James, known as Boz, is one of the foremost Latin American foreign policy bloggers on the Web. He's an American based in Nicaragua, but he covers the entire region, from daily news stories to more complex policy issues. He's especially interested in transnational crime and security, but he does an excellent job writing about a large variety of topics. He writes Bloggings by Boz, and also has a popular Twitter account for those interested in Latin American news. Boz was kind enough to answer some questions I had, and I'm really excited to feature him here.
You're quite a prolific writer - you've been blogging since 2004 with hundreds of posts a year, and you also freelance. Where else have you been published?
Most of my public writing is on my blog and Twitter feed. I started my blog as an experiment in 2004 and it became a hobby that I really enjoy. With over 3,500 blog posts in seven years and over 7,000 tweets, I'm not sure where it all comes from. I just sit down to write every morning.
In terms of public writing, I contribute to some of the analysis published by Southern Pulse. In the past year I wrote a paper on organized crime in Honduras for the Woodrow Wilson Center and a speech on Arms Trafficking in Central America for the Parliamentary Forum on SALW. I was also excited my paper on botnets and cybersecurity, which I wrote in late 2009, was released publicly by the Conficker Working Group.
My freelance writing and consulting business leads me to do a lot of private memos and analytical reports for clients around the globe. A lot of what I write as part of work is never published publicly, so I'm glad to have an outlet in my blog to post stuff I want to say.
Why Latin America? How did you first become interested in the region, and what do you find fascinating about it?
I'm asked "Why Latin America?" fairly often and I've never been quite sure. I'm part hispanic and have a lot of relatives in Argentina, but I don't think that completely explains why I'm drawn to the region. I took every university course I could on Latin American politics and history and spent a semester abroad in Santiago, Chile. About a year after college, I stumbled into a job as a Latin America analyst with a strategic communications firm. Even though I've also done work related to Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well as US politics, I never enjoy working on those regions as much as I do Latin America.
How is that you came to live in Nicaragua? As someone who covers Latin America and foreign policy, why was it important for you to live there?
I'm actually in Nicaragua because of my wife's job. The flexibility of being a freelancer means I can write from almost anywhere with an internet connection. That said, I'm glad to be living and working in Latin America and appreciate the opportunity to get to know Nicaragua and Central America better. It's been a good experience.
On your blog, you do a daily round up of interesting news stories from the English, Spanish and Portuguese language press. How do you determine what's worth sharing?
I share whatever news articles interest me. My blog is still my hobby, even though I have far more readers today than when I started. Of course, as my interests change over time, so do the articles I share. I've become much more interested in technology, energy and innovation issues in the past year, and I think it shows in what I share. I also have an interest in transnational crime, which I think is the big threat to the region.
You cover the region as a whole but you give Brazil plenty of attention. What do you think is one of the trends most worth watching in Brazil, be it political, economic, social, etc?
I give Brazil attention because Brazil deserves attention. It's a political and economic powerhouse in the region and increasingly in the world. Anyone who does regional analysis and ignores Brazil is missing a big piece of the puzzle.
In terms of trends, I think Brazil's interest in South America as a regional community is incredibly important. They have the opportunity to build up their neighbors and work to everyone's strengths through integration. However, that integration with a South American community also creates some risks for Brazil. In the coming years, Brazil will want stability in their neighborhood, leading to them influence other governments. We see this already with Brazil helping Bolivia and Paraguay do border patrols with UAVs or with their construction contracts in Venezuela and Peru. As Brazil works to maintain stability, help out neighbors, and promote Brazilian multinational businesses, it's going to lead to both good and bad consequences for the image of their country.
How do you think Dilma's administration is going? How do you predict things will play out given the corruption scandals and her beleaguered relationship with Congress?
I think the Rousseff administration is hitting some rocky times as happens any time a party moves to its third term in office, whether with the same person or with a new leader. Her administration has one clear advantage: Brazil has a set of goals it must achieve in the eyes of the world with the upcoming big events. They need to build infrastructure for the World Cup and Olympics. I'm 90% sure that Brazilian politics will pull together, move past their differences, and make it happen on time. Dilma will get the credit when it does.