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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Troubled Countries Can’t Keep People From Leaving

    Troubled Countries Can’t Keep People From Leaving

    Trump wants El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to stop emigration by force of will. They can’t.

    6:00 AM ET
    Eliza Willis
    Political scientist at Grinnell College
    Janet Seiz
    Economist at Grinnell College

    Central American emigrants, en route to the United States, cross the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.JOSE CABEZAS / REUTERS

    Making good on previous threats, President Donald Trump recently declared an end to aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, blaming the three governments for failing to stop the flow of their citizens to the United States. “They have ALL been taking U.S. money for years,” he tweeted, “and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for us.” If his public statements are any guide, Trump appears to believe that the three countries—Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle—can shut down the flow of emigrants at will.

    They can’t. The same factors that lead to outmigration—crushing poverty, widespread crime and violence, and weak government institutions—also limit these governments’ ability to entice residents to stay. Trump can fire up his political base with his demand that emigration cease immediately, but addressing conditions that developed in Central America over many decades will demand a longer time horizon.

    Perhaps Trump is imagining that armed guards posted at the Northern Triangle countries’ borders could keep would-be emigrants from leaving, but doing so would violate both international norms and national constitutions. Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala all recognize freedom of movement as a right. Forbidding citizens to leave is what authoritarian dictatorships do.

    Still, Trump is incorrect in saying that these countries have done nothing to stem the outflow of people. After the unexpected 2014 surge of migrant children and families, the United States devised the Strategy for Engagement in Central America, a comprehensive multiyear approach to replace Washington’s conventional narrow focus on fighting the drug trade. In the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity, the Northern Triangle governments promised to fund complementary investments, especially in infrastructure, education, and law enforcement. Both plans explicitly aimedto discourage emigration by expanding economic opportunities, increasing security, and improving government effectiveness.

    Initial spending on these multifaceted initiatives began in 2016. Of an eventual $1.8 billion in U.S. funds, most were to be allocated to nongovernmental organizations that had been contracted to implement the programs at the local level. In all, the Northern Triangle governments reporthaving spent more than $4 billion from 2016 to 2018 to complement U.S. appropriations, funding numerous initiatives, from providing training and credit to small businesses to increasing support for returning emigrants.

    Early evidence suggests that the efforts have had some success in addressing the push factors behind migration. But the Trump administration sought to slash and obstruct U.S. funding over the past three fiscal years, and the president’s order to cut off aid would end the programs before they could show real results.

    What would make more Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans want to stay home? The necessary changes would be enormous. According to the World Bank, income per capita is just $4,600 in Honduras, and $7,500 to $8,000 in El Salvador and Guatemala. The poverty rate is nearly 30 percent in El Salvador, and about 60 percent in Guatemala and Honduras. Tax revenues are low, so governments don’t have the funding needed for adequate public services. Only a minority of young people complete high school.

    Inadequate infrastructure and low skill levels inhibit economic growth. A severe drought has ruined many farmers, and malnutrition is common, especially in Guatemala.

    is endemic. Levels of violence are among the world’s highest outside of war zones, mostly due to drug-trafficking organizations, street gangs, police, and vigilantism. Large and small businesses lose substantial sums to gang extortion. On surveys, a fourth of households report having been victims of crime in the previous year.

    Even the best-governed countries, with the most committed leaders, would find such severe problems daunting. Tragically, the Northern Triangle governments are short on will and capacity to act. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 ranks Guatemala and Honduras in the top third of the most corrupt countries in which to do business.

    Only El Salvador has shown improvement, and it still falls in the top half. All three countries have recently seen high-ranking government officials, including former and sitting presidents, implicated or indicted in major corruption scandals or drug trafficking. Valiant efforts by some officials and organizations to enforce accountability have met with some success but even greater resistance.

    Trump’s order to end aid undermines the very reformers that could make a difference.

    We cannot expect any of the Northern Triangle governments to respond strongly to demands, domestic or foreign, for greater security and increased economic opportunity. None of the countries even exercises complete control over its own territory. Paradoxically, even when governments have met criminal violence with an iron fist, the bloodshed has simply escalated. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras all scored below 40 out of 100 on the World Bank’s 2017 measure of how well governments deliver public services. As multiple measures by Freedom House and the World Bank indicate, a lack of press freedom gives citizens little voice and makes public officials unaccountable for how the government performs.

    Trump might find that cutting aid provides him with far less leverage over these troubled countries than he expects. As a source of income for families and foreign exchange for imports, U.S. assistance pales beside the remittances these countries receive from their citizens residing in the United States. The World Bank estimates that together the three countries received remittances from the United States totaling $16 billion in 2017—36 times their appropriation of foreign aid from Washington. Losing that aid won’t force the Northern Triangle countries to change their ways. It will just make their citizens worse off.

    The cutoff in aid might not occur. Trump could change his mind, or Congress might successfully challenge his authority to redirect the funds. Officials in the Trump administration have to know that the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador neither can nor will shut down the flow of emigrants. Grandstanding will not substitute for steady diplomacy or reliable foreign assistance in addressing the conditions that motivate Central American emigrants to embark on the treacherous journey north.


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  2. #2
    Senior Member stoptheinvaders's Avatar
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    Jun 2018
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDoe2 View Post

    What would make more Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans want to stay home? The necessary changes would be enormous. According to the World Bank, income per capita is just $4,600 in Honduras, and $7,500 to $8,000 in El Salvador and Guatemala. The poverty rate is nearly 30 percent in El Salvador, and about 60 percent in Guatemala and Honduras. Tax revenues are low, so governments don’t have the funding needed for adequate public services. Only a minority of young people complete high school.

    Cost Of Living In Antigua Guatemala On A $500 Budget

    Rich Polanco

    One question I constantly get via email is how does my family of three manage to keep their cost of living in Antigua Guatemala under $500 a month. No, that is not a typo. In fact, more often than not, our expenses regularly come in lower than that.

    Before I delve into how we do it, here’s something I need to clear up right away. Our lifestyles (whether yours or mine) depend on the choices we make and our definition of comfort. You may think we live grand – or live in a dump – based on your definition of happiness. And that’s fine. Everyone has their map of the world that they interpret according to what they see in it.

    But let’s be clear about something. Somebody, somewhere, thinks you live like a pauper. So please, unless you’re Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or a child of the Walton family clan, if you’re reading this from your high-horse, please be kind, get off it, and tie it to the post at the front door.

    In any country (yes, that includes the US) you can find a broad range of living conditions. Depending on where you live, rental prices in Antigua will seem to be a bargain, or maybe even expensive. It all hinges whether you’re comparing real estate prices to those in Omaha or Manhattan.

    In Central America, especially in places popular and readily available to tourists, like Antigua, it’s not difficult to recreate a lifestyle that closely resembles that of the US. Immense houses with beautiful courtyards are not hard to find if you’ve got $1,500USD a month to spare. There are enough restaurants here that you can eat out every day at a different place and not have to eat at the same location twice in a calendar year. That said, not everybody can afford – or wants to – spend money like a drunken sailor.

    So, what do you do if you, like me, are building a business on the side, income is tight and have a family to feed? Same thing anyone would do, from Antigua to Zimbabwe, set a budget and live within your means. So how do we do it? Easy. We try to live like most of the locals do and leave the touristy lifestyle to the tourists.

    That doesn’t mean we live like recluses, penny-pinching at every opportunity. But it’s far more affordable to live well here than it would be to do the same in a First-World country. The fact that we live near one of the most beautiful, walkable colonial cities in the world is just a bonus.

    So, for those of you interested in how to live on a tight, yet affordable budget in Central America, read on.
    Housing Costs

    Q1,000 ($125USD)

    This is the big-ticket item. Most people that come to live in Antigua want to have a place to live before arriving in town – this is usually a mistake. Why? Because most properties marketed online are priced with a loaded foreigner’s fat wallet in mind. The best deals to be had are found not through real estate agencies, but through word-of-mouth and getting a feel for the place so you can bargain accordingly.

    Our rent is $125USD. We found this brand-new condo after living here for a year and getting to know the area. Why so cheap? For one, it was unfurnished and in a place tourists, and most expats have no idea it exists. Sure, it’s small, but it suits us fine. Plus, you can’t beat the views of Antigua’s valley. Click to see my video of Antigua’s New Year’s Fireworks here. If you want pictures of the house and community we live in, click here and here (new windows).

    View from our Condo on New Year’s Day
    If you want to live right in Antigua center, you’ll have to pay accordingly. We don’t mind living less than 10 minutes away to save hundreds of dollars. If being able to walk outside your door and be in the middle of everything is your thing, that’s fine with me. Just don’t expect it to come cheap.

    Q367.5 ($46USD)

    Electricity is expensive in Guatemala. At least compared to what I was used to paying in the US. Fortunately, Antigua, unlike many other highly touted beach-side destinations (think some locations in Belize or Panama) is 5,000+ meters feet (thanks, Tim) above sea level, which is conducive to perfect, spring-like weather almost year-round. Don’t need heating, don’t need air conditioners either.
    We switched all our light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, and our electricity bill has yet to top Q100 ($12.50USD) in many months – Q99.59 was the latest one. We don’t have a central water heater – only a shower-head heater – which cut at least Q300 from our previous bills elsewhere. Look into gas-powered heaters if hot water in every faucet is something that matters to you.

    Water service, trash pickup, and maintenance fees total Q200 ($25USD). We use a small gas tank for cooking. The gas company delivers a full one when we run out – usually every other month – and the last 25lb refill costs us Q135 ($17USD), which is rather on the high side. We’ve purchased refills as low as Q95, but that varies seasonally. Since gas is a bi-monthly expense, I’ll add half the cost to the budget total listed on the Utilities heading (Q67.50).

    Q400 ($50USD)

    We spent much more on transportation back when I had a V6 Jeep. Gas is expensive here, costing close to $5USD a gallon. These days, we walk a lot more. I can say that finally losing those 40 extra pounds (yes, forty!) has been worth it.

    Since I work from home, I don’t need to go out as much, unless there’s a special event, church to attend to, people to meet, or festivities in town. My wife also volunteers regularly at Campos de Suenos. Public transportation is relatively efficient and inexpensive. Fare around town is about Q3 ($0.37) one way. Occasionally, we’ll go down to Guatemala City to visit relatives or for medical appointments. In that case, bus fare is Q10 ($1.13USD) one way. Monthly expenses, give or take a few quetzals are around Q400 ($50USD).

    Q200 ($25)

    Most people rely on Internet provided by the homeowner. If that’s not available, you may have to set up your service, through Claro, the local phone company, something that isn’t complicated.

    I now rely on one of the infamous Tigo modems, which work out well for most tasks. If I need to do a video interview (like today) or carry on a Skype video conversation, it’s much more cost-effective to head to an Internet café. If I need to do research or upload/download huge files, I head over to the public library in front of the park.

    Q125 ($16USD)

    School tuition varies wildly, and it hinges on your expectations. On the high end, you can expect to pay $600USD a month at a school like AIS or close to $100 a month at one of the many private schools in Antigua. On the cheap end are the free public schools – often lacking in every measurable metric.

    Currently, our daughter is enrolled in a semi-private school, run by the city. It’s only Q100 a month and offers English and computer classes. To be on the safe side, we do our homeschooling curriculum on the side. There are added expenses, like uniforms and books, but spread out over the school year, I’d say it’s about Q500.

    Q1,000 ($125USD)

    This is the biggest variable. It depends on where you shop and what your diet is like.
    We eat fresh chicken, meat, veggies, eggs, and fruits regularly. A whole, a 4-pound chicken, goes for slightly under Q50 ($6.25USD), fresh fish for Q15 (under $2) a pound, pork and beef regularly goes for about Q20-Q25 ($2.50 – $3.00USD) a pound if you buy from the local butcher. Expect to pay more at the supermarket for everything else. We eat tortillas, freshly baked bread, and indulge in the occasional tamale or chuchito. Rarely, if ever, do we go to the local McDonalds, preferring instead to cook up our own, tastier burgers at home. Our coal-powered grill sees frequent use.

    To give you a conservative ballpark figure, I’m willing to bet we spend less than Q250 ($31.25USD) a week in food and eating out, all fresh food, nothing canned or junk food. This leaves plenty to eat out at a sit-down restaurant once or twice a month, should we choose to.

    Q100 ($12.50USD)

    I’m being generous with this one. There’s plenty to do in Antigua and many ongoing activities where one doesn’t have to spend a penny. This week, for example, there was a car show on Calle del Arco sponsored by the BMW Car Club of Guatemala. Free and a good way to spend an hour doing something different.

    Free Car show in Antigua
    If you want something to do, entertainment isn’t hard to find, both free and for a fee. If you’re a homebody, you can find movies at the Mercado for Q5 and settle in for movie night. Many cafés (Bagel Barn, for example) and some restaurants have free movie nights. Dinner and a movie can be done very cheaply here.
    Medical Expenses

    Q200 ($25USD)

    This is another one that’s highly dependent on your situation. We don’t have insurance, preferring to pay out-of-pocket for medical visits instead.

    A visit to the Doctor will cost about Q200 ($25USD). If I were to set aside that amount a month for medical emergencies, it would just about cover any emergency and then some. But again, this will depend on your situation. Suffice it to say that medical care in Guatemala is inexpensive and of excellent quality, even when out-of-pocket. I’ll add it to the total, even though we rarely spend money going to the doctor.
    And the total is:

    Being generous with my estimates and wildly overshooting on some (like medical costs), out budget total is $449.50 – this leaves us with $50USD every month to buy clothes (which we don’t have to buy every month), school materials, and other odds and ends. Sometimes the budget will be much less than this, other times it will be more, but $500USD about covers all our regular monthly expenses.

    Is this doable for everyone? Of course not. Some people spend more than that on rent alone. Could a single person live here on less than that? I don’t see why not.

    If you’ve got the money, you can live here (or anywhere, really), as comfortably as anyone in a First World country. Maybe even better, since maid service is affordable and often costs less than $250 a month for full-time service.

    Beezer likes this.
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