17 million Latin American people out of work
December 10, 2002 11:25 AM   Subscribe

17 million Latin American people out of work Claimed to be the highest level since 1980. How much longer, or how many more, until nations revert to Che Guevarra or Pinochet and the US to the CIA and intervention? Will history repeat itself, or has history paved the way for an alternative outcome?
posted by Voyageman (27 comments total)
why not let them all come into U.S., legally or otherwise/; we are a land of plenty.
posted by Postroad at 11:41 AM on December 10, 2002

The Economist had an excellent article about a year ago regarding the increasing popularity of Marxism among the peoples of South America. Unfortunately, it is hidden behind the premium content sign-in on the website. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended.

Another intersting part of this discussion is the role of liberation theology, which always seemed to have a greater acceptance in Latin America, in the various countries' political thoughts.

As far as CIA intervention is concerned, Act One in the This American Life radio documentary "Hearts and Minds" is a classic.
posted by samuelad at 11:46 AM on December 10, 2002

Considering all we're doing is posting news of it to weblogs, I'd have to say history will repeat itself. Although I'll bet you when it happened the first time, if you examined it close enough, you'd see that it was just history repeating itself back then too.

But hey this could be good news. Maybe DARE really is working.
posted by KettleBlack at 12:18 PM on December 10, 2002

oh, and o<
posted by KettleBlack at 12:19 PM on December 10, 2002

History never repeats itself (Santayana was a philosopher, not a historian) because people are conscious of the past (which is not the same as saying there are Lessons of History, because there aren't any) and conditions are never the same. If Latin American countries backslide into something nasty, that something nasty will be quite different from historical nasty somethings. And let's give them enough credit not to assume that such a backsliding is inevitable, simply because it's happened in the past.
posted by mcwetboy at 12:21 PM on December 10, 2002

United Fruit.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:23 PM on December 10, 2002

La plus ca change, la plus c'est la meme chose. The most significant and widespread political change in the post-columbian Latin American scene has to have been the work of Simon Bolivar. Some of the people who will be the architects of any change on the near horizon are believers in his mission. The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, for instance, has some interesting ideas. Here's a Canadian newspaper's take on some of what he says.

The link to Che Lives in the FPP also has good info on Chavez' whole "Axis of Good" ideas.

I'm at least cautiously optimistic about what will come of all this.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 12:52 PM on December 10, 2002

This time it seems as though it is the lefties stomping on freedoms.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:55 PM on December 10, 2002

granmother always said: when you are losing the game, change the rules.
posted by Postroad at 1:14 PM on December 10, 2002

Holy Shit! Is the coffee OK?
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2002


Because when you get down to it, coffee is the drink of the revolutionary!! We should send tea!! Earl Gray!! The black tea will make them mellow out and lay down, and the bergamot will allow them to accept us as their masters!

Como se dice "take them for all their worth"?

posted by KettleBlack at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2002

9% unemployment? This is clearly a demonstration of how sound current US economic policy is.. since the US has unemployment of 6%, but we're not all wondering if the entire economy is going to collapse. I don't see too many strikes or protests either.
posted by wackybrit at 2:30 PM on December 10, 2002

wackybrit - first, i think that figure is wrong. it's 9.6% here in chile which is surviving much better than most, so surely the average is higher.

second, the west (north) has a standard of living much better than the norm here. the minimum wage in chile is about 100 pounds a month. a kilo (two pounds) of cheap bread costs about 50p. in the uk (i'm english, so uk prices are easier for me, besides, you're a "brit"), an 800g loaf is what, maybe 80p. so basic food is about half the price here while the uk minimum wage (4.20 an hour or 600 pounds a month) is 6 times as large. so, simplifying hugely, people are at least (usa much richer than uk) 3 times richer in the usa (incidentally, my wage here is about 3 times lower than what i was earning in the uk - in both countries i have/had a pretty good job).

in other words, even working people are in poverty. to have no job means that you're not only desperate, but that, in general, your relations are already so poor that it's difficult for them to help (there is, of course, no state support for the unemployed).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:13 PM on December 10, 2002

Andrew: Some interesting observations as a Westerner in Chile. My rough 9% was based on the figures given in the BBC article linked to in the OP. Of course, the BBC does have a reputation for getting things wrong. :-)

I remember the bread price wars when you could get a regular loaf for 9p (14 cents for you Americans) down at Sainsbury's ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 3:22 PM on December 10, 2002

Interesting observation KettleBlack. In the same vein, Malcolm Gladwell actually has a good bit to say about coffee and tea.
posted by samuelad at 3:26 PM on December 10, 2002

I wonder abut the accuracy of unemployment figures. In the U.S., when your unemployment benefits run out, you are dropped from the roles that are used to count the unemployed. A number of years ago I was unemployed because I was collecting unemployment. I was thus listed as being without a job. When my benefits ran out, I was no longer listed as not working.
posted by Postroad at 3:54 PM on December 10, 2002

i think i read it in marx (sorry about the caps im eatin a grilled chicken n falafel rollup)
posted by KettleBlack at 3:58 PM on December 10, 2002

yea, well, we have to have our oil...
posted by rhyax at 6:43 PM on December 10, 2002

They should try having fewer babies. That might help some. What do Latin America, Africa, and India all have in common besides massive poverty, overpopulation.
posted by Beholder at 8:12 PM on December 10, 2002

They should try having fewer babies.

That idea seems to be making headway in China. Unfortunately the scales are tipped toward an abundance of males.
posted by hama7 at 12:03 AM on December 11, 2002

This time it seems as though it is the lefties stomping on freedoms.

Awesome Midas. I can't believe they have you slaving as some CEO or another, whatever it is they pay you to maintain the ruling class' line. Your comprehension of "left vs. right" is intimidating. But I'm going to take a crack at it anyhow.

The "Left", if it is that you're referring to the real left, does not "stomp upon freedoms". If it is the freedom the poor, underclass, middle class etc. don't enjoy, which I'm sure you were referring to, you're right, totalitarian, fascist, corporatist, dicator-fawning greedies don't give a fuck about freedom, even if they did have a little bitt-o leftie in them in college.

Midas. Obviously you vouch for corporations and their beneficent influence on society. I really don't think you have any business accusing the "left" of doing anything close to what your heroes do with pathological obsessiveness.

Brace yourselves ~~~AMERICANS~~~. It's going to get worse. It's time to take our future into our own hands and bond as one with the working class of Latin America. As working citizens we need them as much as they need us.

(Good god I've got so much soap laying around these days; )
posted by crasspastor at 12:43 AM on December 11, 2002

Once upon a time a man named Darrell Huff wrote a neat little book called How to Lie With Statistics. Of course, he was teaching you how to catch lies, distortions, or mere errors. In the BBC report, and to a lesser extent the ILO report, there is a gross error. The 17.9 percent unemployed figure is presented as uniform. It is not. Indeed, according to the ILO press release, some countries have experienced a drop in unemployment, while most have experienced less than a single percentage point. There is one anomaly, however, and that is Argentina. There, unemployment during the period of the BBC article (2001-reported to 2002-estimated) has risen from 16.4% to 21.5%. The other major rise is in Venezuela, wracked since last year by political strife not strictly related to economic woes (and incidentally, the Bolivarian paradise championed by Nicolae, above). This compares to the regionwide figure which rose from 10.6% to 11.3% -- or less than a point.

The ILO report figures come from the OIT Labor Overview {Spanish only, as yet}, which does not -- alas -- include figures for the size of each nation's workforce. A quick BOTE calculation, however, finds that a 5 point uptick in the unemployment of Argentina's 15 million workers, which is around 8% of the ~190 million total Latin American workforce, accounts for roughly 0.4% rise in regional unemployment -- or half of the increase.

It would seem, in fact, that Argentina's money woes have not spread to its neighbors as badly as one might think. (Most analysts believed from the beginning that, barring turnarounds in economic policy, each of the South American neighbors connected to Argentina's economy would arbitrage the expected losses and experience soft landings.) I would agree that the situation is dire in Argentina, but it is not representative; and indeed, it was in trouble long before 2001.

The reporting of this as a regionwide disaster-in-the-making is unfortunate, because on the whole, the region is weathering a global recession and regional economic quakes rather well. There are outliers, though, and those bear watching. Making this look like a uniformly dangerous situation may grab attention, but also tends to make the problem look insoluble by normal means.
posted by dhartung at 12:44 AM on December 11, 2002

KettleBlack: because proper tea is theft? (sorry)
posted by Bletch at 12:46 AM on December 11, 2002

you're right, totalitarian, fascist, corporatist, dicator-fawning greedies don't give a fuck about freedom,

Hi crasspastor!

That's cute how you use all those "Age of Aquarius" buzzwords. Was that from "Hair"?
posted by hama7 at 1:24 AM on December 11, 2002

it isnt because we're ripping you off , it's because you've had too many babies , that's what it is.
you put the rent on my 4 bedroom house up, it's my fault for needing one in the first place.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:53 AM on December 11, 2002

The situation in Argentina and Venezuela is discouraging, but both Brazil and Ecuador have successfully completed recent elections without violence or result-changing irregularities, and their new, left-leaning Presidents seem to be starting out on a footing of moderation and consensus-building to avoid the sort of instability and deterioration that we have seen all too often in the past. I am also heartened by the fact that in April 2002, people - including anti-Chavezists - rose up against the government that deposed Chavez when it threatened democracy and rule of law in Venezuela, and forced it out of power.

Midas: Chavez and his supporters are not all there is to the Venezuelan Left. Please note that the major labor unions are all arrayed against him; their alliance with anti-Chavez business interests enabled last April's coup attempt, and their withdrawal of that support caused it to collapse. And why did support for the coup evaporate? Certainly not because the right-wingers loved freedom.

Beholder: Is Japan overpopulated, or southern California? "Overpopulation" is a misleading way of saying there's too many poor people, and it places the blame on the poor for being too damn fertile. But if poor women had 2.1 kids each, they'd still be poor. The main reason for all the widespread poverty is that education and access to capital is pretty much the exclusive domain of the wealthy elite, while the impoverished majority do what they can to scrape by. Bringing simple things like schools, electricity, and small business loans to the rural poor would do wonders for reducing urban slum growth and increasing most people's chances for a better life. Bringing fertility rates down is helpful for keeping the situation manageable in the long term, yes, but that alone would not even come close to solving the structural problems of Latin American societies.
posted by skoosh at 8:12 AM on December 14, 2002

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