Image: Project Syndicate

By Jorge G. Castañeda

Since the first days of Joe Biden’s presidency, his administration has insisted that the growing number of migrants being apprehended at the US-Mexico border is not a “crisis,” but rather a normal, seasonal spike. US officials have even argued that the controversy was concocted entirely by former President Donald Trump and other Republicans.

While the Biden administration was not totally wrong about Trump, reality has since rebutted its claims. The situation on the border today is indeed a crisis, both for the United States and Mexico. As of late September, some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers, most of them Haitian, are sheltering from the sun under the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas. They have brought the migration issue roaring back to the fore.

By Alexia Rauen

Mansoor Adayfi’s 2021 memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo, transports readers to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to a world in which children and adults are routinely tortured by the United States. Guantánamo Bay has been a naval base in U.S. possession since 1903. Adayfi spent his childhood in the idyllic mountains of Yemen1 with dreams to study in the United Arab Emirates.2 When Adayfi was eighteen years old, he traveled to Afghanistan on a research trip for an important sheik in Yemen who promised him a university reference letter in exchange for his work.3 With the United States offering bounties for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, Adayfi was captured and sold by warlords who instructed him to say he was a member of Al-Qaeda, or else the Americans would kill him.4 The Americans, in turn, took a nineteen-year-old Yemeni boy and reinvented the narrative of who he was. They convinced themselves he was an older Egyptian general (“they even believed [the general] had plastic surgery to look young and different, I guess to look like me”) and tortured him for years in search of information he couldn’t possibly possess.5

Inspired by her documentary and forthcoming book, The Banker Ladies, we recently had the privilege of connecting with Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein about her research on coop banking, the role of rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs), and social enterprises in Canada.

Caroline Shenaz Hossein is an Associate Professor of Global Development and Political Science at the University of Toronto at Scarborough in Ontario, Canada. She founded the Diverse Solidarity Economies (DiSE) Collective, made up of more than 20 Black and racialized feminist leaders, and is the author of Politicized Microfinance: Money, power and violence in the Black Americas (University of Toronto Press, 2016). Caroline currently sits on the Board of the International Feminist Economics Association, is the Board Chair of the Miami Institute for Social Sciences, and is a Board trustee of the Association of Social Economics, all global academic institutions reaching thousands of members. She is currently conducting research on the African diaspora in Canada and the Caribbean, and she is particularly interested in advancing the economic role of racialized women in the Caribbean and Canada in real ways to acknowledge and hire the Banker Ladies in economic development. You can see more about her research and projects on her website or follow her on Twitter: @carolinehossein.

  1. What has your career journey been like and what inspired you to create the Banker Ladies documentary and research alternative models of banking?

While at Cornell University (1995-1997), I started researching Sudanese exiles in Cairo, Egypt and livelihood strategies such as Sandooq and other microbanking programs. I then worked in Benin, Niger, Guinea, and a number of other places focused on economic development programming through global non-profits and development aid agencies for about 10 years. Now as an academic, I am interested in coops and the commoning of goods. Though I studied professionalized financial development, such as microfinance, for years as my PhD topic across a number of Caribbean countries, my interest was always in community-driven cooperative institutions, officially known as rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs). ROSCAs are locally called by the vernacular: Susu, Chit, Hagbad, Osusu, Chama, Arisan, Hua and such banking coops. Being told that there was only one commercial model of banking to follow seemed untrue. Growing up in a Caribbean immigrant family we had to struggle for everything, and I knew that right in Toronto African peoples and other racialized immigrants were always organizing their own mutual aid financing and coops, and often did this work out of sight. This is what we can see as part of the commons, in which people shared goods to help themselves and others. In my experience, doing research on ROSCAs is accepted in the academe, as long as one is studying these coops in the Global South, outside of the Western world. Running a ROSCA is tough work because the members who organize these coops are operating informally, and they are commoning resources so building trust takes time. Because I focus on Black marginalized women, this takes even more time to get the story right due to the secrecy at times with informal coop systems. I am working on my fifth book, The Banker Ladies, and the Canadian case is the hard one to do because the ROSCA members – known as the Banker Ladies – hide what they do. The documentary is directed by a Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Esery Mondesir and the goal is to bring awareness and to educate the public about ROSCAs, informal coops, and mutual aid carried out by marginalized Canadian women. The Banker Ladies is hosted on films for action (open access) and it was supported by federal SSHRC funding and the early researcher award by the Province of Ontario. This body of work on ROSCAs in the Americas is based on 11 years of research and I have a book, The Banker Ladies, underway with the University of Toronto Press.           

CITY HALL STEPS, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – 2018/06/20: Council Member Antonio Reynoso – Advocates, community organizations, and Council Members held a press conference and rally at the steps of City Hall, challenging Mayor de Blasio and the NYPDs newly-announced marijuana enforcement policy, urging the Mayor to end racially biased marijuana arrests completely. The Mayor and NYPD Commissioner announced the policy shift yesterday in the culmination of their 30-day review period to assess marijuana enforcement in NYC. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Helen Clark, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Ricardo Lagos

With his evidence-based, public-health approach to drug policy, US President Joe Biden is signaling that America’s longstanding strategies of repression and punishment have failed. The US should also champion a similar shift toward harm-reduction policies internationally.

Fifty years ago this week, US President Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was “public enemy number one” requiring a “tough on crime” approach in the United States and abroad. The “war on drugs,” which expanded in parallel with the global political, military, economic, and cultural hegemony of the US in the post-World War II decades, has delivered the exact opposite of its own stated aims. Today we have both plant-based and synthetic production; low-scale and high-level trafficking of illicit narcotics; disproportionate sentencing and over-incarceration; violence and rights violations; and money laundering and enrichment of organized crime – all strengthened, not weakened, by repressive responses to illegal drugs.

CHILE, VALPARAISO – JULY 04 : View on the historic city and the harbor of Valparaiso on July 04, 2017, Chile. (Photo by Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Felipe Larraín and Pepe Zhang

US-China tensions are unlikely to abate anytime soon, and Latin America will not be able to insulate itself fully from the fallout. But by heeding the lessons of the last three years, the region’s governments and businesses can better position themselves to succeed over the next three years and beyond.

Once a peripheral presence in Latin America, China has become one of the region’s most important partners. Bilateral trade expanded from $12 billion in 2000 to over $300 billion in 2020, raising China’s share of the region’s total trade from 1.7% to 14.4%. China has also become an increasingly significant source of foreign direct investment in Latin America, accounting for nearly 10% of inflows in recent years.

People take part in a new protest against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia, on May 19, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

By Mauricio Cárdenas

Colombians need political leadership that responds to the current anger in the streets with effective strategies to tackle the country’s social and fiscal crises, while relying on increased vaccination to defeat the pandemic. But with the radical right and populist left on the rise, expecting this anytime soon is wishful thinking.

While the United States and other advanced economies are returning to normalcy, Colombia reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to date during the last week of June. Since early May, the country has been recording one COVID-19 death per 100,000 people per day – three times India’s rate.

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 29 2021. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

By Kenneth Rogoff

Most of Latin America is still far from the horrific conditions prevailing in Venezuela, where output has fallen by a staggering 75% since 2013. But, given the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe there, and the specter of political instability elsewhere, investors should not take a sustained economic recovery for granted.

The current disconnect between market calm and underlying social tensions is perhaps nowhere more acute than in Latin America. The question is how much longer this glaring dissonance can continue.