Author Archives: Ana Alves

About Ana Alves

Professor of Political Science Lee University Cleveland, TN

Latin Americans Stand Up To Corruption | Foreign Affairs

Dr. Ana Alves
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Lee University


By Christopher Sabatini: The Sad Death of the Latin American Left

The Sad Death of the Latin American Left

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio da Silva dreamed of a new world order. Their successors watched it fall to pieces.

The Sad Death of the Latin American Left

In Latin America, economic crisis, corruption, and, now, political upheaval, have brought an end to the foreign policy adventurism of two nations that once seemed poised to lead a new era: Brazil and Venezuela. Both of their economies are in a tailspin. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces impeachment proceedings over her alleged lack of oversight of the budget process. And with the resounding defeat of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s governing party in the Dec. 6 legislative elections, these countries’ once-proud ambitions of only a decade ago now seem delusional.

In the early years of the 21st century, Venezuela and Brazil sought to shake off centuries of U.S. dominance. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva stood at the vanguard of a younger generation of South American heads of state. To the considerable anxiety of officials in Washington, they seemed to herald a new, turbulent phase for the region’s relations with the United States.

Chávez and his self-proclaimed Bolivarian Revolution — named for his hero Simón Bolívar, Venezuela’s independence leader — bought allies through oil giveaways and wooed rogue regimes such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. Brazil’s pragmatic foreign policy, by contrast, centered on reforming the existing world order; it also sought to check U.S. power across the hemisphere and, more broadly, democratize multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with Brazil as the lead beneficiary.

These outsized dreams were fueled by the outsized personalities of Lula and Chávez. But they were also enabled by an economic boom that couldn’t last — and, indeed, hasn’t. Their hand-picked, charisma-challenged successors have been forced to trim their ambitions amid a collapse in the price of global commodities. Rousseff — the dry, technocratic former chairman of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras and former guerrilla leader — has struggled to recover from China’s reduced hunger for Brazilian iron ore and agricultural products, just as Nicolás Maduro has had no answer for the steep drop in the price of oil.

In the end, despite their divergent strategies, both Venezuela and Brazil have wound up in the same humbled place, their earlier international dreams in tatters.

* * *

From the outset, Chávez attempted to reignite Bolívar’s vision of a grand alliance of Andean countries, dubbed “Gran Colombia,” that would comprise Venezuela, Colombia, and several other nations. Never one for subtlety, he christened his creation the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), and pledged that it would establish a common currency, coordinate military policy, and establish a new regional bank called Banco del Sur to help fund development without the conditions typically imposed by the IMF and World Bank.

At the same time, with oil prices surging to $100 a barrel, Chávez became both the champion of the extreme anti-globalization left and the bête noir of the U.S. right. Seemingly respectable economists like Mark Weisbrot and members of the Hollywood glitterati, like Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, and Sean Penn, embraced his populist petro-patronage, under which the government established subsidized food banks and pumped up state employment as a viable economic and political alternative to the United States and the economic orthodoxy of Washington Consensus reforms of the 1990s.

The left’s embrace of Chávez was, in part, a reflection of its mutual disregard for the George W. Bush administration and, in part, a genuine-but-misguided belief that Chávez’s self-proclaimed Bolivarian revolution was sustainable. This pro-Chavista solidarity required that one ignore his silence on progressive issues like the environment and LGBT rights, and the very real economic and institutional damage he was doing to his country by making it even more dependent on oil exports, inflating its currency, politicizing the military, and packing the judicial system with partisan allies.

Meanwhile, Chávez’s Bolivarian ambitions infuriated American conservatives. He leveraged his prestige and the commodity windfall to become the clown-prince of the global summit circuit, railing against free trade and anointing then-President George W. Bush the devil. Bush officials, in turn, attempted to thwart the hemispheric anti-American bully (as well as Cuba, Caracas’ staunch ally), and openly fretted over the grand ideological and militaristic designs of ALBA, whose enthusiastic ranks included a new crop of fringe leftist leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, and, for a time, El Salvador and Honduras.

Economically speaking, this was no all-star lineup. In 2011, its combined GDP equaled 14 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s And Chávez’s economic vision did little to improve their lot. Caribbean countries and El Salvador and Nicaragua grew to depend on the Venezuelan oil given to them at low interest loans, and made little effort to cultivate more stable sources of oil or income. In Venezuela, the country’s deepening reliance on oil retarded other sectors of the economy to the point that today, oil accounts for 95 percent of its export earnings. At the same time, as it raided the state oil company’s coffers, it neglected to invest in new technology and exploration, shrinking production from 3 million barrels per day in 1998 to around an estimated 2.22.5 million today.

To be sure, Chavismo’s damage is real, and deeply felt. But the government of Chávez and Maduro and the Bolivarian project have been marked more by incompetence, corruption, and criminality, than by ideological coherence. Today, the Venezuelan economy is the worst-performing in the world, with a GDP expected to contract by around 10 percent. Its people suffer from massive shortages of basic goods like corn meal and toilet paper, inflation rates that are expected to reach 200 percent this year, and the second-highest murder rate in the world.

Venezuela’s regional friends, who once relied heavily on its vast petroleum reserves, are changing course. Bolivian President Evo Morales, once one of Chávez’s best friends, turned down Venezuela’s petroleum largesse in 2014. The 17 members of Petro-Caribe, the bloc of nations that receive subsidized oil from Venezuela, have begun searching for alternatives, such as renewable sources of energy and international investment to develop natural gas. Even Cuba, which receives some 100,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day, is looking for new petro-partners. Since the start of the Venezuelan lifeline to the decrepit Castro regime, Cuba has resold half of its take on international markets. But with oil now at $40 a barrel, Havana has found that being a Venezuelan client state is not worth as much as it once was — a recognition that contributed in part to the regime’s rapprochement with its age-old nemesis, the United States.

Brazil’s past decade-plus of foreign policy activism, in contrast, was more pragmatic, centrist, and reflected the country’s longstanding desire to win respect and a seat at the table of world powers.

When Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) party won Brazil’s 2002 election, those dreams took on a decidedly partisan turn. To be sure, Lula, unlike Chávez, rushed to assure financial markets that he was no radical, despite his lefty reputation as a former labor leader. Nevertheless, while his methods and rhetoric were less inflammatory than those of his Venezuelan neighbor, Lula’s foreign policy also sought to siphon global power from the developed north. Starting in 2003, Brazil positioned itself as the broker of the global south’s economic and diplomatic ambitions, but often with an eye to checking U.S. influence in the hemisphere.

Brazil’s newfound assertiveness was especially clear in the arena of international trade. It began at the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations in 2003 in Miami, which aimed to establish a region-wide free trade agreement. Brazil demanded its right to maintain a national development policy that would give it greater power to select and shelter economic sectors to develop the country’s manufacturing base. Its unyielding position, along with the support of a number of other governments, effectively scuttled the FTAA, much to the chagrin of Washington, which wanted a more traditional free trade arrangement along the lines of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. A similarly staunch position — this time, to protect Brazil’s agricultural exports — helped scuttle the World Trade Organization’s Doha round of trade talks at Cancun earlier that year. In both instances, the message was clear: Brazil was going to be a champion of the south’s economic demands on the global stage.

But Brazil could never quite translate its ascendancy in trade policy to broader diplomatic influence. In 2010, Brazil and Turkey tried to head off U.N. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program by engaging in last-minute negotiations with Tehran. But Brazilian officials failed to convince the members of the U.N. Security Council to sign on. Similarly, during its time as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Brazil abstained on critical votes regarding Syria and Libya. The refusal to give an up or down vote was not seen kindly by many of the diplomats at the U.N. As one ambassador said to me: “World powers don’t abstain. They have the courage to vote yes or no.”

These attempts by Brazil to impose its will on geopolitical diplomacy failed. And its moment may have passed.

Today, Brazil is consumed by domestic trouble. After its economy grew by an average annual rate of 4.6 percent between 2005 and 2008 and by 3.9 percent in 2011 following the global recession, it is expected to contract by close to 3 percent this year, the country’s greatest economic slide since the Great Depression. At the same time, the revelation of a massive corruption scam involving the semi-private, state-owned oil company Petrobras has implicated members of both the ruling PT as well as the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), the democratic-socialist opposition party. More importantly, the scandal has stained many of Brazil’s private-sector icons, from Petrobras to the group of infrastructure companies involved in paying bribes to gain access to more than $23 billion in contracts from the company, such as Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez. Some of those kickbacks found their way to political parties including the PT, allegedly to finance Rousseff’s election campaign.

At the same time, Brazil’s past foreign policy forays have yielded little. Its much-ballyhooed “responsibility while protecting” protocol, which committed countries to commit to protecting civilian lives when they intervened, remains stalled at the U.N., after receiving only tepid support from the Western members of the Security Council. And its chances of winning a much-sought-after seat on an expanded Security Council are also diminished. In a recent discussion with Japanese diplomats, they told me they doubt that Brazil, with its political and economic woes, is ready to be a permanent member.

While not marked by the ideological zealotry and incompetence of its neighbor, Brazil’s dreams of leading a coalition that would redefine the global order have also been curtailed, at least for now. Its downfall was mistaking its situation from a few years ago — an economic boom amid a period of declining moral and economic influence of the United States — for its future destiny. That fallacy overlooked both the underlying economic strengths of the United States and its own fragile economy.

It will be some time before Brazil recaptures worldwide enthusiasm and support for its global ambitions, seemingly best-captured when it was awarded the 2014 FIFA World Cup — though with the FIFA corruption scandal still unfolding, even that accomplishment is now tainted.

That’s a shame. Many of the issues Brazil advanced — the democratization of multilateral organizations and greater visibility for the global south’s trade demands, including the reduction of agricultural subsidies in the north — were legitimate. The question is whether, given its political and economic turmoil, Brazil can regain its global footing and credibility to effectively advocate for those issues without antagonizing Washington, as it too reflexively did during the heady days of the early aughts.

As for Venezuela’s Chavistagovernment, its global ambitions were always too ideological, revolutionary, and vitriolic to be practicably achievable. High oil prices both permitted the adventurism and allowed a lack of discipline that ultimately killed them. Chávez and Maduro indulged rampant corruption, and raided the central bank and state oil company to fund their political projects. They also politicized the judicial system and military, and, according to many reports, abetted narcotics trafficking from neighboring Colombia across Venezuelan airspace. In November, U.S. officials arrested two nephews of the Venezuelan first lady for allegedly planning to smuggle cocaine to the United States.

For Venezuela, the Dec. 6 opposition legislative victories represented a popular rejection not just of the severe economic failings of the government, but also its transnational dreams. President Maduro will find it increasingly hard to defend oil giveaway programs to other countries when stores can’t even keep basic goods on their shelves. But the opposition still faces challenges as it tries to focus attention on the government’s misdeeds. Its supermajority in the National Assembly gives it little direct power over foreign affairs, and the government’s oil giveaways still guarantee it international support in the Organization of American States and the United Nations. Giving away oil to avoid international criticism is a far cry from the government’s original outsized ambitions, but given the political shifts in Venezuela today, Maduro will take as much support as he can possibly get.

For Brazil, the clash of low public support, a careening economy, an expanding corruption scandal, and political upheaval will only hamstring Rousseff and the PT, preventing them from addressing the fundamental political and economic challenges the country faces. And as the political uncertainty continues, the economy will continue to flail as investors head for the door. At risk is the long-term legacy of the PT, not just in advancing a moderate leftist agenda in the hemisphere, but also trying to create a voice and agenda for the global south. It will likely find that it needs the United States much more than it thought it did, back in the days when it railed against it in trade talks and in U.N. votes.

Photo Credit: AFP/AFP

Dr. Ana AlvesAssistant Professor of Political Science
Lee University

What’s next for Venezuela? Sinophobia

By Oliver Stuenkel

What’s next for Venezuela? Sinophobia

10 Dec. 2015 / Oliver Stuenkel / 0 Comments /


Creditors tend to be popular when they hand out the cash in times of need, but less so when the debtor realizes the terms of the deal are too onerous — or when it is pay back time. This dynamic is likely to be on display in Venezuela over the coming months and years, where a newly empowered opposition (now controlling parliament) is beginning to find out about the back room deals of a fiscally irresponsible and populist government that has come to increasingly depend on China (since borrowing money from the IMF would have contradicted the government’s anti-imperial rhetoric).

With a supermajority of two-thirds in parliament starting in January, the opposition is likely to undertake a broad review of the country’s national budget, force the government to publish reliable inflation data and stop all subsidized oil shipments to Cuba. Most importantly from an international relations perspective, however, may be their insistence to review deals with Beijing, which include large-scale oil shipments to China at preferential rates. Considering that oil makes up 96% of Venezuela’s exports, reviewing these terms may be a necessary step towards reviving the economy, which was the world’s worst performing in 2015. Venezuela also has the highest inflation in the world, and its government debt is the most expensive to insure against default.

The situation is particularly critical because Venezuela’s oil payments to China have risen over the past years, even as Venezuela’s total output has been falling continuously for the past decade. Maduro signed yet another deal in Beijing in September, most likely at highly unfavorable terms, since no other country was willing to borrow money to Venezuela.

Neither Chavez nor Maduro have been transparent about the terms of Chinese loans, adopting a series of questionable legal maneuvers to sign accords without congressional approval. Notably, the deals have not been included in the yearly budget, making them highly vulnerable to corruption. Over the past years, China has lent almost $50 billion to Venezuela, most of what is being paid back with oil shipments, and none of which included any policy conditions. This allowed Caracas to engage in financially irresponsible behavior, making the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China at least partly responsible for the mess Venezuela finds itself in. Chinese policy makers already privately admit that they are worried about a potential default.

As more details emerge, including about possible privileges for Chinese companies in key sectors of the Venezuelan economy (such as telecommunications (Huawei), appliances (Haier), cars (Chery), and oil drilling (ICTV)), the public will slowly realize how influential China has become in Venezuela over the past years, and how unfavorable deals with Beijing are complicating Venezuela’s economic recovery. It is only a matter of time before leading policy makers will call of a fundamental renegotiation of the deals signed. Just like the IMF’s irresponsible behavior during past crises (such as Argentina) profoundly affected the institution’s reputation, Beijing’s role in Venezuela’s crisis will almost inevitably lead to the rise of anti-Chinese rhetoric in both the media and policy circles. After all, since China receives oil payments, it will be senior to other creditors (like bondholders), thus turning Venezuela a risky place to borrow for years to come (because China collects its oil before Venezuela sells it elsewhere).

This will create a dilemma for decision-makers in Beijing. Long benefiting from anti-Americanism among the region’s left-leaning populists, China will increasingly be seen as a threat and an easy target for populist politicians seeking to place the blame on someone. There is no easy solution for China. It will either accept renegotiating the deals made with Venezuela, leading to billions of losses, or it will risk a growing wave of sinophobia which could easily spread to other countries in the region: Just like Venezuela, Argentina turned to China for massive help to sustain populist measures. There, too, sinophobia may soon be on the rise.

On a broader scale, it points to an interesting paradox: the emergence of multipolar order and the end of unipolarity (symbolized by the rise of China) will reduce anti-US sentiment around the world. There are now other powerful actors people can love to hate.

Dr. Ana AlvesAssistant Professor of Political Science
Lee University

Mexico’s Crude Capitalism

Mexico’s Crude Capitalism

The country is providing a model for a new Latin American energy policy. But will it work?

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Mexico’s Crude Capitalism

When, in 2013, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a broad reform package that would end the government’s monopoly over the country’s oil sector, his argument was fairly straightforward: Foreign investment could be just the thing to reverse a decade of production declines and revitalize a state that has historically relied heavily on oil for its income. Dazzled by the promise of numbers, Peña Nieto suggested that, by wrenching open the long-closed sector, Mexico could attract more than $60 billion in investment within just a few years, while adding at least a percentage point to its annual GDP growth and creating 2 million jobs.

The president’s idea was a revolutionary one in a country whose modern identity was forged thanks to the nationalization of its black gold in 1938. Critics, unsurprisingly, were quick to argue that Peña Nieto’s reform was nothing less than a wholesale dismantling of Mexico’s heritage. But the president knew that, without a shock to the system, his country could soon turn into a net importer of oil. That meant giving up, at least in part, the keys to the energy industry.

Mexico, along with Russia, has long been a poster child for resource nationalism, or the tendency for governments to claim outright ownership of all mineral resources and to monopolize pretty much all parts of the energy sphere. Nearly 80 percent of global oil reserves are under the control of national oil companies, according to a 2007 report by the Baker Institute at Rice University, leaving relatively little energy in the hands of multinational corporations. Mexico’s southern neighbors in Latin America are no exception: Over the past decade or so, these countries have moved to nationalize their industries, undoing what progress came after a bout of liberalism in the 1990s. Although that has played well with populist publics, such moves have kneecapped energy-producing potential.

Now, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela have little choice but to track Mexico’s experiment closely, considering that they all compete for the same investment dollars and that Big Oil will go where it sees the best prospects with the best terms. What’s more, these countries have an even stronger, inescapable reason to follow Mexico’s lead: Resource nationalism is a long-term recipe for disaster.

Take Argentina. It has the world’s second-largest shale reserves but is currently a net energy importer after nearly a century of whipsawing between nationalism and an open market. Foreign capital created windfalls in the 1920s and 1930s, but greedy governments snatched back those oil wells in the 1940s, until production dwindled; they then returned, cap in hand, to wildcatters and oil majors just a decade later—a Groundhog Day pattern that continues today. Most recently, in 2012, Argentina lurched toward nationalism again, expropriating its former national oil company from Spain’s Repsol. Argentina now has the unenviable task of trying to lure foreign money and know-how to help tap Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow), a shale formation roughly the size of Belgium that it cannot develop on its own. The next wave of Argentina’s leadership is undeniably watching to see whether Mexico has found the formula to keep foreign investment steady and to maximize both production and the government’s cut.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has the world’s largest crude reserves, yet it too must import some basic fuel. For a brief period in the liberalizing 1990s, the government attracted foreign capital and boosted production. But in the 2000s, under strongman Hugo Chávez, resource nationalism returned with a vengeance; oil production in the country has fallen by about one-quarter from its peak levels in 1997. Much more than in Mexico, such decline threatens societywide economic and political meltdowns because Venezuela gets about 95 percent of its export earnings—and half of government revenues—from oil sales. The shrinking pie has imperiled social programs and has limited the country’s ability to import basic staples, such as toilet paper, and even to keep the lights on.

Of the Latin American producers, Brazil, given the discovery offshore almost a decade ago of massive oil fields, was expected to play the most significant role in meeting the world’s future energy needs. Yet, blinded by the allure of future riches, the state tightened its grip on the industry, inflicting restrictive terms on foreign investment—a misguided effort to get as much as it could while offering as little as possible. Foreign capital largely turned its back, and Brazil’s oil promise burned: Recently the country slashed its five-year oil-production targets by 1.4 million barrels a day, roughly half its current output. Mexico can show a better way forward by requiring, for example, less onerous terms on investment, thereby making it quicker and cheaper to turn prospects into gushers.

Mexico, of course, has also been crippled by resource nationalism. It coasted for years on the back of hugely prolific offshore fields discovered in the 1970s, but production at those fields peaked around 2004, falling by about three-quarters the following decade. That left Mexico with a bloated, inefficient state oil company that was responsible for a big chunk of the Mexican treasury but had little wherewithal to reverse the slide or to embrace new technologies.

So in 2013, when Peña Nieto proposed upending the energy industry, he managed to pass reforms without any real challenge in the legislature. Fast-forward to this July, when, for the first time in nearly 80 years, Mexico auctioned off some shallow-water tracts in the Gulf of Mexico to foreign firms; onshore tracts in northern and eastern Mexico will be awarded this winter.

Mexico didn’t offer attractive enough terms, however, and the auction in July flopped. As a result, the country has postponed the auction of deep-water blocks, while it tries to strike the right balance between enticing foreign firms and ensuring that enough revenue still makes it to the national treasury.

If successful—a big if—the president’s experiment could finally kick-start production in the Gulf of Mexico and the desert. And if companies like ExxonMobil can turn oil potential into oil reality without prompting another revolution in Mexico’s streets, other Latin American countries would almost be forced to follow—or watch tens of billions of dollars of potential foreign investment pass them by.

Of course, such change won’t be easy, particularly because global oil prices have recently tanked, dampening investment appetite everywhere. Then there are security threats from narcotraffickers, especially around Mexico’s potentially energy-rich northern fields. And while proximity to the United States is in many ways a blessing—the world’s best service companies are a short flight away—it’s also a curse: Why make a risky play south of the border when the U.S. shale revolution remains steady?

Even still, for Latin America’s once and future oil giants, there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Demand for energy, especially oil and natural gas, is shifting east: In 2013, for the first time ever, oil demand in developing countries (led by China) surpassed that of rich countries. At the same time, production is shifting west: Since 2008, the United States alone has boosted its output by upwards of 4 million barrels a day—more than Iraq pumps. If Latin American countries want to join that party, they may have little choice but to exorcise their nationalism demons.

A version of this article originally appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Foreign Policy under the title “Crude Capitalism.”

Illustration by Matthew Hollister

Dr. Ana AlvesAssistant Professor of Political Science
Lee University

Dr. Ana Alves
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Lee University

From Americas Quarterly: “My Struggles as a Black American in the Dominican Republic”

My Struggles as a Black American in the Dominican Republic

Contributing writer Morgan Miller explores her experience with racism in the Dominican Republic – and what it says about the country’s controversial immigration laws
A group of women in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo Courtesy of El Marto, April 8, 2008

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Haitians and dark-skinned Dominicans confront racism on a daily basis.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic, there was a point when the jeers from the streets, shouts of “Arréglate ese pelo!” (Fix that hair!) and mocking gestures about my prominent pajón (afro) became too much to deal with. In a country of complex racial dynamics, where straightened hair is a social currency and billboards depict curly-haired women with the headline Your hair deserves better,” natural or curly hair, colloquially referred to as pelo malo (bad hair—also a term used in the black American community), is sometimes viewed as a marker of Haitian identity. While many Dominicans vehemently deny the role of race in the current controversy over the deportation of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants, the treatment I received while living in the Dominican Republic (and often being mistaken as Haitian) suggests the contrary.

As a black American from the South, I initially (and perhaps naively) thought I’d catch a break from the daily racism I experienced in the U.S. As with black Americans, there are Dominicans (and Haitians) of every shade. I welcomed the idea of living in a country where most people looked like my family members and me, as 90 percent of the Dominican population has black ancestry.

However, it wasn’t long before I encountered a familiar, yet foreign, racism. While I realize that experiences vary and my story is one of many, it is certainly not the exception. Whether in the form of racial slurs or extreme violence, both Haitians and dark-skinned Dominicans alike confront racism on a daily basis. After continuously feeling like a walking target with my sizable pajón, I decided to carry hair ties for the days that the taunts became unbearable.

I arrived in Santiago, Dominican Republic as an English professor one month before Sentencia 168/13, a Supreme Court ruling that revoked the citizenship of Dominican residents whose parents were born outside of the country as far back as 1929, unless they could regularize their status. In the months that followed, lynchings of Haitians became more frequent, according to media reports. Black American friends that had come to study abroad were harassed and interrogated by police about their nationality. After my friends explained that they were Americans studying abroad, the officers scoffed at them, laughing that “esa se cree americana pero es haitiana” (this one thinks she’s American, but she’s Haitian). Even my Dominican host sister, whose surname was French in origin, encountered complications with government agencies that questioned her Dominican identity. I began to realize that the recurring treatment my colleagues and I were receiving was probably a result of intensified anti-haitianismo following the Supreme Court ruling.

Most of my fellow U.S. English professors condemned the ruling, though others viewed it as the Dominican Republic exercising its sovereign right to regulate immigration within its borders. Some of my Dominican and Haitian students criticized the ruling as discriminatory, while others adamantly defended the court’s decision. However, few dared to denounce it as racist.

I was no stranger to discrimination in the Dominican Republic, having endured taunts, repeatedly been denied entry to clubs, and received regular slights during my time there. With both the history of Hispaniola and my own experience in mind, I know the court’s ruling was founded upon anti-haitianismo that the country has yet to reconcile. In the words of Junot Díaz, “if we do not begin to practice the muscles of having a possessive investment in each other’s oppressions, then we are in some serious trouble.”

Exclusiva Encuesta en Cuba

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Muestra: 1,200 cubanos adultos, residentes en CubaFecha de entrevistas: 17-27 de marzo del 2015 Método de entrevista: Persona a persona Idioma de entrevistas: Español Margen de error: +/- 2.8 puntos porcentuales

Relaciones Estados Unidos Cuba

Los cubanos están hartos del embargo. Llevan más de 50 años oyendo decir que es la fuente de sus males. Por eso apoyan la apertura de relaciones Cuba–Estados Unidos. Aunque no creen que cambie el sistema político, sí creen que lo hará el económico. De allí que vean con buenos ojos al presidente Obama y al Papa Francisco. Les interesa que Obama visite Cuba y Castro Estados Unidos. Su preocupación es fundamentalmente económica.

  • ¿Tiene usted una opinión positiva o una opinión negativa del Papa Francisco?

  • ¿Qué tan satisfecho está usted con el sistema económico que existe hoy en Cuba?

  • ¿Piensa usted que la normalización de relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos es buena para Cuba, es mala para Cuba, o piensa usted que no tiene importancia para Cuba?

  • ¿Considera usted que la normalización de relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos cambiará en algo el sistema político que existe hoy en Cuba o piensa usted que seguirá el mismo sistema político?

  • ¿Cree usted que el embargo de los Estados Unidos hacia Cuba, conocido en Cuba como el bloqueo, debería continuar o no debería continuar?

  • ¿Cree usted que el presidente de los Estados Unidos Barack Obama debería visitar Cuba?

  • ¿Cree usted que el comandante Raúl Castro debería visitar Estados Unidos?

  • ¿Tiene usted una opinión positiva o una opinión negativa de Barack Obama?

  • ¿Tiene usted una opinión positiva o una opinión negativa del Papa Francisco?

  • ¿Qué tan satisfecho está usted con el sistema económico que existe hoy en Cuba?



La tercera parte de la población cubana recibe remesas. Más de la mitad recibe menos de 1,000 dólares al año, pero con un PIB per cápita apenas superior a 6,000 dólares al año según el Banco Mundial, la cifra es considerable. Más aún si se compara con el salario medio, que según el ONEI era de 466 pesos cubanos en 2012 (unos 264 dólares al año). Aunque un alto porcentaje de encuestados quisiera tener su propio negocio, muy pocos invierten sus remesas. El hecho de que las remesas se usen en su mayoría para cubrir los gastos diarios es un desahogo para la economía, y un respiro para el sistema político.

  • ¿Le gustaría abrir su propio negocio?

  • ¿Recibe usted dinero de un familiar o conocido que vive en otro país?

  • ¿En qué país vive su familiar o conocido que le envía dinero?

  • ¿Quién le envía dinero a usted?

  • ¿Con qué frecuencia recibe dinero?

  • ¿Hace cuántos años que recibe dinero?

  • Aproximadamente ¿cuánto dinero le envía su familiar cada año?

  • ¿Comparte usted con otra persona el dinero que le envían? ¿Con cuántas personas?

  • ¿En qué emplea usted la mayoría del dinero que recibe del exterior? ¿Lo invierte en un negocio? ¿Lo ahorra? ¿Compra una propiedad? ¿Lo emplea para gastos asociados con la vivienda? ¿Lo usa para gastos de educación? ¿Lo usa para adquirir algún lujo? ¿O lo usa para otra cosa?

  • ¿Le gustaría abrir su propio negocio?

  • ¿Recibe usted dinero de un familiar o conocido que vive en otro país?



La precariedad económica en que viven en la isla hace que muchos cubanos se quieran ir a vivir a otro país. Más de la mitad de quienes desean irse quieren hacerlo a Estados Unidos, no solo por la cercanía sino porque allí viven muchos de sus familiares. Pero viajar al exterior no es su única aspiración. El clima de apertura los ha hecho ser más optimistas y fijarse metas alcanzables dentro del propio país, como abrir su propio negocio, abrir una cuenta de ahorros, comprar un carro, o simplemente adquirir un electrodoméstico que les alivie su vida. La educación y la salud no son preocupaciones. La mayoría de los cubanos se sienten satisfechos con el sistema educativo, a pesar de que un alto número de encuestados no han alcanzado un grado profesional. Y lo mismo pasa con el sistema de salud.

  • ¿Qué tan satisfecho está usted con el sistema de salud que existe hoy en Cuba?

  • Pensando en su familia, ¿qué es lo que le gustaría lograr en los próximos cinco años?

  • Pensando en su futuro y el de su familia, ¿se siente optimista o pesimista?

  • ¿Le gustaría irse a vivir a otro país?

  • ¿En que otro país le gustaría vivir?

  • ¿En qué país vive la mayoría de su familia?

  • ¿Qué tan satisfecho está usted con el sistema educativo que existe hoy en Cuba?

  • ¿Qué tan satisfecho está usted con el sistema de salud que existe hoy en Cuba?

  • Pensando en su familia, ¿qué es lo que le gustaría lograr en los próximos cinco años?


La libertad de opinión

Más de 65 años de un régimen opresivo no pasan en vano. La mayoría de los cubanos dicen no estar listos para expresarse libremente. Pero amparados en el anonimato, no dudan en criticar al régimen. La opinión sobre el Partido Comunista es demoledora. Y aunque mejor, la opinión sobre los dos grandes líderes también es negativa: Raúl, quien ha impulsado una tímida apertura tiene 47% de favorabilidad y 48% de opinión negativa. Fidel tiene 44% positiva y 50% negativa. En general, hay un núcleo de apoyo al régimen que parece coincidir con el porcentaje de encuestados que trabaja para el gobierno. En materia religiosa hay cierta apertura. Aunque la mayoría de los cubanos dicen ser “no religiosos“, el número católicos es importante, lo mismo que el número de cubanos que practican la santería.

  • ¿Cuál es su estatus laboral actual: está empleado(a) en el gobierno, está empleado(a) en el sector privado, está desempleado(a)/retirado(a), es estudiante o es ama(o) de casa?

  • ¿Cómo evaluaría al Partido Comunista de Cuba?

  • ¿Usted siempre expresa libremente sus ideas o a veces siente que no debe hacerlo?

  • ¿Cuál es su religión: Católica, Evangélica, Protestante, Santería o Regla de Oshá, u otra religión o no tiene religión?

  • ¿Tiene usted una opinión positiva o una opinión negativa de Raúl Castro?

  • ¿Tiene usted una opinión positiva o una opinión negativa de Fidel Castro?

  • ¿Cuál es su estatus laboral actual: está empleado(a) en el gobierno, está empleado(a) en el sector privado, está desempleado(a)/retirado(a), es estudiante o es ama(o) de casa?

  • ¿Cómo evaluaría al Partido Comunista de Cuba?


Tecnología y comunicaciones

Dadas las restricciones existentes, Cuba sigue estando muy atrasada en el proceso de globalización impulsado por las nuevas tecnologías. Según la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información de Cuba, la densidad telefónica (fija y celular) es inferior a 30 por cada 100 habitantes. Pese a ello, un gran número de encuestados dice tener una línea fija en su casa y acceso a un celular. La respuesta parece remitir más al número de usuarios que de aparatos, ya que muchos de estos son compartidos por varias personas. En Internet, la situación es mucho peor. Muy pocos dicen tener acceso a la red y la gran mayoría de ellos lo hace en sitios públicos (cafés, escuelas, universidades y sitios de trabajo). Solo una de cada cinco personas con acceso a la red tiene Internet en la casa. Lo que quiere decir que solo el 3.3% de la población puede conectarse en el hogar. Los que tienen acceso a redes sociales usan Facebook para comunicarse con el exterior.

  • ¿Usted utiliza las redes sociales para comunicarse con personas en Cuba, para comunicarse con personas en el exterior, o para comunicarse con ambas por igual?

  • ¿Tiene usted teléfono en su casa?

  • ¿Tiene usted teléfono móvil o celular?

  • ¿Tiene usted acceso a Internet?

  • ¿Dónde tiene acceso a Internet – en la casa, en el trabajo, en la escuela o universidad, en las salas de navegación o en otro lugar?

  • ¿Con qué frecuencia tiene acceso a Internet – todos los días, varias veces a la semana, varias veces al mes o varias veces al año?

  • ¿Utiliza usted las redes sociales?

  • ¿Usted utiliza las redes sociales para comunicarse con personas en Cuba, para comunicarse con personas en el exterior, o para comunicarse con ambas por igual?

  • ¿Tiene usted teléfono en su casa?