On research, knowledge and politics and Latin America seen from Norway
Brazil’s president Michel Temer will according to the plans visit Norway on Thursday. He will, among other things, meet Crown Prince Haakon, Erna Solberg and the business community. It is the first time since 2007 that a Brazilian president visits, and perhaps the first time a president accused of both illegal campaign financing, multimillion dollar corruption and obstruction of justice, is seated at the Prime minister’s table. The trip might be a welcome breather for Temer, but it may put the Norwegian long-term commitment to Brazil on a test, I argue in this article published in Dagsavisen on June 20 2017.
Last week UNICEF and Venezuelan authorities revealed that infant mortality in the country increased by 30 percent between 2015 and 2016. Maternal mortality increased by 64 percent. We have not seen a similar increase even in war stricken Syria. Few other indicators show more clearly the depth of the crisis in Venezuela. So why is it so difficult to do something about it? And why is president Nicolás Maduros still more popular than many of his homologues, including Colombia’s president Juan Manual Santos that recently received Nobel’s peace price? Read more in Norwegian in this article originally published in Dagsavisen May 16 2017.
One year has passed after Obama's historical visit to Cuba. With a TV-transmitted speech, baseball game, Stones concert, and public celebration, Obama took a major step towards the end of 57 years of animosity. The expectations were high that the visit should speed up economic and political reforms in Cuba. One year after the party, it feels like Cuba is stuck in the elevator waiting to see weather it will move upwards towards a modernization of the economy and democratization of politics, or if the wire will break and it drops into the abyss, I write in this article originally published in Dagsavisen on April 5th. (In Norwegian).
The last year we have seen shifts to the right in both Brazil, Argentina and Peru. On the far left, the elections in Ecuador are thus considered to be similar to the battle for Stalingrad in the 2nd World War and decisive for the future of the Latin American left. By the right it is considered the possibility to avoid a "venezuelanization" of Ecuador. In reality neither of these views capture the choices that Ecuador are faced with, or appreciates the real progress but also challenges development and democracy in Ecuador has faced during 10 years of correismo, i write in this article originally published in Dagsavisen in March. (In Norwegian)
During just a week in the job, Trump managed to cancel the trade agreement with the Pacific countries including Mexico), promised renegotiaton of the Norwth Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all Mexican goods, ordered the start in the work to build a border wall and in effect forced the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel the planned meeting with Trump after he tweeeted he could just forget to come if Mexico would not pay for the wall. He then tweeted that Mexico had exploited the US long enough. But what are actually the reality of the history of US-Mexico relations. I answer in this article originally published in Dagsavisen on 31st of January. (In Norwegian)
With the partial exception of the 1980s, Latin America has never been high on the Norwegian foreign policy agenda. However, around 2006 a new initiative was taken to develop a more complete approach to a region experiencing growth and social progress. After 2008 it was assisted by a United States that sought a relation based more on mutual respect and multilateralism than before. Currently a lot has changed, and it is time Norway develops a new Latin America policy taking into account new global as well as regional power relations, I write in this article originally published in Dagsavisen (in Norwegian).
After Donal Trump won the presidential elections in the United States, there has been a flow of jokes from Latin America. One of my favorites is this one: “Trump builds walls, vote for Chapo, he digs tunnels”. Chapo is Mexico’s most infamous druglord, who’s ever more creative methods to smuggle cocaine to the United States included digging tunnels. The joke does not only reflect the Latin Americans ability to face tragedies with a sense of humor, but also that Trump’s policy in the region may have a series of unforeseen consequences. Among the most important is that China will further strengthen its presence in the region.
Why continue to publish journal articles documenting climate change and the real mechanisms behind poverty and inequality, when one mans’ derailed rhetoric can reject it with no further proof? My six point agenda includes: 1) Counteracting anti-rational currents, 2) Stop blaming everything on neoliberalims, 3) Distinguish between the reasons for the victory and perception of them, 4) Contribute to a less US-centric world order, 5) Redoubling our research efforts, and 6) Leave behind distinction between "developed" and "developing" countries. And learn from our Latin American colleagues. Read more at the SUM blog.
By awarding the peace prize to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, the Nobel committee showed the ability to balance idealism and political realism: Idealism as it gave the prize in spite of the defeat for the peace accords in the referendum of the 2. of October, hoping that the peace prize would infuse new energy into the process; realism by not including FARC-leader Rodrigo Londóño, as that would have provoked strong reactions in Colombia in the current situation. In the difficult weeks ahead it the negotiators will need both idealism, realism and quite a bit of magic to reach a new agreement that avoids sawing the seed of new social conflict, i write in this article in Dagsavisen.
Forrige uke var 60 norske forskere og kunnskapsbyråkrater, meg inkludert, på gruppereise til Brasil, ledet an av kunnskapsminister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen. Hensikten med turen har vært å styrke det akademiske samarbeidet med Brasil, som en oppfølging av regjeringens Panorama-strategi. På det offisielle programmet var blant annet seminarer: om fornybar energi, klima, råvareproduksjon og Brasil som en utenrikspolitisk aktør. På tross av å være en litt pussig blanding av forskningsformidling og fesjå, kom det mye ut av dem. Likevel var nok det viktigste med turen et hektisk møtekjør som de ulike delegasjonsmedlemmene har hatt individuelt. Kunnskapsministeren signerte avtale med Brasils utdanningsminister José Mendonça Filho, men en lang rekke andre avtaler ble også signert. Det er derfor liten tvil om at reisen har vært særdeles produktiv, men jeg har likevel tre bekymringer når det gjelder oppfølgingen.
There are more differences than similarities between what happens Brazil and Venezuela, I write in this article published in Dagsavisen (in Norwegian). They illustrate two equally old but very different challenges to democracy in Latin America: inequality and elitism on the one hand, and caudillismo and populism on the other. What they have in common is a third: the vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices, while a fourth factor is under significant change: the role of the United States.
Last week we organized the 3rd conference of the Norwegian Latin America Research Network (NorLARNet). It started the day after the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, the same day as hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Caracas, and only days after the signing of the peace accords between the FARC and the Colombian government. We could not have chosen a better point in time to discuss Latin America.
Why did Daniel Ortega name his wife as his vice-president candidate, refuse electoral observers and ensure elimination of the opposition from congress when the victory in the December 6 elections would be almost guaranteed even without this?, I ask in this article published in my column in Dagsavisen. The answer I believe is found not only in possible health issues and internal opposition among the sandinistas, but also in an eagerness to avoid international corruption scrutiny a la the CICIG in Guatemala at all costs. Read it here (in Norwegian).
It is hard to exaggerate the historical dimensions of the agreement that was signed between FARC and the Colombian government on 24th of June. It is a result of the persistence of the negotiators, and the international community (Norway included), but equally so the pressure of a wide array of Colombian civil society organizations. To go from an agreement to lasting peace requires an equally strong commitment, also on the part of the international community. Norway's role in this dependent on a long term build-up of knowledge and trust. Now it is time to use that for post-agreement peacebuilding, I write in this article (in Norwegian) for the Internasjonalen column of Dagsavisen. Read it here.
Many of us would have liked to have a vote in the US presidential elections, but Latin Americans have a better reason for it than most of us. Even though the US has less influence in Latin America now than some years back, the elections will be important for the development in the region in the near future, I write in this article published in Dagsavisens Internasjonalen column (in Norwegian).
The debate about Venezuela has reached new highs, also in Norway, interestingly enough as there is more agreement than ever about the conditions in the country. This blog (in Norwegian) intends to clarify the road towards a possible recall referendum by the opposition and the diplomacy surrounding it.
While the right wing says "What did we say" and point to the socialist policies leading to the current crisis in Venezuela, there is also a different story to be told about the current crisis: on what happens when you systematically exclude experts and critical voices that contribute to adjusting the political course of a country. This article was published as the column Internasjonalen in the daily Dagsavisen (in Norwegian).
The voting in Brazil's congress on Sunday resulted in favour of opening an impeachment process against President Dilma Rouseff. It was a complete victory for the Brazilian right wing and the majority of Brazilians that want and end to corruption and a new president. However, the result might rather be that Brazil is brought back to a corrupt Status Quo, I write with Yuri Kasahara in this article published (in Norwegian) in Dagsavisen's Internasjonalen Spalte.
We have almost gotten used to the news about it: drugviolence in Mexico, gangs in El Salvador, political killings in Colombia and Honduras and daily murders in the slums of Venezuela and Brazil. But why is Latin America so violent? In this article (in Norwegian) published in the Internasjonalen column in the daily Dagsavisen I draw on recent research to find answers.
In 2010 Brasil was identified as Norway's most important international cooperation partner and recipient of investments outside the US and the EU. The perspective that seem to dominate in Norwegian media that the current situation is all due to the corruption and mismanagement of Dilma Rouseff's government is erroneous. In this article (In Norwegian) written with Yuri Kasahara in Dagsavisen, we seek to correct this. Read it here
The last months Mexico has witnessed what could be the equivalent of the "reality" version of the Netflix-series Narcos. It illustrates that the so called drug-war has become a mediawar where facts and fiction gets blurred. The druglords have become the new pirates: main characters in movies, songs and books and motives on t-shirts and caps. But there is a great absence in this mythology: the political contacts of the criminals, I write in this article published as the Internasjonalen column in the daily Dagsavsien (in Norwegian).
This week some of the names of the nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize leaked to the public -they are no secret, but the Nobel committee does not actively disclose them. Most of the time, I don’t envy the Nobel Committee’s difficult job. This year, for a change, it is easy.
In 2016 we will see several pragmatic political changes, mainly within the frames of established political institutions. Incumbents will be punished for corruption and economic difficulties, but there will be no overall shift from red to blue. If we shall speak in color-codes it will rather be a change from red to grey, and only in a few cases very dark, I write in this article that was published (in Norwegian) in the Internasjonalen column in the daily Dagsavisen.
Every year, I make a list of the top events in Latin America of impact on Norway’s relations to the region (see here for 2014 and here for 2015). Not everything changes over a year and some of the key topics are still on top of the list. Here is my list of events the past year of major impact on the relationship between Norway and Latin America for 2016.
This fall homosexual couples have gained the right to adopt children in Colombia, and more than 60 per cent of Latin America's gays will soon have the right to get married. At the same time we see that divorce legislation is being liberalized, abortion is put on the agenda, and birth control is publicly promoted. What has happened in the bulwark of conservative Catholicism that Latin America used to be? I ask in this article published in the Internasjonalen column in Dagasavisen (in Norwegian).