Author: Tania Lara

Trade and Murder: The Misfortunes of San Pedro Sula and Ciudad Juárez

This op-ed was originally posted on the Global Economic Governance 2012 Blog.  It can be found here: https://globaleconomicgovernance2012.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/trade-and-murder-the-misfortunes-of-the-cities-of-san-pedro-sula-and-ciudad-juarez/#more-67 Honduras’ industrial capital, San Pedro Sula, generates two-thirds of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to The Economist. The city of 1.2 million people is one of the top five exporters of clothes by volume to the United States, but the city is also a transportation hub to export the country’s main products: bananas, coffee, sugar, and tobacco. Thanks to foreign investment and a free trade agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA), San Pedro Sula has the lowest unemployment rate in Honduras. Yet, this industrial city has theworld’s highest murder rate with 159 annual killings per 100,000 people, three times more than New Orleans, the most dangerous city in the U.S. More than 2,000 miles away, Ciudad Juárez shares a similar story. Since NAFTA, this Mexican city has experienced one of the highest population growth rates in the world as thousands of new residents have found jobs in its maquiladora industry. This border city thrives with assembly lines of home appliances, automotive parts, electronics, software, call centers, and other goods that are exported to the U.S.  But Ciudad Juárez is more famous for its average of eight murders a day. Every year, 148 people are killed per each 100,000 residents making it the second most violent city in the world. Economists believe that job creation reduces crime, but this has not been the case of those...

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Drug War Continues to Spark Tensions Between U.S. and Central America

The presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador recently declared their willingness to legalize drugs in their respective countries. The United States embassy in El Salvador immediately denounced drug decriminalization, calling the idea a “threat to public health and national security.” The controversy reveals growing tensions and conflicting national interests between the U.S. and its Southern neighbors. With the highest level of illegal drug use in the world, American youth and society is certainly threatened by narcotics, but efforts to fight drug production and trafficking are now a major threat to democracy, political stability and human rights in the rest of the Americas. According to the 2011 Global Study on Homicide conducted by the United Nations, Central America is the most violent region in the world. Amid daily headlines about brutal killings and a 65 percent increase in homicides since 2006, the Mexican homicide rate of 18 deaths per 100,000 people is among the lowest in the Americas.  Honduras holds the world’s highest rate, at 82 per 100,000, and El Salvador experiences 66 per 100,000. Comparatively, the U.S. has a homicide rate of just 5 murders per 100,000 people. It is naive to think that decriminalizing drugs is going to end violence in the Americas. Crime rates are usually the result of economic disparities, lower educational levels, high unemployment rates and weak and corrupt law enforcement agencies. Legalization will not...

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Not Everyone Moves from South to North

  It is a common misperception that immigration flows come from southern poor countries to rich industrialized nations in the Northern Hemisphere. But immigration patterns are more complex than the outdated notion of a man leaving his family and heading north to seek work. Covering Migration in the Americas was the topic of this year’s Austin Forum, an annual event, hosted by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, where Latin American journalists gather at The University of Texas to discuss the challenges of covering current issues.  At that conference, I learned immigration seems to be more like a circle than a straight line, since most countries are both senders and receivers of people. According to U.S. Census data, the United States is a country of over 38 million immigrants. While America attracts many immigrants, only 2.4 million Americans venture to live overseas, according to World Bank data. Half a million U.S. citizens live in Mexico, the most of any destination abroad, while Mexicans are the largest foreign-born population in the United States. Like migration between Mexico and the U.S, immigration flows occur mostly within the same region. Paraguayans, Bolivians and Peruvians migrate to Argentina. Argentines seek jobs in Chile or Brazil. Nicaraguans go to Costa Rica and Salvadorans to Belize. According to a recent article from The Economist, the same migration happens across continents; 7.5 million people leave Africa for Europe,...

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