Staff Release: What Does Trump’s FY2019 Budget Mean for the Americas?

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On Monday, February 12, the White House released its budget request for the 2019 fiscal year. The document, which proposes drastically cutting the budgets for U.S. aid to Latin America, simultaneously increases defense and domestic infrastructure spending.

Open Americas firmly believes that any budget reflects the political and personal values of its creators. The very same strong sentiments of nativism, militarism, and U.S. exceptionalism expressed in the FY2019 document are embedded in policy decisions that adversely affect people throughout the Americas.

As it pertains to the relationship that the United States shares with Latin America, President Trump has requested roughly $1.6 billion USD to build 65 miles’ worth of a wall along the Texas-Mexico border and approximately $990 million USD to hire 2,750 new ICE and Border Patrol agents. In the same proposal, the President advocates for a $1.9 billion USD reduction in aid to Latin America, diminishing the United States’ ability to achieve its own regional objectives.

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President Donald Trump: Catalyst for ​The Clash of Civilizations?

By Aidan Sanchez

The current political climate in the United States in 2018 is volatile. Among the many contentious topics is Islam’s place in modern Western society. Much of the kindling for growing islamophobic sentiments in the West has come from President Donald Trump. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump regularly established that Islam, and by extension Muslims, are public enemy number one. During a campaign rally in December of 2015, Trump infamously called for “​’a total and complete shutdown’ of Muslims entering the United States ‘until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.’” In the same speech, Trump conceded that “we have no choice,” and must prevent Muslims from entering the United States. Establishing such a travel ban was, according to supporters, imperative in the interest of preserving national security.​ In his 1993 article ​The Clash of Civilizations?​, Samuel Huntington predicted that cultural differences between the East and West would be the fundamental source for international conflicts in the post-Cold War Era. Using Huntington’s hypothesis, it is possible to identify the historical framework that has led us to where we are now.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union took the place as the U.S. collective ‘other,’ unifying two distinct conservative political sects: civilizational and ideological, against a common enemy. The civilizational conservatives opposed communism due to ideological reasons. The Soviet Union was an atheist state; its lack of faith ran contrary to Anglo-Saxon Christian traditions. Ideological conservatives stood against communism in the interest of preserving liberty and preventing the global domination of a totalitarian regime. This ‘us versus them’ paradigm is useful in analyzing this time period. Politicians and media outlets alike utilized this worldview to frame international politics because it was easy to identify the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ From this perspective, the United States was the good guy, and the Soviet Union was the godless enemy. In a December 1992 memo to his staff, ​New York Times​ foreign editor Bernard Gwertzman wrote, “​In the old days, when certain countries were pawns in the Cold War, their political orientation alone was reason enough for covering them.” However, when the threat of nuclear annihilation subsided, the United States emerged as the clear global hegemon.

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Studying the Horizon

By Christina La Fleur

Despite the progress the UIC-Cuban Ministry of Health collaboration has made for patients and diplomacy, the path ahead for US-Cuban healthcare partnerships is far from sure. Political and policy changes have already begun, and they have the potential to completely reshape US-Cuban relations.

Firstly, political power has changed hands in the United States. The Chicago programs’ main political supporters at the federal level were Democrats, who do not currently hold the majority in Congress.  The Chicago program was built off the foreign policy of the previous Democratic president, and has already been walked back by the current Republican one, who seems inclined to further distance the United States from its island neighbor. In fact, the Cubans’ first Chicago visit was expedited, according to Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, so it could be completed prior to January 20th, 2017 – Donald Trump’s inauguration day. 

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If You Give a Doctor an Idea

By Christina La Fleur

In 2016 and 2017, University of Illinois Cancer Center doctors and a team of Cuban Ministry of Health representatives observed healthcare practices in each other’s countries with the hope of addressing maternal and child healthcare in underserved Chicago communities.  

Dr. Robert Winn of Chicago had been looking for a solution to solve community health problems with few resources. In Cuba he saw the scarcity, but he also saw low infant mortality and high community trust, which was accomplished through the Cuban home visit system. 

In Cuba, primary care physicians “try to solve the problems of the community because they live in the community,” says Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, a Cuban primary health professional. Cuba’s healthcare system has a  pyramid focus, from the individual to the family to the community, that starts with a visit to patients’ homes.  According to Dr. Armando, during the visit individuals are put into one of four groups – healthy, at risk, sick, or living with a disability – and are seen in the local office for care. A community-level health assessment is made every year.

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Healing in a Blockade Context

By Christina La Fleur

Cuban doctors have been deployed all over the world to heal and to strengthen bilateral relations. In 2017, they came to Chicago to address extreme disparity and an urgent community need.

The University of Illinois Chicago-Cuban Ministry of Health collaboration is a first: American doctors invited Cuban medical professionals into American communities to help improve maternal and child health outcomes in underserved Chicago neighborhoods. This collaboration is a milestone in cooperative US-Cuban relations, and in Cuba’s medical diplomacy. 

Dr. Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin and two other Cuban health professionals came to Chicago in January of 2017 to visit University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health) clinics and discuss the potential of applying a Cuban-style home visit system, where doctors have the chance to observe patients, and their conditions, in their own home. During their next visit to Chicago, the doctors began the at-home interviews to assess the patients and determine their health needs at the individual and, cumulatively, community levels.

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A Nation Distraught: Peru’s Kuczynski Pardons Fujimori for Political Gain

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By Alexia Rauen

On December 21, 2017, Reuters reported that ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in power from 1990 to 2000, had requested an official pardon from current President Pedro Kuczynski. The pardon was medical in nature; Kuczynski’s press release found that “prison conditions mean a serious risk to [Fujimori’s] life, health and integrity.” Fujimori requested the pardon “hours before [his] sympathizers in Congress vote on whether to remove Kuczynski from office.” Kuczynski then publicly pardoned Fujimori on December 24, 2017. In order to understand the significance and implications of the pardon, we must first delve into the political situation at this moment in Peru.

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Racial Prejudice in the American Education System: Effects of Racism on Black Students’ Lives and Academic Success

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By Shreyansh Budhia

While the clashes between white supremacist groups and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th and August 13th 2017 prove that racism is still a widespread phenomenon in America that haunts racial minorities, it becomes more and more evident that our task as a society to uproot this evil and pull minorities from its grips is not complete. Truth be told, racism in both forms, extrinsic as well as intrinsic, affects minorities of all ethnicities and colors in the United States. Today, educational institutions all across the United States use racism and unfavorably impact the educational performance of black students. Courthouses and law-enforcement agencies are led by well-known white supremacists who rule out in favor of plaintiffs. Black men are unfairly suspected during police encounters, black inmates outnumber white inmates by incomprehensible proportions, and black professionals in the government and corporate world face subtle instances of prejudiced behavior due to their skin color and heritage. All of these examples suggest that racism is a social problem that acts as an obstacle to the socioeconomic development of the African American community.

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