Geopolitics

Washington's Role In Rekindling Brazil-Argentina Rivalry

It would not be the first time Brazil and Argentina vie to clinch privileged ties with Washington, though for its economic weight and its president's conservative fervor, Brazil may be ahead in this game.

Argentina's Macri and Brazil's Bolsonaro in Brasilia
Argentina's Macri and Brazil's Bolsonaro in Brasilia

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Alexander Wendt, an academic who applied a constructivist model to the analysis of international affairs, divided global diplomacy in three distinct strains: Hobbesian, Lockean and Kantian. The relationship between two states can be defined by enmity, rivalry or friendship. Within these conceptual frameworks, we can say that there was never enmity between Argentina and Brazil, that rivalry prevailed during several decades last century and that friendship has reigned since the 1980s.

Today however, it appears we may see a return to a rivalry, which would be both badly misguided and very inconvenient for all. The most disconcerting signals are coming from Brazil in the framework of the delicate triangle of ties between Brasilia, Buenos Aires and Washington. Historical cases have shown that in asymmetrical, triangular ties, the two weaker angles can and must act jointly to expand their negotiating leeway with the stronger point.

Otherwise the latter will increase its dominance, obtain its preferences and finally extract the weaker parties' acquiescence in matters of greater importance. The path to pleasing the great power merely leads to more subordination. Under President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil appears inclined to repeat a typical Brazilian strategy of the 1960s and 1970s. In January, after taking office, the Brazilian president told an interview that "my understanding is that we must have supremacy" in South America.

In the diplomatic and military arenas, he has shown an unusual degree of rapprochement with the United States, in spite of the reservations, though not criticisms, of some quarters in the Brazilian armed forces.

The path to pleasing the great power merely leads to more subordination.

In February, for the first time in history, a Brazilian soldier, General Alcides Valeriano de Faria Júnior, was appointed a deputy-head of the U.S. Southern Command. In March, a bilateral accord was signed on launching satellites, missiles and ships from the Brazilian Alcántara base, and this was approved in August by the Brazilian lower legislative chamber's Foreign Relations Commissions. In May, the Brazilian Defense Ministry signed an agreement with the New York State National Guard in the framework of the Pentagon State Partnership Program. The same month, the presidential son Eduardo Bolsonaro, head of the said Foreign Relations Commission, said he favored the country having a nuclear bomb. In July, Donald Trump designated Brazil a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA).

One should recall that in December 2016, the Argentinian Defense Ministry signed its own accord with the Georgia State National Guard. In February 2015, parliament had approved an agreement allowing China to establish a space station in Neuquén, duly installed in 2017. The United States had designated Argentina an MNNA in 1998, during the presidency of Carlos Menem.

In diplomacy, Bolsonaro announced while campaigning that his government would seek to strengthen ties with the United States. His first post-electoral visit was not to Argentina, which is typical protocol with new Brazilian presidents, but to Chile, the United States and Israel. In the case of Israel, he had promised, like Trump, to transfer the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem, though at the end only a trade office was opened there. Last April, Bolsonaro said his intention "alongside the Americans, is to find a crack in the Venezuelan army, because that is what is sustaining" the socialist president Nicolás Maduro. Ultimately, he observed, it is the army that determines whether or not a country lives in democracy.

For its part, Argentina has been making what I term peripheral and unilateral concessions to the United States since mid-2017, thinking this was the way to safeguard its interests. Regarding Venezuela, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said in July that the Lima Group of regional states "is committed to reaching a peaceful solution" there, but, he stressed, "use of force will always remain as a recourse for the appropriate moment."

It is the army that determines whether or not a country lives in democracy.

In economics, Bolsonaro had touted while campaigning "less Mercosur and more bilateral agreements." After the Mercosur-European Union trade agreement, the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warned regional signatories on a July visit to Brazil to beware of "poison pills' in the pact that could impede their having a trade deal with the United States. Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes responded unilaterally by saying Brazil was "officially" initiating talks for a free-trade accord with the United States. Indeed tensions with the EU over the environment could give Brazil an excuse to seek a trade pact with Washington regardless of Mercosur. Bolsonaro and Guedes have already threatened to ditch the regional grouping should the leftist Alfredo Fernández win the Argentine presidency in October.

A priority for the next Argentine government will be to seriously evaluate the relationship with Brazil, with one crucial concern: to avoid a return to the past. This absolutely requires de-politicizing the country's foreign policy and redesigning its bilateral strategy toward Brazil.

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Society

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation

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Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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