Friday, August 31, 2007

Regarding "Brazil: A Scandal a Day..."

Hello COHA staffers,

I write because I have just read the simplistic and bombastic "Brazil: A Scandal a Day...". This analysis is an embarrassment to COHA. I do not make this claim because I am a huge Lula supporter. I am not. Yet I am an academic with decades of experience in Brazil and I am shocked at the tone and quality of the writing you have put out.

Yes, Brazil is corrupt. But Brazilian politics is not equal to Lula. And the explanations for the increase in corruption cases regarding the PT's own transparency makes a certain amount of sense. As does the claim that the PT's dismantling of customary ways of doing business has resulted in an increase in corruption cases. But I am not writing to contest 'facts.' Your author poo-poohs this to the detriment of the quality of her writing.

But I am not here to take issue with specific facts. Rather, I would like to register my horror at the extent to which your supposedly progressive analysts mimic quite perfectly the words published in the conservative VEJA. This is sad. The situation, including the airport issue, is much more complex than your analyst is able to make out. No wonder I increasingly skip your reports.


John Collins
Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Regarding "Chile's Aggressive Military Arms Purchases Are Ruffling the Region, Alarming in Particular Bolivia, Peru and Argentina"

Dear COHA,

The article is obsolescent and badly informed. Long gone are the days when military purchases through the copper fund were "autonomous", and the "military establishment" has long been "confronted" and has to negotiate for months with Hacienda to buy an extra box of ammunition if it is not already in the budget.

It is amazing that an institution of the prestige of COHA can come up with such utter rubbish, unless it is inspired by one of Chile's neighbours, or more likely, the ineptitude of its "research fellow".

As readers of my own reports would know, and those who are not that lucky could easily have found out if they read anything else than 15-year old papers by academics who do not know one end of a barrel from another, the military have not just lost political power (including the 4 designated senators inherited from the Pinochet constitution), and had their right to call the National Security Council and immunity of the commanders in chief from dismissal revoked, but their personal incomes are now one third of their civilian life equivalents (they were on par in 1990), their ordinary budgetary resources have not increased in real terms for years (contrary to expenditure in general which has been going up at up to double inflation), and several hundred of them have been prosecuted for human rights violations. The "bonanza" from the Copper Fund may be real on paper, but in practice the decision to spend it has been formally taken away from them by the Comtroller-General's office and de facto handed to Hacienda, which is sitting on decisions to the point of catching hemorrhoids. All this under the wrongly described "Socialist".

The only correct thing in the analysis is the existence of shortfalls in other areas and the risk of social unrest, but this has nothing to do with the Chilean military. There is no "guns or butter" debate or dilemam in Chile. There is money to spare for both.


Armen Kouyoumdjian
Country Risk Strategist
Chile Member, SIPRI Defence Expenditure Network

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Regarding "Immigration Compromise too Little too Late"

Dear Mr. Birns,

Racheotes's piece on immigration to the USA is prologued by a caution paragraph tating that it "does not have the official imprimatur of either COHA or a number of the author's colleagues who feel that its thesis will be considered to be too controversial." (

Although it is not mentioned in the text, the article best epitomizes an attitude that many COHA readers would like to share with others. Mr. Racheotes's article makes us think of a world without frontiers, borders, passports, custom officers and migration restrictions. What would happen in such a world with arms and drugs trades, nationalist policies, and global trade? This is perhaps a too idealistic vision for diplomats, political leaders and bureaucrats who would be jobless in a borderless world (not to mention arms and drugs dealers). Therefore, the "real war on terror" proposed by the author would not only have an enemy on the fear strategists but also, and more important, an ideological goal.

Congratulations to Mr. Racheotes and your team for an excellent publication.

Kindest regards,

Edmundo Murray