 October 2009. One person who might well have taken umbrage at this remark was Peter Kent, the Tory foreign minister of Canada – still knowingly part of the hemisphere and yet arguably the OAS state least disposed to reverse the coup.

6 Juan J. Linz and Arturo Valenzuela (eds), The Failure of Presidential Democracy, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

7 Valenzuela takes these numbers from Palmer, David Scott, ‘Peru: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Western Hemisphere’, in Farer, Tom (ed.), Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, p. 258 Google Scholar.

8 L. Brainard and L. Martinez-Diaz (eds), Brazil as an Economic Superpower? Understanding Brazil's Changing Role in the Global Economy, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2009; M. D'Alva Kinzo and J. Dunkerley (eds), Brazil since 1985. Economy, Politics and Society, London, Institute of Latin American Studies, 2003. Leslie Bethell, the leading European champion of Brazilian studies and the general editor of The Cambridge History of Latin America, 11 vols, 1984–2008, has made the plausible (but apparently weakening) argument that Brazil does not really form part of ‘Latin America’, which is a term generally coined in the mid-twentieth century and most frequently applied to the Spanish American states of the hemisphere, ‘Is Brazil Part of Latin America?’, address to the conference, ‘The Americas in Comparative Perspective’, Institute for the Study of the Americas, London, 20 June 2008. As a rule, academic surveys of regional politics under-represent Brazil simply by virtue of the fact that it comprises a single polity, albeit a federal one. Paul Drake discusses Brazil, with a population of 190 million, roughly twice as often as Bolivia, which has 15 million people.

9 For a telling and detailed account from ‘the South’ by a classmate of Condoleeza Rice, see Heraldo Muñoz, A Solitary War. A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and its Lessons, New York, Fulcrum Books, 2008.

10 Latin America's Left Turn’, Foreign Affairs, 85: 3 (2006)Google Scholar. I should declare an interest – I was a colleague of Castañeda's at NYU in 2009, and I wrote a (generally favourable) review of Utopia Unarmed in New Left Review, 206 (July–August 1994).

11 It is worth making a simple point about the demands of instant information and policy-rebuttal in the internet age – they can create a veritable informational mirage, if not leavened by direct, on-the-ground empirical experience. When the US-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) decided, understandably, to task a Honduran staffer to write their press release after Zelaya's expulsion, he failed to take the organizational line of outright condemnation, forcing COHA into an embarrassing retraction. COHA's subsequent postings proved to be far too optimistic about the chances of removing the Micheletti regime. Those of us still disposed to think of unfashionable ‘area studies’ as a useful academic practice sometimes wish an in-body experience of approach to the frighteningly short runway at Toncontín airport upon the high-flying globalist commentariat.

12 ‘Adios, Monroe Doctrine’, The New Republic, 28 December 2009; ‘Misunderstanding the Problem’, The New Republic, 29 December 2009. Somewhere between these positions – in both dispositional and analytical terms – one finds Abraham Lowenthal, who provides the foreword to Which Way Latin America?, and who has for decades questioned the US ‘hegemonic presumption’ towards Latin America (Partners in Conflict. The United States and Latin America, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), more recently criticizing the notion that there exists some homogeneous and essentially problematic Latin American ‘bloc’, rather than set of diverse states that require quite distinctive forms of engagement – A. Lowenthal, T. Piccone and L. Whitehead (eds), The Obama Administration and the Americas: Agenda for Change, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2009.

13 ‘U.S. Leadership, Obama Winning Favor in Latin America’, Gallup, 2 December 2009. Social science analysis of Latin American social norms and political opinion has been greatly enhanced over the last decade by the work of the Santiago-based Latinobarómetro, although the operational challenges of public survey work in a poor region of the world have been matched by demands for open access from a traditionally exigent intellectual elite.

14 Hale, C., ‘Does Multiculturalism Menace? Governance, Cultural Rights and the Politics of Identity in Guatemala’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 34: 3 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; D. Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2005; Faguet, J-P., ‘Governance from Below in Bolivia. A Theory of Local Government with Two Empirical Tests’, Latin American Politics and Society, 51: 4 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 ‘Democratic governance and populist politics in Latin America’, paper to the congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Montreal, 8 September 2007. Foweraker has provided an empirical (and statistically supported) critique of the theses on presidentialism associated with Linz, Juan: ‘Institutional Design, Party Systems and Governability: Differentiating the Presidential Regimes of Latin America’, British Journal of Political Science, 28: 4 (1998)Google Scholar. One wonders how the Linz-Valenzuela school would reform the system in Canada, where in December 2009 Prime Minister Harper, despite heading a minority administration, unilaterally suspended Parliament – and so froze all statutory business – for months, not even deigning to visit the governor-general in person.

16 Samuel Huntington, Who Are We? America's Great Debate, London, Free Press, 2004; Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1968.

17 This, of course, derives from the more expansive thesis of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1996.

18 G. Grandin, ‘Why Stop at Two?’, London Review of Books, 22 October 2009. This piece modulates around a review of Jorge Castañeda and Marco Morales (eds), Leftovers: Tales of the Latin American Left, London, Routledge, 2008.

19 S. Haber (ed.), How Latin America Fell Behind. Essays in the Economic History of Brazil and Mexico, 1800–1914, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1997. Haber subsequently took up the empirical (some would say empiricist) cause against that strong current in US academia promoting subaltern studies and epistemological pluralism in the study of Latin America. See the special issue of Hispanic American Historical Review, 79: 2 (1999). For a sophisticated application of the new economic history, see John Coatsworth, ‘Political Economy and Economic Organization’, in V. Bulmer-Thomas, J. H. Coatsworth and R. Cortés Conde (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of Latin America, vol. 1, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006. For an alternative perspective likely to gain much more traction after the global crisis of 2008–9, see C. Graham and E. Lora (eds), Paradox and Perception. Measuring Quality of Life in Latin America, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2009, which embraces happiness/satisfaction studies. Under the ‘Happy Planet Index’, Costa Rica leads the world (Observer, London, 10 January 2010). This is only a contemporary permutation of a familiar motif. In February 1847 the Euston-born Carlos Bello wrote from Paris to his father in Santiago de Chile: ‘In Europe they speak of the power and riches of Great Britain, but each day the papers carry a list of those who have died of hunger in Ireland and Scotland. In France, the masses rise up in demand of bread, robbing and killing in this cause. I don't know if, one day, this world will conclude its social education, but after 6,000 years it is still very backward. What you tell me about the USA, rather than brightening the picture, makes it sadder still,’Obras Completas de Andres Bello, vol. 26, Caracas, Fundación Andrés Bello, 1984, pp. 150–1.

20 Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1992 Google Scholar.

21 R. Crandall, Gunboat Diplomacy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada and Panama, Lanham, MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006. In that volume Crandall coasts along so happily within the liberal interventionist meta-narrative that he makes claims that some deem primitive apologies for gunboat diplomacy: ‘the [Dominican] intervention also has helped promote a modern political system’ (p. 94); ‘the taking out of Noriega by the United States ended up being a quick and lasting way for Panama to get rid of its oppressor’ (p. 200). COHA, ‘Professor Russell Crandall, Now of the Pentagon: A Controversial Analyst and Three Controversial Caribbean Interventions’,, 27 October 2009.

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