Human Rights in Guatemala

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has published the Annual Report 2008 on Guatemala. And hardly could have been worse. Last year murder rate was of 48 homicides per 100.000 inhabitants, almost a world record for a country at peace. Extra-judicial executions were reported. The number of people who died in custody increased. Irregular militas were responsible for episodes of the so-called “social cleaning” where victims were tortured and finally executed. Over the year 722 women where killed. 56 people were lynched. According to the High Commissioner the Government should

refine the legislative framework for the protection of human rights (…);
improve criminal investigations carried out by the National Civilian Police, on the basis of an appropriate organizational structure, trained personnel, an adequate territorial deployment, and the availability of technical and scientific resources (…);
strengthen areas of civil jurisdiction, in order to prevent civil conflicts becoming criminal matters (…);
adopt special measures to combat discrimination in all areas, and in particular to overcome the conditions of inequality which impede indigenous peoples’ access to economic, social andcultural rights (…);
strengthen measures to increase the understanding and application of the new Law on Femicide and Other Forms of Violence against Women (…);
promote a comprehensive tax reform, enabling an expansion of fiscal resources and an increase in tax collection.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Understanding Capitalism

Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen argues, in an article published on The New York Review of Books, that the way out from the crisis passes through a better understanding of the ideas that contributed to build the actual economic system. Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Cecil Pigou, should be read, not just quoted. And I quote

Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice. If we were to look for a new approach to the organization of economic activity that included a pragmatic choice of a variety of public services and well-considered regulations, we would be following rather than departing from the agenda of reform that Smith outlined as he both defended and criticized capitalism.

We must understand how institutions work and make them work better. But not just aiming at economic growth.

There is a critical need for paying special attention to the underdogs of society in planning a response to the current crisis, and in going beyond measures to produce general economic expansion.

A crisis not only presents an immediate challenge that has to be faced. It also provides an opportunity to address long-term problems when people are willing to reconsider established conventions. This is why the present crisis also makes it important to face the neglected long-term issues like conservation of the environment and national health care, as well as the need for public transport (…).

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Wars in the Backyard

The National Security Archive has just declassified eleven documents on the extra judicial arrests conducted 25 years ago by the government of Guatemala. It appears that the US embassy clearly knew that the security forces were involved in the kidnappings. In a Department of State secret report, dated March 1986, we can read:

While criminal activity accounts for a small percentage of the cases, and from time to time individuals “disappear” to go elsewhere, the security forces and rightist paramilitary groups are responsible for most kidnapping. Insurgent groups do not normally use kidnapping as a political tactic, although they did resort to kidnapping for ransom in their formative years.
First used systematically by security forces against Communist Party and members of the moderate left beginning in 1966, the practice of kidnapping became institutionalized over time. Some 6500 persons have been kidnapping or disappeared since 1977, far short of the 38,000 claimed by critics of the previous Guatemalan governments. The average number of monthly kidnapping peaked in 1984 under regime of General Mejia. At first security forces utilized kidnappings to intimidate the left and convince potential guerrilla supporters to remain neutral. Kidnapping of rural social workers, medical personnel, and campesinos became common between 1979-83. Often innocent victims were accused of being insurgents by military commissioners, other village leaders or an individual’s personal enemies or business competitors. (…) In the cities, out of frustration from the judiciary’s unwillingness to convict and sentence insurgents, and convinced that kidnapping of suspected insurgents and their relatives would lead to a quick destruction of the guerrilla urban networks, the security forces began to systematically kidnap anyone suspected of insurgent connections. This tactic was successful. Most of the insurgent infrastructure in Guatemala City was eliminated by 1984.

The Guatemalan Civil War ended formally in 1996. But violence did not. According to national newspaper Siglo XXI, in the last fourteen months, an average of 17.6 persons have been killed every day. How many during the 36 years of civil war? 15.2.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Detained and Dismissed

Human Rights Watch has just published a detailed report on Women’s Struggles to Obtain Health Care in United States Immigration Detention. Immigration detention facilities are black holes all around the world. For one thing it is difficult to understand or explain why a state should imprison somebody who has committed no crime at all. At least for those who tend to consider existing as a right and not as a crime. HRW writes that in the United States

the number of individuals held in administrative detention while their immigration cases are determined has skyrocketed in recent years. The detained population on any given day is now over 29,000 nationwide, up almost 50 percent from 2005.

And according to the report the overshadowing sanitary problems for women in this condition are

delays and denials of testing and treatment, obstacles to obtaining medical care, distortions in the doctor-patient relationship, detrimental and unnecessary use of restraints and strip searches, discontinuity of care, lack of effective remedies.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Brain matters

Saying that education strengths economic growth sounds good old common sense. But proving and measuring this relation is not immediate and therefore interesting. A reasearch, published last year, does it. Eric Hanushek, Dean T. Jamison, Eliot A. Jamison and Ludger Woessmann estimate that

each additional year of average schooling in a country increased the average 40-year growth rate in GDP by about 0.37 percentage points. That may not seem like much, but consider the fact that since World War II, the world economic growth rate has been around 2 to 3 percent of GDP annually. Lifting it by 0.37 percentage points is a boost to annual growth rates of more than 10 percent of what would otherwise have occurred, a significant amount.

Nonetheless, the research suggests that what really matters for economic growth is the quality of education. In other words it is not enough to send children to school: you have to teach them something. Using test-score performances around the world to measure the cognitive skills of students appears

that countries with higher test scores experienced far higher growth rates. If one country’s test-score performance was 0.5 standard deviations higher than another country during the 1960s (…) the first country’s growth rate was, on average, one full percentage point higher annually over the following 40-year period than the second country’s growth rate. Further, once the impact of higher levels of cognitive skills are taken into account, the significance for economic growth of school attainment, i.e., additional years of schooling, dwindles to nothing. A country benefits from asking its students to remain in school for a longer period of time only if the students are learning something as a consequence.

These results are extremely important especially for the countries of the Bottom Billion. What they are saying is that it is better to invest on the quality of the education (where rate of return is much higher) rather than spending to keep students in schools longer.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Crisis from the South /3

The Inter-American Development Bank publishes today on its web-site previsions for remittance flows in 2009 to Latin America: they will go down for the first time since 2000. And different countries are experiencing different situation. The Andean region is effected worse by the decline of the euro whereas the Mesoamerica region sees a strong dollar partially counterbalance the decrease in money flow.

According to the Banco de Guatemala, in the first two month of 2009 remittances to the country have diminished by 9.59% comparing with same period of 2008.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Crisis from the South /2

And it appears that the  problem is not just limited to remittances. According to The Institute of International Finance, private financial flows from rich countries to poor ones will decrease by 63% this year: from US$ 456,8 billions in 2008 down to 165,4 billions in 2009. In 2007 these flows amounted to US$ 928,6 billion.Talking about Latin America, inflows will be down  51% from 2008 level and 76% considering 2007 level.

Money are basically heading home.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

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RSS r-bloggers.com

  • easyMTS: My First R Package (Story, and Results)
    This weekend I decided to create my first R package… it’s here! https://github.com/NicoleRadziwill/easyMTS Although I’ve been using R for 15 years, developing a package has been the one thing slightly out of reach for me. Now that I’ve been through the process once, with a package that’s not completely done (but at least has a […]
  • easyMTS R Package: Quick Solver for Mahalanobis-Taguchi System (MTS)
    A new R package in development. Please cite if you use it. The post easyMTS R Package: Quick Solver for Mahalanobis-Taguchi System (MTS) appeared first on Quality and Innovation.
  • Hyper-Parameter Optimization of General Regression Neural Networks
    A major advantage of General Regression Neural Networks (GRNN) over other types of neural networks is that there is only a single hyper-parameter, namely the sigma. In the previous post (https://statcompute.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/latin-hypercube-sampling-in-hyper-parameter-optimization), I’ve shown how to use the random search strategy to find a close-to-optimal value of the sigma by using various random number generators, including […]
  • Cluster multiple time series using K-means
    I have been recently confronted to the issue of finding similarities among time-series and though about using k-means to cluster them. To illustrate the method, I’ll be using data from the Penn World Tables, readily available in R (inside the {pwt9} package): library(tidyverse) library(lubridate) library(pwt9) library(brotools) First, of all, let’s only select the needed columns: […]
  • A Shiny Intro Survey to an Open Science Course
    Last week, we started a new course titled “Statistical Programming and Open Science Methods”. It is being offered under the research program of TRR 266 “Accounting for Transparency” and enables students to conduct data-based research so that...

RSS Simply Statistics

  • You can replicate almost any plot with R
    Although R is great for quickly turning data into plots, it is not widely used for making publication ready figures. But, with enough tinkering you can make almost any plot in R. For examples check out the flowingdata blog or the Fundamentals of Data Visualization book. Here I show five charts from the lay press […]
  • So You Want to Start a Podcast
    Podcasting has gotten quite a bit easier over the past 10 years, due in part to improvements to hardware and software. I wrote about both how I edit and record both of my podcasts about 2 years ago and, while not much has changed since then, I thought it might be helpful if I organized […]
  • The data deluge means no reasonable expectation of privacy - now what?
    Today a couple of different things reminded me about something that I suppose many people are talking about but has been on my mind as well. The idea is that many of our societies social norms are based on the reasonable expectation of privacy. But the reasonable expectation of privacy is increasingly a thing of […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  • When presenting a new method, talk about its failure modes.
    A coauthor writes: I really like the paper [we are writing] as it is. My only criticism of it perhaps would be that we present this great new method and discuss all of its merits, but we do not really discuss when it fails / what its downsides are. Are there any cases where the […]
  • The best is the enemy of the good. It is also the enemy of the not so good.
    This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. The Ocean Cleanup Project’s device to clean up plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is back in the news because it is back at work and is successfully collecting plastic. A bunch of my friends are pretty happy about it and have said so on social […]
  • On the term “self-appointed” . . .
    I was reflecting on what bugs me so much about people using the term “self-appointed” (for example, when disparaging “self-appointed data police” or “self-appointed chess historians“). The obvious question when someone talks about “self-appointed” whatever is, Who self-appointed you to decide who is illegitimately self-appointed? But my larger concern is with the idea that being […]