On research, knowledge and politics and Latin America seen from Norway
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.
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
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 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).
I and several Norwegian colleagues recently got back from the most impressive social science event I have been to: the conference organized by the Latin American Social Science Council (Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) in Medellin, Colombia. It was an example to follow for all of us in making social sciences a platform for broad social debate, but it also revealed some trends in Latin American social science that left me a bit concerned.
It is extraordinarily sad to conclude this, but if the proposed budget cut from the Norwegian government is approved in the Storting (legislative assembly), it is “goodbye Latin America”. Not only that - it is "goodbye Norway" as a country that seeks to balance its participation in global capitalism, wars and global warming, by also supporting policies, political forces and voices that seek to improve distribution of resources, mitigate climate changes and promote peace.
Last week a joint effort to reflect on the following questions resulted in a book by CLACSO in Buenos Aires: What motivates researchers based in Norway to study Latin America? To what extent are we a product of the political priorities and economic interests of our mother country and to what extent can we pride ourselves as being independent intellectuals striving for new scientific insight?
There are days when you are allowed to be a bit euphoric working on Latin America issues from Norway, and one such day is today.
The fall semester has started at Norwegian universities, and it will be an intense one for those of us who are interested in Latin American affairs.