Remittances to Central America

By Martin Mowforth

Remittances sent back home by migrants who have managed to enter the United States, Canada or European countries are often crucially important in supporting families in low-income countries. Nowhere is this as clear as it is in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala remittances generally account for 14 per cent of the country’s GDP; in Honduras and El Salvador, the equivalent figure is 20 per cent.

Whilst the business world (in the form of CentralAmericaData.com) reported record increases in remittances sent to Central American countries for January and February this year – see table below – and forecast a good year for remittances in 2020, at that time the effects of the pandemic had not been foreseen. This dramatic effect, however, is illustrated by the figures for April 2020 compared with April 2019 – see the table below.

At the level of the family and the household, remittances are often vitally significant for the household economy which in many cases is precarious at best. Unemployment and a lack of opportunities added to a high level of violence in these three countries have stimulated a decades long wave of emigration to richer countries where jobs are more numerous and salaries are higher. In the last two years the phenomenon of migrant caravans from these countries, and especially Honduras, has grown largely as a result of a slightly new balance of forces in which the threats of violence to the family have increased in significance. The economic motive, however, is still highly significant, as are the remittances which improved economic earnings in the rich countries can sustain.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused problems not just for the earners, but also for the recipients of the remittances. Despite these problems, in July CentralAmericaData.com was reporting an increase in remittances to El Salvador of around 10 per cent in the month of June (compared with June 2019), which it believed was due to the ending of the lockdown in the United States and the consequent reduction in unemployment there. This in turn was an enabling factor allowing “a major effort on the part of Salvadorans living abroad to support their families.”

Remarkably too in Guatemala the Bank of Guatemala reported that “in the first seven months of 2020 the country received remittances totalling $5,959 million (USD), a sum 2 per cent greater than the equivalent figure for 2019.”

For the first six months of 2020, on the other hand, remittances to Honduras were down by 4 per cent on the equivalent period for 2019. La Prensa (Honduras) explained: “the majority of these resources come from family members in the United States which has seen employment fall by 13.3 per cent by June following a 4.4 per cent decline in March.”

How remittances progress in the remainder of the year will depend on factors such as the advance or retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northern Triangle, its advance or retreat in the United States (and other rich countries) and the effects of these factors and policies pursued by governments on levels of unemployment in the rich countries.


Sources:

CentralAmericaData.com

  • ‘Remesas en El Salvador: Tendencia se revierte’,07.20
  • ‘Honduras recibe menos remesas’,07.20
  • ‘Remesas: Envíos récord en Julio de 2020’, 08.20

Central Reserve Bank as given in El Economista ‘Recepción de remesas en El Salvador cayó 40% en abril’ by Javier Orellano, 15 May 2020.

El Economista (09.07.20) ‘Las remesas enviadas a Guatemala se recuperan un 15.1% en el último mes’.

El Economista (04.05.20) ‘Prevén drástico descenso en remesas para el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica’.

Laprensa.hn

 

Blockades and a national dialogue in Costa Rica

The following report is produced from news and supplementary material from Jiri Spendlingwimmer, a Costa Rican anthropologist, Liz Richmond, a member of the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA), and numerous news reports in Costa Rican journals and daily newspapers. We are grateful to Jiri and Liz for their work on this.

December 2020

Key words: IMF loan; national dialogue; blockades; selling of state assets; National Rescue Movement (NRM); international freight movement.

(Photo credit: National Association of Public and Private Employees (Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, ANEP)

In October 2020, the Costa Rican government led by President Carlos Alvarado began negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking a $1.75 billion dollar loan to overcome the country’s fiscal deficit, projected to reach 9.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2020. The fall in GDP is due to high unemployment – on average 20% for men and 30% for women[1] – and the impact of the coronavirus.

To secure the loan, proposals included an increase in taxes, funding cuts to social programmes, selling of State assets and public institutions, some of which provide important resources for various social programmes.

In response, a National Rescue Movement (NRM) formed and commenced Blockade actions such as demonstrations and roadblocks, rejecting all aspects of the package, arguing that it would be detrimental to the poorest residents of Costa Rica, especially at this time of high unemployment and increasing social tensions. Blockade actions were intended to impact large companies, including those that pay no tax, and were an argument for the collection of unpaid or evaded taxes, which are 6-8% of GDP. The NRM also pressed for a ‘Tobin’ tax on financial conversions between countries.

The roadblocks were effective in preventing the movement of road freight along the Pan American Highway, thereby stalling the provision of goods not just for Costa Rica, but also for the other Central American countries. The agricultural sector reported losses of over $37 million because of the roadblocks with banana and pineapple producers being the worst affected, with losses of $29 million and $7.5 million respectively for transnational companies. Banana Link also reported job losses and other disruptions.[2]

Under pressure not just from within Costa Rica but also from the rest of Central America, President Alvarado withdrew from the initiative and negotiations. The roadblocks continued for a while and became associated with violence according to the Security Minister Michael Soto Rojas, who accused the protest organisers of being infiltrated by narco traffickers and delinquents.[3] The NRM organisers also claimed that organised crime was taking advantage of the situation by instigating violence.[4] Certainly there were acts of violence from which the protest organisers distanced themselves but Soto failed to provide any proof of the accusation.

In press reports, the delinquents were usually described as ‘local’. One local chapter of the NRM is the ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento of Buenos Aires Blockade Commission’, situated in Southern Costa Rica.  As well as supporting the national agenda, they have a local agenda, which includes a demand for fibre-optics information and education, a request for police support within communities regarding the illegal hunting of wild animals and marijuana crops, drug trafficking and economic support and reactivation for local farmers – campesinos – with strengthening of agricultural production for food sovereignty, not for the transnational companies.  They also demand settlement of the historical debt of the government with Indigenous people, and a solution to the current conflict within Indigenous territories, including due processes of investigation and clarification regarding the murders of Indigenous leaders Sergio Rojas and Jehry Rivera, and immediate police action to protect the physical integrity of Indigenous land reclaimers following recent acts of violence in China Kichá,[5]

The ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento Blockade Commission’ action took place 30 September to 15 October 2020, when it was forcibly ended by police intervention, with five people arrested and detained overnight, including two Indigenous residents and a child. They have subsequently initiated a counter legal claim against the state for their illegal detention by the police.

The Blockade took place daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with openings every 3 hours. Free passage was granted to emergency services, elderly, those with medical appointments and other special circumstances. Their petition has not been responded to, and the government’s condition was an end to Blockades prior to any dialogue.

Nationally, the government does not recognise the NRM as a socio-political actor and ordered Blockades to be forcibly lifted on occasions with the use of tear-gas. The government proposal for an IMF loan was withdrawn on 4 October 2020, with dialogues taking place between political, business, trade union and academic sectors to address the fiscal, economic and political crisis of the country.

The ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento Blockade Commission’ continues to organise and participate in meetings with the NRM and will continue in the struggle with local and national proposals against the government’s negotiations with the IMF.

Although the Mintpress news referred to Alvarado’s withdrawal from the negotiations with the IMF as “a victory for the protestors”[6], since the ending of the blockades President Alvarado has said that he will have to enter into negotiations with the IMF again in the new year.


Notes

[1]   Continuous Employment Survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC): for the second quarter of 2020, unemployment in Costa Rica reached 20% for men and 30% of women nationwide.

[2]   https://www.bananalink.org.uk/news/protests-cause-more-than-37-million-loss-for-costa-rican-agriculture-just-2-days/ –  07102020

[3]   Loaiza, V. and Chaves, K. (8.10.20) ‘Costa Rica: delincuentes locales y narcos toman mando de protestas y bloqueos’, La Nación, San José.

[4]   Annika Beaulieu, 23.10.20, ‘Trouble in Paradise: Violence at protests threaten to unhinge IMF agreement in Costa Rica’, Latin America News Dispatch.

[5]   Environmental Network for Central America, November 2020, ‘Land disputes in southern Costa Rica’, ENCA Newsletter 80, p.6.

[6]   Alan Macleod (25.10.20) ‘Protests Against Greed and Inequality are Spreading Like Wildfire Through Latin America’, Mintpress News.

Tinkering with ‘sustainable or eco-tourism’ hides the real face of tourism

By Anita Pleumarom (Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team) and Chee Yoke Ling (Third World Network)

Reproduced here by kind permission of Anita Pleumarom, Chee Yoke Ling and the Third World Network – www.twn.my

The United Nations committed a substantial error when it proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.  Despite its pronouncements of tourism being a positive force for economic development and poverty eradication, tourism is inept at meeting the challenge of implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Like no other industry, tourism promotes – and glamorizes – a hyper-mobile and hyper-consumeristic lifestyle, rendering sustainability elusive. In fact, most tourism development is fraught with negatives including gross inequalities, human rights violations, cultural erosion, environmental degradation and climate instability (1).

Recent research is particularly alarming in terms of tourism’s contribution to climate change, primarily due to the high energy use for transport such as air travel. Based on a new global tourism emissions model, global tourism is set to emit some 300 gigatonnes of CO2 between 2015 and 2100, which is 30 percent of the global carbon budget for sustainable development (2). It is preposterous to allocate so much of this budget to tourism, instead of meeting the acute energy needs of billions of people around the world. Meanwhile, tourism alternatives such as ‘green’ or ‘eco’-tourism can also be problematic. Not only do they usually depend on long-haul flights that drive climate change, they also tend to penetrate fragile ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands, triggering both biodiversity loss and culture loss.

Tourism as a major source of financial leakage is well documented (3). Since it is frequently large foreign companies that either initiate or take over commercially successful tourism projects, the domestic retention and distribution of tourism benefits has a very poor record; profits are generally repatriated to corporate headquarters and shareholders abroad. A particular characteristic of tourism in this age of neoliberal globalisation is that it is closely intertwined with the finance and real estate industries. Ground evidence shows that vast tracts of public land are being privatized and acquired by foreign investors for luxury tourism – plus tourism-related residential, commercial and mega-infrastructure developments (e.g. ‘aerotropolis’, or airport cities) – resulting in displacement and disempowerment of local people. The radically de-regulated business environment spawns price hikes and speculation, posing high risks to local economies, ways of life and community social structures.

The nature and conceptualisation of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) does not allow for it to adequately deal with the unsustainable and unjust patterns of tourism. Originally formed as a business organisation, the UNWTO remains industry-controlled and industry-oriented, and its critics do not regard it as a responsible UN agency acting for the common good. In synchrony with the global tourism and travel industry, it continues to aggressively campaign for further tourism growth despite the fact that much of contemporary tourism is antithetical to sustainable development and most of the tourism-related goods and services are luxuries that can only be enjoyed by the world’s minority. Even if some improvements can be achieved in tourism through better regulation and management as well as increased incentives for ecologically sustainable activities (alleged ‘eco’-tourism among them), it is clear that the gains made will be negligible in the context of the continued growth of the tourism industry at large, as forecast and aspired by the UNWTO. Instead of down-scaling the inflated tourism sector and effectively engaging in harm avoidance, the UNWTO sends a wrong message to the public: that ‘sustainable (eco)tourism’ is the solution and needs to grow without barriers for the benefit of us all.

Actually, steering tourism policy and practice towards more sustainability requires first and foremost correcting the unjust economic structures and power relations that drive tourism development. It is also necessary to put in place laws and regulations that effectively protect local citizens and communities from harmful tourism, including mechanisms that require travel and tourism businesses to compensate for social losses and to clean up the damage they created. Clear transparent, accessible processes for accountability are needed, which empower people(s) to monitor and hold governments, financial institutions, development agencies and the private sector engaging in tourism  accountable for their actions.

Rather than aiming at further tourism expansion, other more sustainable economic activities should be developed, particularly in small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) that heavily rely on tourism – which not only must contend with the volatility of tourism (e.g. due to international financial/economic crises, acts of violence, extreme weather events, natural disasters and pandemics), but also are endangered by tourism-induced climate change.  This is a major undertaking that the international community must assist with, for the transition of those economies and health of their populations.

—-

References:

(1) Third World Network, ‘Global Tourism Growth: Remedy of Ruin?’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302.htm

(2) Sustainability Leaders Interview: Paul Peeters on Tourism, Aviation and Climate Change, 8 June 2016, http://sustainability-leaders.com/interview-paul-peeters-on-tourism-aviation-climate-change/

(3) Pleumarom, A., ‘Tourism – a driver of inequality and displacement’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302/cover01.htm

This article can be downloaded from Third World Network’s website at: www.twn.my/tour.htm

TWN banner

 The article is based on a chapter entitled ‘Corporate capture subverts production and consumption transformation’ by Chee Yoke Ling, published in Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2016: Report by the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 11 July 2016, pp.94-100  

The full report as well as single chapters of it can be downloaded at: https://www.2030spotlight.org/

Remittances to and migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle

El Economista recently published an article based on the findings of a report entitled ‘The Future of Central America: Challenges for a Sustainable Development’. The report was produced by a collaboration between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Centre for Competition and Sustainable Development (CLACDS, by its Spanish initials) of the INCAE Business School. Short extracts from the article are translated below.

Key words: remittances; migration; Northern Triangle countries; Temporary Protected Status (TPS);

The recent hardening of the United States’ immigration policies is putting at risk a significant ‘escape valve’ for the economies of the Northern Triangle of Central America: namely remittances.

“An important factor for these societies [El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala] is the fact that there is an escape valve for social and demographic problems, and a source of income,” said the Dean of the INCAE Business School, Alberto Trejos, to El Economista, regarding migration and remittances.

The report points out that there are at least 3 million migrants from the Northern Triangle in the United States and that their remittances represent 20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of El Salvador and Honduras and 12 per cent of the GDP of Guatemala. Our societies in the region

According to the report, in 2017 Salvadoran migrants in the United States accounted for 23 per cent of total population of El Salvador, and the respective proportions of Honduras and Guatemala were 8 per cent and 6 per cent.

The report warns that the hardening of immigration policies in the United States could have a substantial impact on remittances and, through them, on the economies of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The report’s estimates indicate that remittances could decline by 7.6 per cent per annum due to recent and proposed immigration policies changes and that the elimination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran and Salvadoran citizens [illegally residing in the USA] could imply a further reduction in remittances of 6 per cent per annum in the medium term. It also estimates that a further 7 per cent of migrants who currently reside in the USA could decide to return to their country of origin.

Those migrants would return with savings of around 3 per cent of their country’s GDP which would generate a temporary positive effect which would be converted into an additional demand for jobs. For these jobs to be filled would require that the economies of the Northern Triangle countries would have to grow by one percentage point more than is expected or predicted.

For the INCAE Dean, remittances are an important escape valve, but the current remarkable migration has negative consequences due to the flight of humans who are at their most productive ages. “We have to stop thinking of the phenomenal migration from the perspective of remittances, even though it appears to represent the inflow of money. But we have to admit that this money flows in because we cannot provide alternative prospects to young people so that they might stay.”

“At the same time that this money flows in, the productive capacity of these people disappears. Society loses the income that these people would have generated, we lose the contributions of the skills of these migrants and that leaves us with a society that is demographically and economically different.”

For the INCAE Dean, the conditions which prompt people to migrate “are not a good thing,” and although migration may generate some positive effects on the economy, it cannot be called a good thing. Trejos warned that a mass return of migrants at this time would necessitate “a very disruptive adjustment.”

El Economista: eleconomista.net

INCAE: www.incae.edu

Guatemalan Government bans plastics; then repeals ban.

The following article illustrates the cynical greenwash deployed by governments in their relationship with environmental protection. In this case, the government of Guatemala is shown to be the cheating ‘greenwasher’. (Both articles were originally sourced from the Spanish News Agency EFE and appeared in El Economista. We are grateful to Lucy Goodman for her translation and summary on behalf of The Violence of Development website.)

El Economista, 20/09/19

Gobierno de Guatemala prohíbe el uso de plástico
Guatemalan government prohibits the use of plastics

Key words: single-use plastics; Guatemala; repeal on change of government.

In September the Government of Guatemala announced the prohibition of the use and distribution of single-use plastic bags and other plastic items in order to contribute to the protection of the environment and gave a two-year deadline for adapting to this measure.

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources published the government agreement in the official daily newspaper (Diario de Centro America), announcing the restriction that also applies to plastic straws, plates, cups, containers and plastic or polystyrene food packaging.

This movement does not restrict or limit any municipal initiatives with the same purpose, as within several constituencies in the country, similar measures have already been in place for a while. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources will be verifying, inspecting and monitoring compliance with this legislation itself, and wall train legal persons to apply the corresponding sanctions for non-compliance.

The only exempt plastic items will be those “for medical or therapeutic purposes”, as well as imported items that are “factory sealed with plastic material or expanded polystyrene”.

Showing a photo of a turtle tangled in plastic, the then-president Jimmy Morales celebrated on social media this decision in which “Guatemala says no to plastic” and affirmed that this changes the country for future generations to come. “It’s time to change our form of consumption, for our nation and the future of our children” he proclaimed.

Subsequently, in a press conference, the president reiterated his pleasure with this decision, that there are other products available for use, and that there are two years to accomplish the transition and find the right substitutes.

Questioned about the loss of jobs in the plastics sector, Morales advocated seeing the benefits and asked for it not to get “dramatic” and “to find a solution to the issues”.

The Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association, formed of 60 manufacturers and export companies states on the website that the sector creates some 10,000 jobs directly and 60,000 indirectly, and the plastics industry is the “industry of export, indirectly the most important in the country”. The principle export destinations of these products are Central America, the Caribbean, the United States and Mexico.

[Editorial comment: it is rumoured that President Morales knew that the measure would be repealed by any right-wing successor to the presidency. Enter stage right: President Elect Giammattei.]

President-elect of Guatemala to repeal the agreement to ban plastic.

https://www.eleconomista.net/export/sites/prensagrafica/img/2019/10/09/guatemalax_alejandro_giammattei.jpg_1130814359.jpg
President Elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei. EFE

Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei announced on Wednesday that he would repeal the agreement that prohibits the use and distribution of single-use plastic bags, among other products.

“Plastic usage is not prohibited; there are other more important things to do. We must focus on culture, education, environmental awareness” declared Giammattei to the press after he left a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce.

Giammattei had warned that he would look into this agreement because in his view there is a “much deeper” problem.

[Editorial comment: indeed there is; it is the deep corruption within Guatemalan state politics and the Chamber of Commerce.]

Various commercial sectors have spoken out against plastics prohibition because they consider the real problem of contamination is in the management and control of solid waste, while the Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association states that 10,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs are at risk.

Guatemala offers El Salvador a port on the Atlantic Coast.

Shortly after the inauguration of Alejandro Giammattei as the new Guatemalan President, he met with President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador and offered a deal of potentially great benefit to El Salvador: namely a port on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala. Lucy Goodman translated articles about the deal from La Prensa Gráfica (by Melissa Pacheco, 28.01.20) and El Economista (29.01.20), and Martin Mowforth summarised and commented upon these for The Violence of Development website.

Key words: El Salvador – Guatemala integration; Atlantic port; security cooperation; domestic flights.

El Salvador and Guatemala plan to eliminate the border initially for the passage of persons and later for freight. They have also re-defined flights between the two countries as ‘domestic flights’.

Anuncio. En conferencia de prensa, los presidentes hicieron diversos anuncios entre ellos la eliminación de las fronteras para el tránsito de personas y mercaderías.
(Melissa Pacheco) The presidents share the announcements between themselves about the removal of the border for the transit of people and goods.

The Guatemalan president offered a concession to create a public-private partnership as the means to enable completion of a Salvadoran port on the Atlantic coast. Land from the Santo Tomás de Castilla National Port Company (Empornac) will be ceded to El Salvador for this purpose. The area to be ceded is known as El Arenal (or The Quicksand) and currently serves as a depot for containers. Last year (2019) Empornac carried out technical studies to determine the feasibility of constructing a pier to accommodate dredgers and cruise ships there.

“We have offered El Salvador something unprecedented in the history of Central American integration and today I want to announce it publicly because we’re going to explore, as soon as possible, the possibility of El Salvador having a port in the Guatemalan Atlantic. We will deliver this Project as a public-private partnership so that El Salvador can develop it. It is an offer that we have made to El Salvador, we consider it to be the right thing to do,” Giammattei announced at a press conference that took place at the Presidential House.

He added that he had spoken with the authorities of SICA (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana / Central American Integration System) in order to receive the support of the institution in the implementation of the project. He also announced that he made a firm pledge to officially de-categorise flights between Guatemala and El Salvador to ‘domestic’. This comes as part of the initiatives to improve integration in the region.

The Guatemalan Minister of Economics, Antonio Malouf, confirmed that a legal-technical analysis for ceding the land of Empornac will be carried out.

“Basically, it would be our entry to the Atlantic. Our goods will have the power to go from the Atlantic and enter from the Atlantic. I believe what we’re doing is making a real union that is going to spread to other countries in Central America that will want to unite and do similar,” declared the Salvadoran President.

Apart from the possible construction of the Salvadoran port on the Guatemalan coast and the re-categorisation of flights, the leaders announced that in one month they hope to have removed the border for the passage of people and within three or four months the barriers for goods between the two countries.

“We have to sign papers where we can eliminate the customs on goods respecting that goods entering El Salvador and destined for Guatemala have already paid taxes in El Salvador and do not have to pay them in Guatemala and those that have entered Guatemala destined for El Salvador do not have to pay them in El Salvador. We believe it will take us about three months,” the Guatemalan president declared to the media.

The elimination of the borders for the passage of people also requires the implementation of a bi-national arrangement on security. “If someone passes from Guatemala to El Salvador evading an arrest warrant, they will not be evading anything because we are going to have the same approaches in both countries,” Bukele stated.

Giammattei referred to their intention to apply similar security sanctions, one of which was to standardise the criminal codes in both countries. In the language he used to explain this part of the agreement, Giammattei betrayed his profoundly hateful and hardline understanding of crime in society. “Standardising the penalties, the sanctions, the punishments, so that when they spray ‘Baygon’ here the cockroaches do not go there because they think that there they will find it easier, and when they spray ‘Baygon’ the cockroaches won’t come here, as the law will be the same for the two countries,” said the new president.

Moreover, he said that they had been monitoring Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan (PCT), the main commitment of the Salvadoran Government to improve security conditions, and he (Giammattei) did not rule out implementing some of the same sanctions in Guatemala.

Tourism Recovery in Nicaragua, January 2020

It isn’t often that you will find the UK Daily Mail cited in this website, unless the citation is given for its racism, intolerance and bigotry; but in this case we reproduce a report from Nicanotes which in its turn cites a list of the Daily Mail’s ‘must-see’ tourist destinations.

Taken from Nicanotes (https://afgj.org/nicanotes/), a weekly production by the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ)

9 January 2020

Daily Mail Includes Nicaragua in List of 12 New Key Destinations for 2020

Nicaragua was included in an exclusive list of 12 new key tourist destinations around the world, published on December 28 [2019] by the British newspaper Daily Mail. Nicaragua was listed along with Chicago (USA), Japan, Dubai, Galway (Ireland), Chile, Israel and Australia. Nigel Tisdall, writer of the article, describes Nicaragua as “a captivating mix of volcanoes, jungle and beach, with a relaxed atmosphere and excellent coffee.” It also highlights Granada, for “its architecture” and “the possibility of sailing among its forested islands.” Recently other British media, such as Travel Weekly Magazine, Marie Claire Magazines UK, Selling Travel, Travel Trade Gazette, Wanderlust, have recognized Nicaragua as a must-see destination for 2020. The print version of the Daily Mail has 2.5 million readers daily, and its digital version reaches 26.8 million unique users monthly, making it one of the most read websites in the English-speaking world. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 3/1/20)

Increase in Tourism from Costa Rica

For Nicaragua’s commerce, service and transportation, the month of December [2019] was very good with the considerable increase in the arrival of tourists from Costa Rica. In the Masaya handicraft market, the arrival of hundreds of Costa Rican tourists was visible. In the case of transportation, the companies that provide this service from San José report that passenger traffic increased by 40%. Enrique Quiñonez, president of the Chamber of Tourist Transport of Nicaragua confirmed that they had to put into circulation more buses to meet the demand. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 6/1/20)

Cop25: Indemnification to accompany mitigation and adaptation?

At COP25 in Madrid in December 2019 Nicaragua’s Policy Minister Paul Oquist outlined to delegates the policy stance of his government to the issue of climate change and how to address it. In particular he explained the need to introduce into the system of adaptation and mitigation the notion of losses and gains, using the term ‘indemnification’, to redress the injustices of the historical causes of climate change. We consider this to be an important feature of any international mechanisms that seek to allocate funds for climate change action; and so we include his address here.

Dr. Paul Oquist Kelley Minister-Private Secretary for National Policies Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua

Translated by Tortillaconsal.com

December 11th 2019

Madam President, Your Excellencies, Ministers, Special Guests
 
The President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and Vice President Compañera Rosario Murillo Zambrana, send their greetings and best wishes for the success of this COP, aimed at achieving a higher level of commitment and climate action.
 
Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities are not political positions but objective historical and contemporary realities. To maintain that we are all historically responsible for climate change would be tantamount to saying that we all participated equally in the Industrial Revolution, as well as in the massive accumulation of capital resulting from it. This was when most of our countries suffered at that time the yoke of colonialism and neocolonialism, as well as the slave trade and the exploitation of slave labour, which also contributed to the historical accumulation of those responsible.
 
To maintain that we are all equally and universally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions today, is equivalent to saying that the 100 countries with the lowest emissions that account for 3% of the total, have the same responsibility as the ten countries with the highest emissions that account for 72% of the total. At the same time, it is equivalent to saying that most countries with less than one ton of CO2 equivalent per capita have the same responsibility as countries with 18 tons or 16 tons per capita.
 
My country, Nicaragua, contributes 0.03% of total global emissions, with a per capita of 0.63 tons. Despite our negligible level of responsibility, we are actively working on mitigation and adaptation, as well as loss and damage, because we love Mother Earth, and we are concerned about the future of our country and the world. Nicaragua has gone from 25% renewable energy in 2007 to 62% in 2018, while electricity coverage has expanded from 54% of households in 2007 to 95% in 2018. We are committed to the 30×30 initiative to restore 2.8 million hectares degraded due to a historic, active agricultural frontier. We have committed in the Forest Carbon Partnership to capture 11 million tons of CO2(e) [carbon dioxide equivalent] over the next five years. We are also adapting a dry corridor to the new reality of climate change.
 
This effort has been in the context of average annual economic growth of 4.7% between 2011 and 2017, the third highest rate among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, accompanied by great social advances. These include the reduction of the maternal mortality rate from 92.8 per hundred thousand in 2007 to 34.1 today, and the reduction of the infant mortality rate from 29 to 12 per thousand children born. Chronic malnutrition in schools was reduced by 66%. General poverty was reduced from 47.9% to 24.9%, and extreme poverty from 17.3% to 6.9%. Very important in this world, the GINI measure of inequality in consumption went from 0.41 to 0.33. In 2007, Nicaragua ranked at 90 in the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum in Davos, rising to the rank of number five in 2019, only below the Nordic countries. The indigenous and Afro-descendant population of the Caribbean Coast and Upper Wanki River or Coco, achieved the delimitation and titling of 37,800 square kilometers of their ancestral lands, in 23 territories, each with its own territorial government and control of its own resources.
 
However, Nicaragua, like 35 other countries around the world, has seen its capacity to respond to climate change and to achieve sustainable development goals undermined by coercive, unilateral, extraterritorial and illegal measures, which even criminalize third parties that do not comply with the illegal measures. Only sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council are legal in international law. The international system of bank transfers is key to the de facto imposition of these illegal, unilateral, coercive measures that violate the human and legal rights of individuals, organizations and entire countries. There are also covert actions of destabilization of governments and attempts at coups d’état, some successful and others not. In the Middle East, several countries have been invaded or bombed in wars of aggression. The Nuremberg court ruled that this type of war is the supreme violation of international law and human rights, because it contains within it the sum of all the evils of war. Even countries suffering the consequences of climate change see their ability to respond to the future shattered by catastrophic disasters and the lack of international compensation mechanisms. All these phenomena have affected the respective response capacity of developing countries.
 
Our Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement are incomplete, because they do not include an effective mechanism to finance response and recovery of losses and damages. Mitigation reduces the risk of loss and damage; adaptation reduces the impact of specific threats of loss and damage; loss and damage themselves are the end result of the very climate change we are seeking to minimize. Thus, we propose that the concept of losses and damages be elevated to the same level as mitigation and adaptation, in order to receive resources.
 
The President of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, in his message to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, stated that the only equitable and effective way to finance losses and damages is for the countries and corporations that have caused the problem and benefited from the use of carbon to accumulate capital to compensate countries that suffer the consequences of climate change without having caused it, in the proportion of their responsibility. We have the data from 1880 to date, both for countries and for corporations. Some people think this is a very radical proposal, but it is not. The concept that whoever causes damage to another must then compensate the other for the damage caused is called tort in common law. It is also in the Napoleonic codes and in Sharia law. So too, all ethical systems, and all religions of the world, contain the concept. However, the term most despised and feared in these negotiations is the word “indemnification”.

The developing countries need enormous financial resources for the future, to face mitigation, adaptation and losses and damages. In Copenhagen in 2009, funding of US$100 billion per year starting in 2020 was proposed and reiterated in successive COPs. We should not accept as part of the US$100 billion accounts of past expenses, we cannot finance our projects with them. Nor can we accept that the market mechanisms of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement replace the US$100 billion annually. We must not accept the postponement of the date after having already waited 10 long years. What is needed from 2020 onwards are new, fresh, liquid resources with equal access for all developing countries. To guarantee these requisites, if these funds appear, they should be channelled through the financial mechanisms of the Convention, namely the Green Climate Fund, the GEF, the Adaptation Fund, and the Least Developed Countries Fund.

The year 2019 will be remembered like 1848, 1871, 1968 and 1989, as a year when the street became important in world politics. Climate change is one of the drivers of this phenomenon in many countries, with youth on the front line. The 16-year-olds marching in the streets today will be 18 years old in two more years, and no one will speak of that youth as passive, disinterested and apolitical. A highly motivated voting youth can change the correlation of political forces in many countries, being decisive in countries now evenly split between opposing forces.
  
There is still a year before COP26 in 2020 but you see neither a working group advancing the US$100 billion a year nor a road map. Only Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked President Emanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica to investigate the issue.

If the US$100 billion annual commitment in 2020 is broken, this could be termed the Fraud of the Century. In reality, much more is needed and US$100 billion has to be just a starting point. The US$100 billion myth has the aggravating factor that it reduced climate change spending and action in the critical decade of 2010 to date, and now we are suffering the consequences. What we cannot do at this time is to have another Lost Decade of financing and action on Climate Change.

Political developments in El Salvador

A half-yearly comment and update on political developments in El Salvador by the El Salvador Network (ESNET), a UK-based solidarity network.

We are grateful to ESNET for permission to reproduce their latest Update (November 2019) in our website.

Key words: ARENA; FMLN; GANA; Nayib Bukele; gang violence; corruption; Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The former Marxist guerrilla army (the FMLN) demobilised, as Peace Accords were signed, in 1992 to bring the 12 year long civil war to an end in El Salvador. There was space for the FMLN to organise politically, and contest elections locally and nationally. This finally resulted in the first ever Left Presidency from 2009 – 2014. President Mauricio Funes is now in exile in Nicaragua after being charged with large scale corruption. Previous right wing (ARENA) Presidents have also been charged, conveniently died or been imprisoned for even greater corruption offences.

The second FMLN term, 2014 to May 2019, of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, saw little social progress as the FMLN tried a variety of tactics to tackle massive gang related violence, which has forced many into exile and resulted in many murders each day. Against this violent background it was clear that the historic opportunity so many had fought for – and many had died for – had not achieved a lot. Programmes to give out free school uniforms, and fund co-operatives to grow maize seed for food sustainability were a good start, but there was never a radical transformation of society. Ten years of the FMLN in government left them exhausted by the gang wars, mired in many accounts of favouritism, ineffectiveness, nepotism and worse.

In the February 2019 Presidential Election, the FMLN candidate came a distant third, with ARENA (extreme right wing) second and a clear first round victory with well over the necessary 50% for Nayib Bukele, formally of the GANA centre right party. 

An initial wave of euphoria that here was something new politically to move El Salvador beyond the 2 party paralysis of the post-civil war period has given way to a more nuanced reflection. Bukele has allied himself with Trump and against Cuba and Venezuela and has recently expelled Venezuelan diplomats. Some of his more left wing supporters hope this is to keep onside with the US in order to be left alone to initiate some social and economic progress. Announcing that all teachers will move to ‘flexible’ (in effect zero hours) contracts shows the economic direction of travel of Bukele. 

Who is Nayib Bukele? 

Son of a wealthy family and working originally in the family business, Bukele (now 38) worked as a PR specialist on the 2009 FMLN Presidential election campaign for Mauricio Funes, and subsequently joined the party. He was quickly elected Mayor of a small town, and then of the capital city, San Salvador. He proved to be dynamic, controversial, slick, a maverick who never fitted well in the FMLN. He was expelled from the FMLN for a number of acts against party rules, and then became candidate for President of the GANA centre right party in 2019. 

Bukele is a figure similar to Macron in France – a young dynamic outsider who has shaken the political mould – with no clear ideology, but clearly of the centre / right. Above all he is a ‘self-brand’, adept in using social media. He has had some early successes against the gangs, reducing the daily murder toll. El Salvador recently hosted the Latin American surfing championships, and Bukele encouraged all the surfers to go back home and tell everyone how wonderful El Salvador is for surfing, and how they should all come and stay a while! It seems that attacks on trade unions, public sector social programmes and the alternative press show that Bukele is going all out to attract US private sector investors.

Meanwhile Archbishop Oscar Romero (murdered while saying mass by a death squad in 1980) has been finally officially canonized by the Argentinian Pope Francis as ‘San Romero de las Americas’. The ceremony in Rome was a national celebration of Romero and his legacy – which is still disputed, since the right have tried to reclaim Romero as one of their own.  March 2020 will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Romero, which will be commemorated widely in El Salvador, and around the world, including here in the UK. 

Government of Panamá searches for incentives to promote recycling

Summary by Martin Mowforth from report by El Economista

2 October 2019

Key words: recycling; incentives; plastics; Bay of Panamá.

On 2 October, El Economista reported that the government of Panamá was looking for ways of incentivising recycling. Speaking at an international symposium on sustainability organised by the Industrial Union of Panamá, the Environment Minister Milciades Concepción said that recycling by industry is practically nil: “Here we can’t set up recycling plants because there are no incentives,” he declared.

According to official figures the Bay of Panamá receives 175,000 tonnes of waste each year, much of which is composed of plastics. The Director of Urban and Household Hygiene Pedro Castillo said that “on recycling we are years behind.”

Cerro Patacón is the main landfill dump for the city of Panamá and the 150 informal recyclers who work there find the collection of plastic material to be less attractive than the collection of other materials because of the low demand for plastics.

The United Nations Environment Programme calculates that in Latin America only 10 per cent of all waste material generated is recycled, and that this rate is lower in areas of poverty. UNEP also estimates that each year 8 million tonnes of plastic reach the sea, and that if this continues, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish.

Plastic waste in Panamá bay

How Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate

The following article is taken from ‘Towards Freedom’, an organisation that takes “a progressive perspective on world events” – https://towardfreedom.org/  We are grateful to Toward Freedom and Edgardo Ayala for permission to reproduce the article here.

January 2, 2019 | By Edgardo Ayala

Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States, which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Photo Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador (IPS) – As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gómez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States.

Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of Santa Ana.

The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every year we lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave, because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,” Gómez told IPS, as he untied the cow’s hind legs after milking.

He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for example, also grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own, “but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained a lot, or because of drought.”

The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni lost two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.

“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez, who says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to migration because of problems similar to those of his son.

The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations, has experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving more than 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned as early as 2016.

Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons, Santos Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles, California.

“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay, that they have jobs,” he said.

The case of the Gómez family illustrates the phenomenon of migration and its link with climate change and its impact on harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American peasant families.

La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity, benefited a few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.

However, their crops are still vulnerable to the onslaught of heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense droughts.

In addition to the violence and poverty, climate change is the third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new Atlas of Migration in Northern Central America.

The report, released Dec. 12 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and FAO, underscores that the majority of migrants from these three countries come from rural areas.

Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an increase of nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in rural areas are poor, and in Honduras the proportion is 82 percent.

In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and El Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United States, with the idea that it would be safer if they traveled in large groups.

Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United States carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs, especially when crossing Mexico, or die on the long treks through the desert.

Another report published by FAO in December, ‘Mesoamerica in Transit’, states that of the nearly 30 million international migrants from Latin America, some four million come from the Northern Triangle and another 11 million from Mexico.

The study adds that among the main factors driving migration in El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán, Cabañas, San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring violence in La Paz, Morazán and San Salvador.

And according to the report, Honduran migration is strongly linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty and violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental vulnerability in the centre-south.

With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that although in this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to specific characteristics of different territories, migration is higher in municipalities where the percentage of the population without secondary education is larger.

In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south and violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.

“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view of the phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it is conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO Rural Development Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N. organisation’s regional headquarters.

He added that understanding what is happening in the field is fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.

The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multi-causal analysis; the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors, including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central America,” Beduschi said.

For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote policies that offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their families in their places of origin.”

It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they have the necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the local population as a result of poverty, violence, climate change and lack of opportunities.

In the case of El Salvador, while there is government awareness of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to food security, little has been done to promote public policies to confront the phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.

“There are national plans and strategies to confront climate change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is done, and much of this is due to lack of resources,” added González, a member of the Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a conglomerate of social organisations fighting for this objective.

Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife, Teodora, the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.

They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the money their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.

“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he said.

Copyright Toward Freedom 2018

Thirst, crop failure and cattle deaths result from drought in Honduras

Summary report by Martin Mowforth

A 13th September report in the Salvadoran daily newspaper La Prensa Gráfica described yet another motive behind the exodus of people from Honduras: namely drought. This illustrates well the thesis in the article ‘How Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate’ – also uploaded to this website this month,  September 2019 – that drought and the unreliability of climate are forcing many rural farmers to consider the possibility of migration as a way out of their predicament.

Several Honduran departments have been declared as emergency zones due to the scarcity of water. Some of these zones have not had any rainfall for ten months and over 50 per cent of basic grains like corn and beans have been lost, according to official sources.

In the eastern department of Olancho 1,000 head of cattle have died due to the drought. Farmers with some capital behind them can purchase alternative feeds for their cattle such as the waste products of African palm oil which are rich in protein. But for the majority the grass is simply not growing due to the drought. Some sources are suggesting that this climate trend means that in the medium and long terms farmers must adapt to raising a much smaller number of cattle on their land.

The drought has also affected urban areas such as the capital city Tegucigalpa, and residents are having to purchase tanks of water for activities such as washing as well as drinking. Clearly in such circumstances the poor are more likely to be adversely affected by the drought.

In July 2019, in Inside Climate News (ICN), Georgina Gustin produced a report entitled ‘Ravaged by Drought, a Honduran Village Faces a Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate’. It is available at: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08072019/climate-change-migration-honduras-drought-crop-failure-farming-deforestation-guatemala-trump  and includes three video clips of interviews with Central American farmers. We urge our readers to read and view this account of the link between climate change and migration patterns.

As if Hondurans don’t have enough to contend with: a narco-state run by organised crime; security forces whose main modus operandi is violence against the people they are supposed to be protecting; a gang culture and protection racket which pervade so many of the activities of Honduran society and economy; a system of production which displaces Hondurans from their land for the benefit of transnational corporations and local elites; and a complete lack of opportunities for Hondurans. Add climate change to the mix, and who could be surprised that so many Hondurans try to escape their country of birth to find opportunities elsewhere in the world?