Top Five Blog Posts

•May 4, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Below are my top five blog posts for the semester:

1.  “Pursuing the Free-Market System”

2.  “A new energy source at the expense of food?”

3.  “Corn Prices Revisited”

4.  a response to a comment on one of my own blogs

5.  “A Human Rights Issue”


A Human Rights Issue

•May 2, 2007 • 1 Comment

There has been a struggle going on between the parents of a two year old daughter and the Mexican authorities.  The parents, who are part of an indigenous groups known as Otomi, speak the indigenous lanugage, Hñahñu, and their daughters name in that language is Doni_Zänä which means “flower of the world”.  After trying to register the girl’s name with the authorities in Mexico City, they were informed that the computers do not recognize the characters in her name which includes the underscore that represents a specific sound in the language.  The parents see it as a human rights violation because they say the authorities are discriminating against their indigenous group, commonly known as Otomi.  The parents claim they are trying to connect to their past and honor their ancestors through the use of indigenous names.   “This has become a struggle to preserve our traditions, our culture and our language…. I don’t know why it’s so hard for them to understand and respect our customs.”  Many other families in the community have been pressured to change the names of their children to something more Spanish.  The authorities claim it is the fault of the new computer program that was installed in 1999 before the millenium supposed crash and that the program was not set up to accept characters outside the Spanish language.  This means that children from this community cannot be registered for a Unique Population Registry Code, similar to a social security number.  The Human Rights Commision of Hidalgo has decided to take the case and is trying to make the state change its computer system.   The authorities response has been to just leave off the dots and underscores, but in the case of the girl mentioned above, her name would mean “stone of death” instead of “flower of the world”.  Somehow that does not seem right.  Her parents have insisted that if there is not change, they will look for support from higher up among the international organizations.  As we have learned in class, human rights are entitlements that a person possesses just because he or she is human.  As talked about in Kegley and Raymond, many indigenous people feel persecuted because their way of life, their land, or their work is being threatened by forces within the state in which they live.  This is an excellent example of a violation of human rights in terms of a culture that is being threatened.  By not being able to use their ancestors’ names, the names of their own culture, they are denied the basic freedom of participating in their culture.  As stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations, “social and economic rights are indespensible, including the right to education, the right to work, and the right to participate in the cultural life of the community” (Kegley and Raymond 319).  Additional, the rights can be classified into five categories, one of which is the “rights of communities” which says that minority groups have the right to self-determination and protection.  Although the countries that have ratified the declaration are legally bound to its laws, many have not done so.  Even if a country has not ratified the document, minority groups can appeal to higher authority to have their voices heard.  In many cases, indigenous people are using the support of NGO’s and IGO’s to appeal to the states to change their current attitudes toward the indigenous group.  Human rights are protected most effectively if home governments protect them.  Often though, they must compete with security and economics and thus are not held as a top priority.  If the government can protect human rights through other values, goals, and beliefs held in the society that run parallel to human rights, then people’s rights can more effectively be protected.  Mexico has many indigenous groups of people and I am sure this is not the first time that a group has felt discriminated against.  A country with so many different minority groups must somehow come up with a way in which to respect each group and honor their particular culture.  The authorities blame the computer program.  But it was obviously created in narrow terms if it does not take into account characters of other languages in Mexico besides Spanish.  What is more difficult and destructive?  Changing a computer program or changing a culture?

Corn Prices Revisited

•April 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

After the protests in December and January against the rising tortilla prices spiked by the US demand for ethanol, Mexico has finally done something to stop the rising prices and angry consumers.  Although Mexico does produce alot of corn, it still imports much of it from the US.  As the US ethanol producers’ demand for corn increases, so do the market prices of corn and thus the prices of tortillas in Mexico.  This is a prime example of globalization.  The free market system and the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada (NAFTA) means that a change in the price of a market good in one country immediately effects the other countries as well especailly if that good is in demand.  This could be considered a negative aspect of globalization and trade.  Corn prices in the United States can rise due to increased demand, but this has a devestating effect on Mexico who depends on US grown corn.  There is little they can do about it though because of their reliance on US corn.  Although the Mexico government has put a cap on tortilla prices to ease the tensions of the people and keep inflation down, there is little they can do to stop the global market from determining the price of corn.  Mexico hopes to increase its yeild of corn, but in the mean time, they still must import it from the United States. Although multilateral trade agreements are generally considered beneficial for all countries involved, here is an example of the negative effects of trade which of course fall upon the poorer country.  The trade agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico, and Canada is an example of commercial liberalism because the countries are cooperating to increase prosperity. Known as laissaez-faire economics, the market determines the prices of goods without any government intereference.  But although the theory says that everyone will gain, it does not say that everyone will gain equally.  Commercial liberalism is concerned with absolute gains, not relative gains, and therefore some may gain more than others.  In this case, the United States may gain from higher corn prices because the producers are making more money, but Mexico losses because it relies on US corn and thus tortilla prices rise.   

A Success for Women in Latin America

•April 26, 2007 • 1 Comment

City lawmakers in Mexico City have legalized abortion within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.  Although deeply opposed by PAN and the catholic church, this shows a victory for women and a success for the women’s rights movements in Latin America.  Although this law was passed only in Mexico City, it will no doubt have an effect on other Latin American countries as well.  It may lead the way for others to start debating the issue and even lead to voting as well.  Many women involved in women’s rights movements are hoping for a snowball effect to take place in Latin America.   President Felipe Calderon has not commented on the legalization, but his wife has spoken out adamently against it.  There is still very strong opposition to abortion in Mexico as well as most other Latin American countries that most likely can be traced to the Catholic church.  Latin America has a long way to go, but Mexico is the beginning and may prove successful in bringing the issue to the forefront of discussion in other countries as well.    

A new energy source at the expense of food?

•April 24, 2007 • Leave a Comment

There has been recent controversy over the idea of producing ethanol from corn as a possible alternative to petroleum.  President Bush has called for more production of ethanol, up to 35 billion gallons by 2017.  But ethanol production has caused food prices to increase.  Prices for corn in the US have risen from 2 to 3 dollars and this is affecting other areas of the world as well.  Mexicans protested in Jauary because of the increase in the price of tortillas.  Since Mexico buys alot of its corn from the US, the increase in prices has had a great effect on the Mexican economy.  There is a suggestion that Mexico needs a policy to look at transferring food to energy.  Not only has Mexico responded negatively to the increase in ethanol prodution, but Chavez also denouced the idea saying that the production of ethanol was the same as “starving the poor to feed automobiles”.  He said he was not directly against the production of ethanol, but that he was against the idea of using corn to produce it.  If ethanol production begins to increase dramatically in the years to come, there may be more outcries from countries around the world as food prices rise.  It becomes a question of fuel vs. food and a debate about whether the rich countries should develop an alternative energy source at the expense of feeding the people in the poorer countries.  The rich countries and especially the United States use the most energy out of all the countries in the world, and as new energy sources are needed to replace petroleum, questions will arise as to the costs and benefits and debates will continue regarding fuel vs. food.  From a realists perspective, there are winners and there are losers.  If the United States and the rest of the industrialized world develop an alternative source of energy that will decrease their dependence on oil, then they have gained something even if it is at the expense of other countries and their people.  This is the idea of relative gains, how much a state can gain in relation to another.  Realists are also concerned with how issues such as this relate to power and security.  Who will be the United States enemy because of rising food prices and the inability to feed the populations of poorer countries?  For realists, the benefits outweigh the costs: some win and some lose and that is just the way it is.    

The effects of globalization

•April 16, 2007 • 1 Comment

A recent article in the Washington Post talked about how Mexican drug cartels are posting videos on YouTube showing beheadings, executions, and torture of their victims.  It seems that in this new era of increased connectivity due to technology, that now even drug lords are using it to their advantage to recruit new members, make threats, and display their acts of violence.  Like the terrorist networks that use the Internet to communicate with one another, Mexican drug cartels are also using the Internet to engage in cyberwars to threaten enemies and glorify their actions.  Their reach is much further now as they can release these videos not only for their enemies to see, but also for the entire world to see.  Although the acts committed by these drug traffickers are mostly localized in Mexico, they now have a global reach because of the Internet and such sites as YouTube. In an era of increased technology and thus further reach, localized drug cartel murders are now available for the world to see.  The local has thus expanded to the global because of the Internet. 

A Difficult Decision

•April 9, 2007 • 1 Comment

A recent news article outlined the difficulties facing illegal Mexican parents and their children.  As immigration officials are increasing efforts to locate and deport illegal Mexicans (there have been 18,000 men and women deported since last June), families are being torn apart.  When a Mexican couple has a child in the United State, the child is automatically a resident and legal.  But what happens when the parents are arrested and forced to return to Mexico?  They are faced with a difficult decision regarding their children.  They can either leave them behind with family or friends or take them back to Mexico.  Many parents want their children to have the oportunities available in the United States and thus choose to leave them behind.  The children that do go back to Mexico have to enroll in a Mexican school and often do not know how to read or write in Spanish.  Deporting the parents and making them choose where their children will go is disrupting families and even tearing them apart.  It does not seem right that they are forced to choose between leaving their children or starting a completely new life somewhere else, and in many cases, a place that is very foriegn to the children.  Forcing parents to abandon their children is wrong.   It is increasingly clear that something must be done to stop this.