On research, knowledge and politics and Latin America seen from Norway
After 11 years, today we send the last NorLARNet newsletter, only weeks before the NorLARNet secretariat closes. It is both sad and a bit ironic that a platform for communication and debate on Latin America research is shut down, precisely when it is perhaps most needed. Yet, the end of the secretariat does not have to be the end of the network. In this blog, I reflect on successes, shortcomings, and the way ahead.
It has become a mantra in the discourse surrounding the SDGs that in order to reach them we have to "get the private sector onboard". However, in many poor countries, business elites are not only concerned with profit but also to gain political power. The distinction between the public and the private is blurred. This creates many dilemmas for business-oriented aid, as experienced by Norfund in Guatemala and Honduras, where one partner is accused of being complicit in the murder of activist Berta Cáceres. This article was published on June 13th in Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian).
On Sunday there are presidential elections in Venezuela. However, what happens on election day is much less interesting than what president Nicolás Maduro plans to do with three major problems after he wins : hyperinflation, dropping oil production and a ticking debt-bomb. The difficult choice for the Venezuelans is whether to participate in the undemocratic elections. Ever larger groups are choosing exit, over voice, while a small group still chooses loyalty. This article was originally published on May 15th in Dagsavisen (in Norwegian)
Next week Erna Solberg will visit Mexico and Colombia to discuss cooperation on climate, energy, trade, migration and the ever more fragile peace accord in Colombia. However, Latin America needs a cooperation partner that also raises the hard issues of human rights, democracy and social inclusion and how to combat corruption and impunity. Norway can be such a partner. This article was published in Dagsavisen on 3. March.
The #MeToo campaign has gotten a lot of the credit for the new focus on silenced harassment and abuses. However,the inspiration for the global women's-strike and other initiatives did not come from Hollywood, but from Argentina and the #NiUnaMenos campaign. It is a clear example of the deep paradoxes of the struggle for gender equality in Latin America. This article was originally published on March 8th (in Norwegian) at Bistandsaktuelt.
In one country after the other, leaders of the ever more popular evangelical churches enter politics. As in the rest of the world, a political void has been created by corruption revelations, economic hardships, globalization and inequality. However, in Latin America, the evangelical leaders also lean on long traditions of populism and "caudillismo". This article was originally published on the 27th of February in Dagsavisen (in Norwegian).
Brazil desperately need a New political leadership that can bring the country out of the economic crisis and bring back the confidence in politicla institutions. The verdict against former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was celebrated by his enemies as a victory for the rule of Law in Brazil and the way to Ensure that neither Lula nor his workers party (PT) will ever get back to Power. They might be wrong in both, I Write With Yuri Kasahara in this aticle that was published in Dagens Næringsliv on January 29th. It is copied in below.
One corruption scandal after the other is striking Latin America. While the political casualties and the anatomy of the corruption structure vary, they have one thing in commong: the involvement of the Brazilian Construction giant Odebrecht. Read the article (in Norwegian) originally published in Dagsavisen on the 23rd of January here.
Over the source of 2018, two thirds of Latin Americans will get a new head of state. While many ask whether this will strengthen the trend of right wing governments in the region, two other tendencies are more evident: the deepening distrust in democratic institutions, and a roll-back of the entering of women in high level positions. The article originally published in Bistandsaktuelt in January 2018 provides an overview over this year’s elections.
Eight years after the spectacular “pajama coup” Honduras is again the site of a democratic debacle with regional consequences. Since the elections in Honduras of the 26th of November, Honduras has exploded in charges of fraud, demonstrations and repression. That the elections would be far from clean was evident ever since current president Juan Orlando Hernández managed to manipulate the courts to be able to run for election in spite of constitutionally being banned from it. If the international community is unable to ensure that the process from now on has a minimum of legitimacy, it will have betrayed not only Hondurans, but democracy as the fundamental principle for regional cooperation in Latin America. Read more (in Norwegian) in this article published on December 12 in Dagsavisen.
In the shadow of the US' mistakes and historically low reputation in Latin America, Russia and China fights for resources and influence, The roles are divided in this game of giants: the US is the elephant in the china store, china is the elephant on clay feet while China's further strategy is still the elephant in the room, argues this article in Norwegian originally published in Dagsavisen on October 19.
Dramatic news from Venezuela have reached even the northern corner of Europe – Norway – more intensely this summer than before. Even in far-away Norway we have had polarized and harsh debates over Venezuela for years, and even seen from here a real dialogue between the parties in the conflict seems like pure utopia. Yet less so after NorLARNet's recent events. Here is an attempted summary of points that came up during those events that may serve as ideas for further conversations.
Neste uke blir Yassmín Barrios utnevnt som æresdoktor ved Universitetet i Oslo. Etter hennes foredrag den 1. September vises dokumentarfilmen 500 år av Pamela Yates, der Barrios har en hovedrolle. Det blir en sterk forestilling om mot og håp.
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.