317 courses ePortfolio Forums Blog FAQ

Latin American/Caribbean Politics

Purpose of Course  showclose

“(Latin) America is ungovernable; all who have served the revolution have plowed the sea!”  Simon Bolivar, liberator of much of South America, spoke these famous words on his deathbed in 1830 while reflecting on what he deemed the failure of democracy to take root in Latin America in the early part of the 19th century.  Looking through the historical struggles in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last century and a half, these words continue to hold some truth.  The story of Latin America is one of inequality, complexity, failures, and unrealized possibilities.  Latin America and the Caribbean have entered into the 21st century with a legacy of persistent poverty, authoritarianism, corruption, and inequality.

This course will introduce you to the politics of Latin America and the Caribbean and examine the causes and effects of the region’s development.  In many ways, Latin American/Caribbean politics defies any sort of coherent logic attempting to bring it together, a fact that is much reflected in the field of Latin American studies.  Instead of approaching the field in pursuit of one central theme, you must come at the topic from multiple directions and different perspectives.

You will begin Unit 1: Foundations of Latin American Politics by examining the geographic, cultural, social, and historical foundations of Latin American and Caribbean politics.  As you shall see, the long period of colonialism has left a strong imprint on the region, strongly influencing the development of political institutions and behavior.  The region’s politics is also strongly influenced by social pressures, geographic factors, and unique cultural traits.

Unit 2: Political Economy of Development looks at the major contending theories used to describe and explain socio-economic and political development (or the lack thereof) of this vibrant region.  Some of these theories were developed according to North American and European scholars’ assumptions about modernization; other theories were developed from the perspective of Latin American scholars and their direct experiences.  Despite important differences in how they explain Latin American development, a common theme of these theories is the effort to explain the uneven economic development and the persistence of poverty and inequality that have been at the root of many of the region’s political upheavals and revolutions and reactions.

Unit 3: Democratization examines the causes and process by which most of Latin America became more democratic.  By the 1990s, almost all the countries of the region had democratically elected regimes and were continuing the process of consolidating and deepening their democratic reforms.  This unit will examine the institutions of democracy, such as the balance of power between legislatures and executives and electoral processes.  The unit will also give special attention to the political role of women in traditional male-dominated societies.

Unit 4: U.S. – Latin American Relations looks at Latin America’s almost 200 year relationship with the United States.  The United States government and American corporations have been important actors in the Latin American political arena.  The United States has long-viewed the region as its rightful “sphere of influence” and has often intervened in the region to protect its perceived security and economic interests, in what is sometimes described as neocolonialism.  These interventions have taken myriad forms, ranging from economic and social development policies, covert operations, and even outright military intervention.  The unit will examine how the United States’ role has shaped its political relations with the region.

Finally, Unit 5: Current Regional Issues explores several contemporary issues that most countries of the region face: trade and economic integration; drug trafficking and the U.S.-led “war on drugs;” immigration (legal and illegal); and the rise of a new challenger to U.S. traditional domination of the region: China.


Course Information  showclose

Welcome to POLSC324.  Below, please find some general information about the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Dr. Kenneth L. Johnson

Primary Resource: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials.  However, there is one resource that will be extensively used in Unit 3:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Pay special attention to Unit 1 as this lays the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in later units.  You will also need to complete:

  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the quizzes and problem sets listed above.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: The total amount of time required to complete this course is approximately 75 hours.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 13 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday; subunit 1.2 and sub-subunit 1.3.1 (a total of 3 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.  By making such a schedule and setting goals for each day of study, you will be able to complete the course in the allotted time.

Tips/Suggestions: Before reading or watching each of the resources, it is important to review the instructions for each resource and the accompanying study questions, which will contain key concepts and vocabulary that you are expected to learn from that resource.  As you work through the resource, write notes in accordance with the study questions.  These study questions will provide you with the basis for reviewing the material for your Final Exam.

Additional Resources: If you are interested in learning more about Latin American and Caribbean politics or would like to keep up with current events in the region, the following is a list of useful resources specializing in the region:

  • The Americas: Council on Foreign Relations: The Council on Foreign Relations is a prestigious think tank.  Click here for many good links to news and articles about Latin America.
  • Council of the Americas. This is a pro-business organization founded by leading companies in 1955.  Based in Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote the economic, social and political development throughout the Americas. 
  • Latin American Studies Association: (LASA) homepage.
  • David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies: Harvard University: This site offers up-to-the-minute information about Boston area events related to Latin America (lectures, seminars, concerts, etc.). It also provides access to the Latin America Database, a comprehensive news monitoring service sponsored by the Center.

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages linked above.



Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Describe the geographic, demographic, economic, and cultural context within which Latin American political systems are situated.
  • Explain the region’s lack of development with reference to contending theories of political economy: modernization, structuralism, dependency, and neo-classical.
  • Describe the processes of democratization, with special focus on institution-building that promote democratic participation and accountability.
  • Trace the historical evolution of U.S. policy towards Latin America and its impact on the region’s political development.
  • Acquire multiple perspectives on and discuss current issues facing the region, including trade and economic integration, the war on drugs, immigration, and globalization.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following prerequisites from the “Core Program” of the Political Science discipline: POLSC 101: Introduction to Politics and POLSC 221: Comparative Politics.  It is also recommended that you complete POLSC 211: International Relations before taking this course.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: Foundations of Latin American Politics  

    To begin your study of the politics of Latin America and the Caribbean, you will explore geographic factors that have shaped and influenced its development.  Then, you will continue by looking at its people, both in demographic and cultural terms.  Next, you will explore the history of Latin America, starting with the stark transformation of pre-Hispanic Indigenous civilizations during the European conquest.  

    You will then study the features of European colonialism that served to solidify inequality and economic dependency throughout the region.  The specific histories of four countries—Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico—will then be examined from their independence to contemporary times.  These four countries are the most significant political actors in the region and their development has influenced the region as a whole.  The culture and politics of Argentina have been influenced more by Europe than any other Latin American country; Brazil is the largest country in the region and is the economic powerhouse of Latin America.  Its culture and history have been distinctive due to the Portuguese (rather than Spanish) colonization and large influx of Africans.  Cuba is a Caribbean nation just 90 miles off the Florida coast.  Despite its small size, it has had a deep political influence throughout the region as a result of Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution more than 50 years ago.  Finally, Mexico is the fourth representative country of Unit One, chosen because of its proximity to the United States.  Its history and development have been closely intertwined with that of the U.S.  Today, Mexico is the second largest trading partner with the U.S. and is closely tied to the U.S. on a number of issues including immigration and illegal drugs.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 The Land and People of Latin America & the Caribbean  
  • 1.1.1 Geography of the Region  
    • Web Media: YouTube: Mr. Friederich’s “Human Geography of Latin America, Part 1” and “Human Geography of Latin America, Part 2”

      Link: YouTube: Mr. Friederich’s “Human Geography of Latin America, Part 1” (Youtube) and “Human Geography of Latin America, Part 2” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the 2 videos (14:56 and 14:57 minutes).  As you watch this video, take notes, making sure you can answer the following questions:

      1. What are the 4 main regions of Latin America?
      2. What is the name of the European conquistador who took over Mexico?
      3. Which two countries form the borderline between North and South America?
      4. Which is the largest country (in terms of area) in Latin America?
      5. After independence, Latin America was dominated by oligarchs in an authoritarian manner.  Explain who were these oligarchs?
      6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a famous writer in Latin American literature—what was one of the major themes of his writing?
      7. What features of Chile and Brazil have made them relatively more successful during their historical development?
       
      This resource and questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 1.1.2 Population  
    • Web Media: YouTube: IUSoutheast’s “Latin America Population”

      Link: YouTube: IUSoutheast’s “Latin America Population” (Youtube)

      Instructions: Watch the entire video (2:01 minutes), take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. What are the two main patterns of population settlement?
      2. About what percentage of people live in urban areas?

      This resource and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and the terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 1.1.3 Ethnic Groups  
    • Reading: Latino Stories: CIA World Factbook’s “Ethnic Groups: Latin American Countries”

      Link: Latino Stories: CIA World Factbook’s “Ethnic Groups: Latin American Countries” (HTML)

      Instructions: Take a look at the chart, focusing on the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico.  Please make note of the following terms used to describe the ethnic groups listed in the chart: mestizo (those with mixed European/Amerindian ancestry), mulatto (mixed white and black), black, white (those from Europe, such as from Spain, Portugal, Italy, or Germany), and Amerindian (native people of the Americas).  As you compare the ethnic make-up of the four countries, answer the following questions:

      1. Do these four countries have the same ethnic make-up?
      2. Which of the four countries has the highest percentage of African-Americans?
      3. Which of the four countries has the highest percentage of white Europeans?
      4. Which of the four countries has the highest percentage of indigenous or mixed (European/Amerindian)?

      This resource and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 1.2 Latin American Culture  
  • 1.2.1 Formation of Multi-cultural Societies  
    • Web Media: PBS Video: “When Worlds Collide: The Untold Story of What Happened in America after Columbus”

      Link: PBS Video: “When Worlds Collide: The Untold Story of What Happened in America after Columbus” (Adobe Flash)

      Instructions: Latin American culture is an amalgam of many different cultures:  European cultures (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German), African, Native American, and some others.  This video will help you to see how these cultures came together (often violently) to produce the very diverse cultures of contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean.  Please watch the video (1 hour and 27 minutes), and answer the following questions:

      1.     Describe some examples of the spiritual, social, political and technological achievements of the pre-Colombian civilizations of the Americas.
      2.     Describe the caste system of colonial Latin America?
      3.     What were the contributions of Africans (originally brought over to Latin America as slaves) to the culture of Latin America?
      4.     How did the gold mining in the New World, which was used to finance European capitalism and early ‘globalization” under Spanish King Charles V, affect cultural and social development in Latin America?
      5.     Bartoleme de las Casas persuaded Charles V to introduce reforms to improve the Spaniards’ treatment of the indigenous peoples of Latin America – describe some of these reforms.
       
      This resource and the questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 1.2.2 Religion  
  • 1.3 History of the Region  
  • 1.3.1 Colonial History  
  • 1.3.1.1 The Conquest  
    • Reading: MIT OpenCourseWare: The Conquest of the Americas: “The Spanish Conquest”

      Link: MIT OpenCourseWare: The Conquest of the Americas: “The Spanish Conquest” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: The readings for sub-subunit 1.3.1.1 through 1.3.1.4 come from a single source, MIT OpenCourseWare, ANTH 441 The Conquest of the Americas. Open the link above, and scroll down to lecture #2 “The Spanish Conquest.”  Click on the “PDF” link to download the file.  Read the entire lecture (4 pages).  You may wish to download PDF file for review later. As you read, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. How did the pattern of Spanish and Portuguese exploration and colonization differ?
      2. How did Spanish explorers (conquistadors) react to their encounter with the Indians?
      3. Why were the Spaniards able to conquer the entire continent of South America and the region of Central America rather easily in just a span of 30-40 years?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: The reading above is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License 3.0 (HTML).
       

  • 1.3.1.2 Indian Exploitation and the Colonial Economy  
  • 1.3.1.3 Resistance and Rebellion in Colonial Latin America  
  • 1.3.1.4 Independence and Change in 19th Century Latin America  
  • 1.3.2 Legacies of Colonialism  
    • Reading: Political Affairs: Vinicius Valentin Raduan Miguel’s “Colonialism and Underdevelopment in Latin America”

      Link: Political Affairs: Vinicius Valentin Raduan Miguel’s “Colonialism and Underdevelopment in Latin America” (HTML)

      Instructions: This article will provide background about the colonial period and how it has contributed to challenges still faced today throughout the region, especially with regard to poverty and socio-economic inequality.  Read the article in its entirety, take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. How does the author define colonialism?
      2. Why did the Europeans establish colonies?
      3. Who were oligarchs?
      4. How did the European powers keep the colonies under their economic control?
      5. How did the colonial system of control lead to centuries of poverty and inequality?

      This reading and the questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 1.3.3 History of Selected Countries  
  • 1.3.3.1 Argentina  
    • Reading: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Argentina”

      Link: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Argentina” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link for a profile andsummary of Argentina.  First, review the profile of its geography, population, economy, government, and people. Then, scroll down to the history section, take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. Who is Juan Peron, and what kinds of policies did he implement?
      2. What was the “Dirty War?”
      3. Argentina returned to democracy in 1983.  Since that time, what were some of the main economic challenges facing the country?

      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 1.3.3.2 Brazil  
    • Reading: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Brazil”

      Link: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs “Background Note: Brazil” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above for a profile andsummary of Brazil.  First, review the profile of its geography, population, economy, government, and people. Then, scroll down to the history section, take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. What year was slavery abolished?
      2. Brazil had a dictatorship from 1964-85; what kinds of policies did the military leaders pursue?
      3. What kinds of policies did President Lula and his Workers Party implement?

      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 1.3.3.3 Cuba  
    • Reading: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Cuba”

      Link: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Cuba” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above for a profile and summary of Cuba.  First, review the profile of its geography, population, economy, government, and people.  Then, scroll down to the history section, take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. Who was Fulgencio Batista?
      2. Describe some of the policies Fidel Castro pursued after he came to power in the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
      3. What was the “Black Spring” of 2003?
      4. Describe the economic challenges faced by Cuba today.
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 1.3.3.4 Mexico  
    • Reading: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: “Background Note: Mexico”

      Link: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs:  “Background Note: Mexico” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above for a profile and summary of Mexico.  First, review the profile of its geography, population, economy, government, and people.  Then, scroll down to the history section, take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. Who was Benito Juarez?
      2. How long did the Mexican Revolution last?
      3. Who was Porfirio Diaz?  What policies did he implement?
      4. Which are the two dominant political parties?
      5. What kinds of political/legal reforms has Mexico recently undertaken?
      6. What are some of the main challenges the Mexican government is dealing with today?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • Unit 2: Political Economy of Development  

    As you have seen from Unit 1, high levels of poverty and inequality have been persistent features of the entire region of Latin America and the Caribbean throughout its history.  As a result, the most important political challenge the region has faced has been trying to establish a set of economic and social strategies to lessen poverty and inequality and achieve sustainable growth.  The term “political economy” refers to the interaction of politics and economics; on the one hand, the governments of the region use political means to achieve growth, and on the other hand, the economic challenges often lead to (negative) political consequences.  Since the end of the colonial period, the political economy of the region has been characterized by oscillation and experimentation among different economic and political models.  This unit will focus on the major theories that have strongly influenced the governments and policymakers in their struggle to achieve sustained growth.

    In this unit, you will examine the current socio-economic status of the region and review the major challenges still facing the region.  You will see that poverty, inequality, inflation, and debt have been major recurring challenges.  The main goal of most leaders has been trying to establish an economic strategy and set of policies that would successfully solve these problems and put their countries on the path of sustainable development. To get a clearer picture of where Latin America is today in terms of economic and social development, you will take a look at some indicators of socio-economic development, from respected publications such as the World Development Report, which has been published annually by the World Bank since 1978, and other publications by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  These organizations provide the most authoritative resources for better understanding the status of developing states in the world today and will serve as a starting point for exploring the continued persistence of poverty and inequality across Latin America and the Caribbean. 

    The remainder of Unit 2 will review past and current development theories and strategies, as well as examine their results—both positive and negative.  There have been four major theories of economic development that have most influenced policymaking in the region:  structuralism, the linear stages of growth model, dependency, and neo-classicalism (also known neo-liberalism).  Since the late 1980s, neoliberalism has been the dominant model. The key question is “how much has changed?”

    Today, the neoliberal model of development has been challenged in some countries by a revival of populist policies that focus on acquiring government control of major resources (for example, oil and minerals) and using governmental power to force the redistribution of wealth.  These governments seek to mobilize support for their policies from the large numbers of poor indigenous groups within their countries (hence, they are called “populist,” meaning they get their support from the population).  The governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador are examples of countries that have rejected the neo-liberal model in favor of a more populist development model.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Indicators of Development  
  • 2.1.1 Economic Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean  
  • 2.1.2 Social Indicators in Latin America  
    • Reading: United Nations: The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) “Social Panorama of Latin America, 2011”

      Link: United Nations: The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) “Social Panorama of Latin America, 2011” (HTML and PDF)
       
      Instructions: Open the link and read the brief two-paragraph summary.  Focusing on the second paragraph, answer the following question:
       
      1. What reasons are given to explain the decrease in poverty and inequality?

      Then, for a more comprehensive look at the social panorama of Latin America, click on “download document” on the right side of the webpage, and then click on “Paper Brief” to download the PDF.  Read Chapter 1 “Poverty, Inequality and Perceptions of the World of Work in Latin America” (pages 11-16).  Take notes and answer the following questions based on this chapter:

      1. What is the unemployment rate?  Is this higher or lower than historical averages?
      2. What percentage of Latin Americans are still in poverty?
      3. Which two Latin American countries actually had an increase in poverty?
      4. Look at Table 1 on page 13: which country has the lowest poverty rate?  Which country had the highest?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 2.1.3 Persistence of Poverty  
  • 2.1.4 Causes/Consequences of Poverty and Inequality  
    • Web Media: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: Status of Poverty in Latin America”

      Link: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: Status of Poverty in Latin America” (YouTube)

      Instructions: You saw from the reading assigned in sub-subunit 1.4.1 (Colonialism and Its Legacies) that much of today’s poverty and inequality is a continuing legacy of colonial patterns hundreds of years ago.  This video will discuss some more contemporary causes, such as dependence on commodity exports (mainly to the U.S.) and will also discuss some of the social and political consequences of enduring poverty, as well as some ways in which governments and people of the region have sought to overcome it.  Watch this entire video (29:30 minutes), take notes, and answer the following questions:
       
      1.  What are the “two faces” of poverty shown in the video? (1:12 minutes)
      2. Although “business is booming” in Latin America, most laborers find their salaries getting lower.  Why?
      3. What are some of the consequences of increased poverty?
      4. What solutions are advocated to end poverty?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 2.1.5 Ending Inequality  
  • 2.2 Theories of Development  
  • 2.2.1 What Is Development Economics?  
    • Reading: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development”

      Link: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development” (HTML or PDF)

      Instructions: All of the readings for sub-subunits 2.2.1 through 2.2.5 come from this single resource: Roberto Contreras’s “Part I-III Competing Theories of Economic Development.”  This article provides a very useful comparison of the main theories and models that have influenced Latin American governments as they have experimented with different development strategies and policies in their struggle to achieve sustained development.  As you read about each of the theories, you should make mental comparisons about two main points: (1) what does each theory say is the cause of Latin America’s lack of development, and (2) what solutions does each theory offer?
      After you open the link, click on the PDF icon to download the PDF file, and save the PDF file to your computer for convenience.  You may view this text in HTML format (linked above) or via the PDF file.  For this sub-subunit, read Section A: “What Is Development Economics?” and answer the following questions:
       
      1.     Compare and contrast classical economics and Marxist economics.
      2.     What is the main concern of development economics?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 2.2.2 Structuralism (Dependency Theory)  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Introduction to Structuralism”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Introduction to Structuralism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please read this brief, introductory text in its entirety for an overview of Structuralism.  

      Reading this text should take you approximately 15 minutes.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

    • Reading: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development”

      Link: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development” (HTML or PDF)
       
      Instructions: This article describes the main ideas of the Structuralist school of thought.  Please click on the PDF icon on the University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development’s website to download the PDF file, if you have not already done so.  You may read this text on the webpage (HTML) or via the PDF file.  Read Section B: “The Structuralist School: State-Led Growth Was the Key,” and answer the following questions:
       
      1.     According to structuralists, what was the main cause of underdevelopment in Latin America?
      2.     Why is it not feasible for Latin American countries to develop their economies based on the export of raw materials?
      3.     What solutions did the structuralists advocate to end dependency?
      4.     Unlike classical and neo-classical theorists who promote a free market and minimal government regulation as a path to development, dependency theorists argued that development could only be achieved through strong government intervention in the economy.  Describe some of the policies and roles that are advocated by these theorists.
      5.     Explain why the policies advocated by the structuralists met with limited success.
       
      This reading and these questions should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

    • Reading: Mount Holyoke College’s Department of International Relations: Vincent Ferrero’s "Dependency Theory: An Introduction”

      Link: Mount Holyoke College, Department of International Relations, Vincent Ferrero, "Dependency Theory: An Introduction" (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the article in its entirety, paying special attention to the sub-section entitled “The Central Propositions of Dependency Theory.”  As you read the article, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. According to Raul Prebisch, what was the cause of Latin America’s underdevelopment?  What solution did he propose?
      2. What are the three common features of the definitions of dependency described in the article?
      3. Compare the concepts of “underdeveloped/underdevelopment” with “undeveloped/undevelopment”
      4. Explain Dependency Theory’s criticism of policies that rely on agricultural exports as a path for development.
      5. According to Dependency Theory, what are the historical origins of the situation of dependency and underdevelopment in Latin America?
      6. Dependency Theory advocated a policy of “self-reliance” as a path for Latin American development.  Explain what is meant by “self-reliance.”
       
      This reading and these questions should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpages displayed above.

  • 2.2.3 Linear Stages of Growth Model (Modernization Theory)  
    • Reading: The University of Iowa Center’s for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development”

      Link: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development” (HTML or PDF)
       
      Instructions: The Linear Stages of Growth Model (more popularly known as Modernization Theory) has dominated European perspectives for the past several decades.  In America, one of the main proponents of this model was Walt Rostow, who was an influential advisor to President Kennedy.  In fact, Modernization Theory and its assumptions underpinned the Kennedy Administration’s approach to Latin America, especially his Alliance for Progress, with its attendant programs of economic aid and human resource and technology transfer through the creation of the Peace Corps (see Unit 4 below for more details).  In simplest terms, this theory said that all countries went through distinct stages of development, progressing from primitive, agricultural-based societies to more advanced industrial and service-based economies.  An important feature of this model of growth is that developing countries could become more “modern” by trading with more developed countries via the transfer of technology and knowledge. This theory, therefore, directly contradicted Dependency Theory, which says that close ties between developing and developed countries leads to underdevelopment, not modernization.

      If you have not already done so, you may want to click on the PDF icon on the University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development’s website to download the PDF file.  You may read this text on the webpage linked above (HTML) or via the PDF file.  Please read Section C: “The Linear Stages of Growth Model,” and answer the following questions:
       
      1.     According to Walt Rostow, what are the five stages of modernization and development all countries go through?
      2.     How did Rostow’s theory differ from the structuralists?
      3.     Why was Rostow’s theory and its policy prescriptions ineffective in the Latin American context?
       
      This reading and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 2.2.4 Neo-Marxist Theory  
    • Reading: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development”

      Link: The University of Iowa Center’s for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development” (HTML or PDF)
       
      Instructions: Neo-Marxist theorists take a much more drastic perspective than the structuralists.  They explain Latin America’s lack of development as rooted in the inherently exploitative nature of capitalism.  Not only do Latin American countries face economic exploitation from advanced capitalist countries through declining terms of trade (as the structuralists argued), but also from exploitative labor relations (low wages, discouragement of labor unions, low taxes for big business, etc.), but also exploitative social, political, and military relationships.  Latin American neo-Marxists would point to the numerous instances of American intervention in Latin America (see Unit 4 for more details) as proof of imperialism and exploitation.  Because of the vast power and resources at the hands of the capitalists (big business), which are supported by the U.S. government, many Neo-Marxists believed that the only way to solve the development dilemma was by eliminating the capitalist class within their own countries, seizing their property for redistribution, and cutting all ties with the United States.  Of course, such actions would inevitably provoke violence and class warfare; this is exactly what occurred in several countries of the region, most notably Cuba (see subunit 2.3 for more information). 

      If you have not already done so, you may want to click on the PDF icon on the University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development’s website to download the PDF file.  You may read this text on the webpage (HTML) or via the PDF file.  Please read Section D: “The Neo-Marxist Approach,” and answer the following questions:

      1. How do Neo-Marxists describe the relationship between developing and advanced countries?
      2. Compare/contrast traditional Marxism with Neo-Marxist Approach.
       
      This reading and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for these webpages displayed above.

  • 2.2.5 Neo-Classical  
    • Reading: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development”

      Link: The University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development: Ricardo Contreras’s “Part1-III Competing Theories of Economic Development” (HTML or PDF)
       
      Instructions: The Neo-Classical (more popularly known as “neo-liberal”) approach to development is based on traditional theories of free market economics.  The main assumption is that government intervention in the economy creates inefficiencies and hinders development.  Neo-liberals advocate creation of free-trade agreements, diversification of exports, and transfer of technology and knowledge as keys to development.  The effectiveness of these policies will be explored below in subunit 2.4 “How Much Has Changed?”

      If you have not already done so, you may want to click on the PDF icon on the University of Iowa’s Center for International Finance and Development’s website to download the PDF file.  You may read this text on the webpage (HTML) or via the PDF file.  Please read Section E: “The Neo-Classical Revival,” and answer the following questions:

      1. According to the neo-classical view, what was the cause of economic stagnation in the region?
      2. What were the main solutions offered by the neo-classical view?
       
      This reading and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 2.3 Revolutionary Change  
    • Web Media: CIA Archives: “The Cuban Revolution CIA Archives Documentary History (1960)”

      Link: CIA Archives: “The Cuban Revolution CIA Archives Documentary History (1960)” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Watch this video (51 minutes) for an overview of the Cuban revolutions.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following study questions:

      1. How did Fidel’s relatively small army succeed in overthrowing the dictatorial regime of Batista?
      2. What were some of the causes of the revolution?
      3. Why was the American government so worried about the communist influence?
      4. What were some of the goals of the Cuban revolution?
       
      This video and these questions should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 2.3.1 Revolution and the Cold War: Guatemala and Cuba  
  • 2.3.2 Revolutionary Cuba: Castro and Beyond  
    • Web Media: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: Cuba and Fidel”

      Link: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: Cuba and Fidel” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Watch this video (28 minutes) about communist Cuba, under the leader, Fidel Castro, who led his country in a social and political revolution in 1959.  The Cuban revolution and “Fidel” has inspired numerous other efforts throughout the hemisphere and long served as a model of socialist revolution that could provide an alternative to the perceived capitalist domination of the U.S.  As you watch the video, please take notes to answer the following questions:

      1. What were the main achievements of Castro’s socialist revolution?
      2. What are some continuing challenges faced by Cuban people economically and socially?
      3. What are some changes that will likely take place in Cuban society now that Fidel has handed over power to his brother?
       
      This video and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above

  • 2.3.3 Nicaragua: Unfinished Revolution  
    • Web Media: YouTube: AlJazeeraEnglish’s “Nicaragua: Unfinished Revolution:” “Part 1” and “Part 2”

      Link: YouTube: AlJazeeraEnglish’s “Nicaragua: Unfinished Revolution:” “Part 1” (YouTube) and “Part 2” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: This video will explore the achievements of the 1979 socialist revolution in Nicaragua.  The Sandinistas (FSLN), a Marxist revolutionary mass movement, succeeded in overthrowing a corrupt dictatorship of the Somoza family that had been in power since the 1930s and was long supported by the U.S. government and corporations.  Using the Cuban revolution as a model, they sought to reconstruct Nicaragua’s economy and society into a more egalitarian society and to reduce their economic dependence on the U.S. 

      Watch this two-part video (10:14 and11:52 minutes, respectively) to learn more about the achievements and short-comings of the 30 years since the Nicaraguan revolution took place.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. Who is Daniel Ortega?
      2. What is the name of the dictator whom the U.S. supported in Nicaragua for 40 years?
      3. What were the most important achievements of the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979?
      4. Is Nicaragua a democratic country today?
       
      This 2-part video and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 2.4 Latin America Today: Two Decades of Neo-Liberalism--How Much Has Changed?  
  • 2.4.1 The Success of Neo-Liberalism  
    • Web Media: YouTube: OECD Development Center: “Business is Booming in Latin America”

      Link: YouTube:  OECD Development Center:  “Business is Booming in Latin America” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: In sub-subunits 2.4.1 through 2.4.3, you will explore the results of neo-liberal economic policies that have dominated the region since the 1980s.  Only a few countries with strong leftist populist governments (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador) have rejected the neo-liberal model, while all the other governments of the region have adopted it (to varying degrees).  The key question is: has neo-liberalism succeeded in spurring economic and social development, especially the lessening of poverty and inequality?  While some see success (sub-subunit 2.4.1), others see failure and the need to move on (sub-subunits 2.4.2 and 2.4.3).  As you watch and listen to these different perspectives, you are encouraged to think critically and formulate your own judgments.

      This video (2 minutes in length) is a product of the OECD’s Development Center.  The OECD is a global organization of (mainly) advanced capitalist countries, and it is one of the major proponents of the neo-liberal model of development. Watch this video for a short summary of the progress Latin America has recently experienced under the neo-liberal model, as well as some persistent roadblocks that have yet to be overcome.  Then, answer the following questions:
       
      1.  What are the main areas of progress Latin America has recently made in its development?
      2.  What are continuing obstacles?
       
      This video and these questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.
       

  • 2.4.2 The Failure of Neo-Liberalism  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Real News’ “The Crisis of Neoliberalism:” “Part 1” and “Part 2”

      Link: YouTube: The Real News’ “The Crisis of Neoliberalism:” “Part 1” (YouTube) and “Part 2” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: In contrast to the preceding video, this 2-part video (8:57 and 9:32 minutes, respectively) has a much more pessimistic assessment of neo-liberalism and free-market capitalism.  Note how Dr. Gerard Dumenil, Professor of Economics at the University of Paris, makes a connection between the continuing poverty and inequality in Latin America one the one hand, with the 1998 financial crisis (precipitated by “big financial capitalists of Wall Street) and anti-Wall Street protests throughout the U.S. during 2011.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1.     (Part 1) How is neo-liberalism defined?
      2.     (Part 1) How does he define globalization?  How did globalization facilitate the strengthening of neo-liberalism?
      3.     (Part 1) According to Professor Dumenil, what is the primary objective of neo-liberal policymakers, especially in the U.S.?
      4.     (Part 1) How did neo-liberal policies contribute to the 2008 global financial crash?
      5.     (Part 2) How did neo-liberalism provoke popular resistance?  Give country-specific examples from the video.
      6.     (Part 2) What demands should citizens make on their governments in order to ameliorate the negative effects of neo-liberal policies (for example, the reduction of workers’ purchasing power, loss of jobs, tightening credit, and slimming down of employee benefits)?
       
      This 2-part video and these questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpages displayed above.

  • 2.4.3 Post-Neoliberalism: The Left’s Alternative  
    • Reading: Share the World’s Resources’ “Post-Neoliberalism in Latin America”

      Link: Share the World’s Resources’ “Post-Neoliberalism in Latin America” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read the entire article, which looks at the emergence of new alternatives to the neoliberal (called “neo-classical above) development model that has been favored by the U.S. Several Leftist Latin American leaders in countries of Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia; has sought to moderate the ill effects of reduced government regulation; and has instituted more social programs aimed at helping the poor.  As you read the article, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. How is post-neoliberalism defined?
      2. Which countries/governments are examples of post-neoliberalism?
      3.  What kinds of policies are associated with “post-neoliberalism”?
       
      This video and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 2.4.4 Future of Latin American Development  
    • Reading: The Economist: Michael Reid’s “So Near, Yet so Far”

      Link: The Economist: Michael Reid’s “So Near, Yet so Far” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: We will finish this subunit with a more balanced assessment from The Economist magazine. Read this entire article.  Take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. What macro-economic measures is Latin America improving?
      2. How much progress is being made against poverty?
      3. What yet remains to be done?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • Unit 3: Democratization  

    After enduring decades of dictatorships marred by political violence, human rights abuses and widespread political violence and revolutions, beginning in the mid-1970s, Latin America experienced a wave of democratization.  By the 1990s, almost all the countries of the region had democratically elected regimes and were continuing the process of consolidating and deepening their democratic reforms.  These transitions focused on building institutions that would encourage political participation and encourage the protection of fundamental citizen rights.  The first part of this unit will look at some indicators of democracy, to provide an overview of just how democratic the countries of the region have become.  Next, there is a set of readings that focus on key institutions such as presidencies, legislatures, and political parties and how the creation of these institutions has led to increased citizen participation and governmental accountability. Afterwards, special attention will be given to the role of women in the democratization process.  In recent years, Latin America has had several female presidents, more representation in elected offices, and a more influential role at the grassroots level—all of which point to a possible lessening of the traditional machismo culture that has long characterized the region. 

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Indicators of Democracy in Latin America  
    • Reading: Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s “2011 Latinobarometro”

      Link: Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s “2011 Latinobarometro” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this summary of the latest Latinobarometro survey on Latin American public opinion and satisfaction with democracy in the region.  Then, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. Generally speaking, are Latin Americans more satisfied or less satisfied than the previous survey?
      2. Which country has the highest satisfaction with democracy, and which country has the lowest satisfaction?
      3. What are some major sources of dissatisfaction?
      This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above. 

  • 3.2 Institution-building and Democracy  
  • 3.2.1 Role of the State and Politics in Latin American Development  
  • 3.2.2 Balance of Powers: Executive vs. Legislatures  
    • Reading: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: J. Marc Payne et al.’s Democracies in Development, Inter-American Development Bank: “Chapter 4: Balance of Powers: Executives vs. Legislatures”

      Link: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: J. Marc Payne et al.’s Democracies in Development, Inter-American Development Bank: Chapter 4: Balance of Powers: Executives vs. Legislatures” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: If you have not already done so, please download the PDF file of the complete textbook by clicking on “Full PDF” on the webpage linked above.  This textbook will be used throughout Unit 3, so you may want to save a copy to your desktop.  In considering the balance of executive and legislative powers in Latin America, please read Chapter 4, pages 81-116.  As you read this chapter, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. What are the three main concerns about presidentialism and its negative effects on the institutional balance of power in Latin American democracies?
      2. What are the advantages of presidentialism?
      3. What are some of the legislative powers of presidents?
      4. What are some of the non-legislative powers of presidents?
      5. Look at Table 4.1 on p. 96.  In which country does the president have the strongest legislative power?  In which country does the president have the weakest legislative power?
      6. Why does partisan fragmentation hurt democratic governability?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • 3.2.3 Role of Political Parties  
  • 3.2.4 Elections and Citizen Participation  
  • 3.2.5 Conclusion: Institutionalization of Democracy in Latin America  
    • Reading: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: J. Marc Payne et al.’s Democracies in Development, Inter-American Development Bank: “Conclusions”

      Link: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: J. Marc Payne et al.’s Democracies in Development, Inter-American Development Bank: Conclusions” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: If you have not already done so, please download the PDF file of the complete textbook by clicking on “Full PDF” on the webpage linked above.  This textbook will be used throughout Unit 3, so you may want to save a copy to your desktop.  In considering how far Latin America has come in its democratization process, please read the “Conclusions” on pages 301-314 to cover this topic.  As you read the chapter, please take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. Have the institutions of democracy become more stable?
      2. Has the balance of power between executive vs. legislature shifted in recent years?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 3.3 Role of Women in Democracies Today  
  • 3.3.1 Women in Electoral Offices  
  • 3.3.2 Role and Women in Grassroots Movements  
    • Web Media: YouTube: Direct Action’s “Women in Latin America:” “Part 1” and “Part 2”

      Links: YouTube: Direct Action’s “Women in Latin America:” “Part 1”(YouTube) and “Part 2” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Women not only play an increasingly important role in formally institutionalized elected positions, but have also long organized themselves at the grassroots level (in neighborhoods and communities) to take direct action on issues such as education, healthcare, housing, safety, and others that confront them in daily life. Watch both parts of this video (7:35 and 7:34 minutes, respectively).
       
      1. What are the major obstacles to gender equality in Latin America?
      2. What kinds of political roles have women played in struggle for social justice?
       
      This 2-part video and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • Unit 4: The United States and Latin America  

    From its historical legacy as a series of European colonies through revolution and modern times, Latin America has often been defined by its close proximity to the United States of America.  Speaking of Mexico in the mid-1900s, longtime dictator and president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) described this relationship as follows: "¡Pobre México! ¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!"  (“Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!”)  Much of Latin America, for right or wrong, would express this same sentiment.
    Latin Americans have long had a “love-hate” relationship with the U.S.  On the one-hand, Latin Americans are enamored with American culture and admire its technological, economic, and political strengths.  On the other hand, they are highly suspicious and resentful of the way the United States’ government has often exercised its great power throughout the region.  This is largely because of the United States’ long and deep involvement throughout the region, including numerous military interventions; support for dictators; secret plots to remove or assassinate anti-American political leaders; and countless legal, economic, and political manipulations designed to maintain and promote U.S. interests and power in the region.  
     

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 History of U.S. – Latin American Relations  
  • 4.1.1 Timeline of U.S.-Latin American Relations  
  • 4.1.2 Overview of U.S.–Latin American Relations  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “U.S.-Latin American Relations”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “U.S.-Latin American Relations” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please read this overview of U.S.-Latin American relations from the 19th century to the present.  It may help to read this text while viewing the timeline in sub-subunit 4.1.1.  This reading should take you approximately 10 minutes to complete.
       

    • Reading: Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force Report: “U.S. – Latin American Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality”

      Link: Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force Report: “U.S. – Latin American Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Open the link, scroll down below the section entitled “Overview,” and click on the link “Download the full text of the report here.”  Download the PDF file, and read the “Introduction” of the report, from pages 5-12.  This reading will provide a good introduction to some of the key issues in contemporary relations, including the issues of trade, oil, illegal drugs, and immigration—all issues which are treated in more depth in Unit 5.  As you read the report, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. What is the key idea of the report as stated in the first paragraph?
      2. What are some of the ways in which U.S. ties to Latin America have deepened in recent years?
      3. Do opinion polls of Latin Americans show increasing or decreasing favorable attitudes towards the U.S.? 
      4. Why has U.S. devoted so little attention to Latin America in recent years, despite its importance to U.S. interests?
      5. Why has the U.S. become less important to many Latin American countries in recent years?
      6. What are some of the Council on Foreign Relations’ (the author) recommendations to improve U.S. relations with Latin America?
       
      This reading and these questions should take about 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2 Current Perspectives on US-Latin American Relations  
  • 4.2.1 U.S. Stereotypes of Latin American People  
    • Web Media: YouTube: “Latino Stereotypes and Representation in the Media”

      Link: YouTube: “Latino Stereotypes and Representation in the Media” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the entire video (10:36 minutes). U.S. citizens often have negative stereotypes towards people from Latin America and the Caribbean; for example, the idea that Mexicans are basically lazy, or that all Latin Americans crossed the border into the U.S. illegally. This video will show the negative stereotypes of Latinos that are often portrayed in the movies and news.  As you watch the video, make a list of the stereotypes that are being portrayed (for example: “Latinos belong to gangs” or “Latinos do not speak English”).
       
      This video and note-taking should take about 0.25 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 4.2.2 Latin American Perspectives on Relationship with U.S.  
    • Web Media: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: U.S. – Latin American Relations”

      Link: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: U.S. – Latin American Relations” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: This video (27:50 minutes) provides a good overview of Latin America’s often contentious relationship with the U.S.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following study questions:

      1. What is the major issue confronting Latin America’s relationship to the U.S. today?
      2. Do most Latin American countries have a generally favorable or unfavorable view regarding the benefits of free trade?
       
      This video and these questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 4.2.3 Mexico’s Relationship with the U.S.  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Commonwealth Club: Jorge Castaneda’s “Mexico’s Future and Relationship with the U.S.”

      Link: YouTube: The Commonwealth Club: Jorge Castaneda’s “Mexico’s Future and Relationship with the U.S.” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Jorge Castaneda is a former foreign minister of Mexico and a renowned scholar and expert on U.S. – Latin American relations.  In this speech, he will provide some insights concerning Mexico’s perspective and concerns regarding its relationship with the U.S.  As you watch this video (1 hour, 8 minutes), take notes and answer the following questions:

      1. What are some of the major issues that will require close cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. in the years to come?
      2. What are some of the differences between Mexican ways of dealing with issues and the U.S. government ways?
       
      This video and these questions should take about 1.75 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 4.2.4 Current U.S. Government Perspective on Relationship with Latin America  
  • Unit 5: Current Regional Issues  

    The final unit of this course concludes by examining some major issues that currently confront the nation: regional economic integration, the war on drugs, immigration (both internal and external, and globalization.  Economic integration among Latin American countries has long been a goal of many governments of the region.  Looking toward the European Union as a kind of model, the purpose of such integration was to not only achieve economic self-sufficiency but also to cultivate greater economic self-reliance in their pursuit of development goals and regional security. 

    Since the independence of Central and South American colonies, regional integration has been attempted in various forms with varying degrees of success.  The goals of integration have included the promotion of regional trade, lessening dependence on the U.S., and creating a common identity and sense of purpose that would bind together the countries of the continents of South, Central, and North America (Mexico).  The first true efforts at aligning American interests across the continents did not begin until as late as 1826, with the Congress of Panama, organized and led by the visionary Simon Bolivar (founder of Venezuela).  Over the last 175 years, these efforts continued but were met with limited success.  For example, there have been over 20 region-wide conferences and conventions of the Americas designed to more fully integrate the two continents.  One reason was the resistance by the United States, which was wary of any efforts of Latin American countries to integrate, knowing that successful integration would provide a counter-weight to U.S. influence in the region.  Instead, the U.S. pushed for the creation of an organization in which it was the leader, creating the Organization of American States (formalized in 1890), with headquarters in Washington, D.C.  In 1994, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico entered the North American Free Trade Association agreement (NAFTA), the goal of which was to promote free trade on all goods and services in the North American continent.  The success of NAFTA then encouraged a more ambitious integration effort, known as Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), developed in 1998.  This effort, however, has floundered, especially after the election of leftist governments in several countries that sought to distance themselves from the U.S., such as the election of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.  Chavez is the leftist leader of Venezuela’s populist revolution, created the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (formalized in 2004), an effort to establish economic and security self-reliance independently of the U.S.  However, political tensions continue to play an important part in preventing true integration (for example, ongoing border disputes between Venezuela and Colombia), and the U.S. has continued to use its economic might and security concerns to prevent the autonomous integration of Latin America.

    The next issue that Unit 5 examines is the War on Drugs.  The trafficking of illegal drugs (especially cocaine) and the United States’ effort to stop it has resulted in continued anti-American resentment, political violence and terrorism, social instability, and economic slowdown in the traditional (legal) economies of the region.  The War on Drugs pits drug cartels and leftist guerilla movements against the governments of the Latin America.  In the 1980s, Colombia was the epicenter of this war, becoming one of the most dangerous and violent countries of the world, with Medellin earning the dubious distinction as the “murder capital” of the world.  By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the main battleground shifted to Mexico, where today thousands of people are killed each year in drug-related violence.

    A third major issue confronting the region is immigration.  As with all developing countries around the world, Latin American people are on the move: from countryside to cities, and from country to country.  By far, the biggest magnet for Latin Americans is the U.S., which continues to attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, people in search of economic security, better living conditions, and fulfillment of their dreams.  This vast migration is fueled by a series of factors, which push, pull, and facilitate the movement of people across borders, often in highly dangerous conditions.  In this unit, you will look at both the causes and consequences of immigration and how it affects the political development of the region.

    Finally, the unit concludes with an examination of a new actor in the region: China.  China’s fast-paced industrialization and thirst for raw materials provides a renewed impetus for economic growth in the region and also provides a potential counterweight to U.S. influence.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Regional Integration and Trade  
  • 5.1.1 History of Regional Integration Efforts  
  • 5.1.2 Challenges of Regional Integration  
  • 5.2 The War on Drugs  
  • 5.2.1 History of America’s War on Drugs  
    • Reading: NPR’s “Timeline: America’s War on Drugs”

      Link: NPR’s “Timeline: America’s War on Drugs” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Review the outline, and answer the following questions:

      1. When was the “war on drugs” declared, and by which president?
      2. During the 1970s and 1980s, which Latin American country became the leader of cocaine exports?
      3. What were the main provisions of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act?
      4. What was Plan Colombia (2000) designed to accomplish?
      5. Today, which country is the largest transit country for illegal drugs coming into the U.S.?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 5.2.2 Colombia and the War on Drugs  
    • Web Media: YouTube: “Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure”

      Link: YouTube: “Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions:  Please click on the “Watch Now” icon to launch the video, view the video in its entirety (56:24 minutes), and answer the following questions:

      1. Is the war on drugs in Colombia the most cost-effective method for dealing with the U.S. drug problem?
      2.  How has Plan Colombia affected Colombian society and politics?
      3.  What does the term “La Violencia” refer to in Colombian history?
      4. How is the war on drugs related to other violence in the country conducted by the paramilitary groups?
       
      This video and the questions should take about 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.
       

  • 5.2.3 Mexico and the War on Drugs  
    • Web Media: YouTube: AlJazeera English’s “Fault Lines’ Mexico, Impunity, and Profits”

      Link: YouTube: AlJazeera English’s “Fault Lines’ Mexico, Impunity, and Profits” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: In the 1990s, the epicenter of the war on drugs shifted from Colombia to Mexico.  This video focuses on the fate of Juarez, a city just across the border from El Paso, Texas.  Juarez has the highest crime and murder rate of any city in the world; the overwhelming cause of which has been the internecine war among drug gangs and cartels.  Watch this video in its entirety (24:32 minutes), take notes, and answer the following questions:

      1. On average, how many murders per year are committed in Juarez?
      2. What percentage of the murders are investigated and resolved?
      3. Why are so few murders resolved?
      4. How did NAFTA contribute to the violence problem that Mexico today faces?
      5. What kind of solution/action is needed to resolve the violence in this city?
       
      This video and the questions should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use for the webpage displayed above.

  • 5.3 Immigration  
    • Web Media: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: The Immigration Issue”

      Link: YouTube: LinkTV’s “Latin Pulse: The Immigration Issue” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this video in its entirety (27:53 minutes).  Latin America constitutes the largest source by far for immigrants, both legal and illegal, into the United States.  There are many factors that promote immigration: “push” factors are those circumstances in the home country that encourage people to leave, such as lack of jobs, low wages, high crime, political violence, discrimination, and poor education.  Immigration is also encouraged by “pull” factors in the U.S.:  high standard of living, relative stability and security, higher paying jobs, and the existence of family members who already live in the United States.  Finally, there are “facilitating” factors: the presence of long, mostly open land borders (especially with Canada and Mexico) and sea borders, as well as U.S. immigration laws that allow families to reunite rather easily or grant U.S. citizenship to any person born on U.S. soil.  The debate on immigration focuses on whether immigration creates a net benefit or cost to the U.S.  On the negative side, many argue that immigrants take away jobs, increase crime, and weigh down social welfare programs and schools with extra burden of support.  On the positive side, there are those who argue that immigrants satisfy the need of the job market for low-wage laborers, contribute entrepreneurial talents, and add to demographic and cultural diversity that is part of America’s “melting pot” culture.
       
      As you view the video, take notes and answer to the following question:

      1. What are some of the proposed solutions to the problem of illegal immigration offered by various speakers in the video?
       
      This video and the question should take about 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4 Petro-Politics  
  • 5.4.1 Politics of Oil in Latin America  
    • Web Media: Internet Archive: Tony Philips’ “The Politics of Oil in Latin America”

      Link: Internet Archive: Tony Philips’ “The Politics of Oil in Latin America” (Adobe Flash, RealPlayer, QuickTime, or MPEG4)
       
      Instructions: This video (6 minutes) takes a critical look at the politics of oil in 3 countries:  Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela.  Tony Philips is a well-known British writer who is strongly critical of free-market capitalism.  As you watch this video, take notes and answer the following questions:
       
      1.     Describe the tactic of “divide and conquer” that has been used by powerful elites to control the oil resources of Bolivia.
      2.     Describe the tactic of privatization used in Argentina to give international business elites ability to control the Argentina oil resources
      3.     Describe the tactic of coup d’ etat used by business elites in Venezuela in their failed attempt to control Venezuela’s vast oil resources.
       
      This video and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.2 Venezuela’s Oil Politics  
    • Reading: Council on Foreign Relations: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson’s “Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy”

      Link: Council on Foreign Relations: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson’s “Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read this entire article, which provides an in-depth view of Venezuela’s oil politics.  Venezuela is the hemisphere’s largest producer of oil and has used its oil wealth for political purposes more than any other country of the world. Venezuela is not only America’s biggest supplier, but it also has the world’s largest reserves of oil in the world, exceeding that of Saudi Arabia.  However, the anti-American leftist President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has used his country’s oil wealth to pursue a number of policies designed to promote his socialist agenda at home and to strengthen his country’s autonomy with respect to the U.S. and abroad.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:

      1.     What have been the positive and negative effects of Venezuela’s dependence on oil export revenues?
      2.     What kinds of social projects have been funded by the oil revenues?  Have these projects succeeded in reducing poverty and inequality in the nation?
      3.     How has Chavez used his country’s oil wealth to play a leading role in regional integration in South America?
       
      This reading and the questions should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5 China and Latin America  
  • 5.5.1 China’s Interests in Latin America  
    • Web Media: YouTube: World Focus Online’s “China Extends Interests to Latin America”

      Link: YouTube: World Focus Online’s “China Extends Interests to Latin America” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this short video (3 minutes) to learn about China’s growing interests and involvement in Central and South America.  As you watch the video, take notes and answer the following questions:
       
      1. Describe the challenges posed by the rapid increase of trade between Central America and China.
      2. What are China’s main interests in South America?
      3. According to Chris Sabatini, does China have military and political interests in Latin America?

      This video and the questions should take about 0.5 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5.2 China’s Challenge  
  • Final Exam  

« Previous Unit Next Unit » Back to Top