Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Has Killed Thousands Of People And Now Many Fear It Could Push Millions More Into Extreme Poverty

Around the world, governments have taken action to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Yet more than four million people have been infected and the death count has surpassed 300,000 – and continues to grow.

As the virus continues to claim victims, many are also worried about the economic fallout from this global pandemic. Many of the world’s poorest countries have made huge advances in pulling millions out from poverty over the past decade. But now, tens of millions are at risk of being pushed right back into it

The economic devastation the pandemic wreaks on the ultra-poor could ultimately kill more people than the virus itself.

Across the globe, lockdowns and social distancing measures have erased incomes and made it difficult for people to afford even basic food items – especially in the poorest parts of the world.

The United Nations predicts that a global recession will reverse a three-decade trend in rising living standards and plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 a day.

“I feel like we’re watching a slow-motion train wreck as it moves through the world’s most fragile countries,” said Nancy Lindborg, president of the nonprofit U.S. Institute of Peace, in an interview with the LA Times.

Mexico in particular is worried about the effects on its poorest citizens.

Over the past decade, Mexico has made enormous progress is helping nearly 30 million Mexicans escape extreme poverty. But now, all of that progress is in jeopardy.

The economic fallout from coronavirus could add nine million people to Mexico’s poor, according to a government study released on Monday. The report also calls for aid like pensions and insurance, in a country that provides no federal jobless benefits.

With businesses forced to close to help stop the spread of the disease, more than 346,000 formal jobs were lost between mid-March and early April, the government said, with further layoffs expected as the economy shrinks. That’s not including the millions of jobs in the informal economy that have also been lost.

Mexico also relies heavily on money sent from relatives working in the United States. With the U.S. economy also heavily battered, remittances are beginning to dry up.

“Families are not receiving their remittances,” said Abel Barrera Hernández, an anthropologist in Mexico’s impoverished Guerrero state. 

The consequences are being felt across Latin America.

Credit: Moises Castillo / Getty

In Guatemala, villagers are begging for food along highways by waving pieces of white cloth at passing drivers. In Colombia, the hungriest hang red flags from their homes in hope of donations.

In Venezuela, which for years has been roiled by food scarcities, soaring inflation and street protests calling for the removal of President Nicolás Maduro, life was miserable for many before the pandemic, and it has only gotten worse.

Among the most vulnerable groups are Indigenous communities – which were already struggling before the pandemic.

Already poor, Mexico’s Indigenous people have been forced to face the virus with few defenses. Although official infection rates have remained low, the Coronavirus is having an outsized impact on Indigenous communities across the country.

One man, Samuel, 54, from the Zoque community, committed suicide after learning about his Covid-19 diagnosis. He hung himself from a tree where his body remained for several hours because the community didn’t have any protective gear to help bring his body down – a grim illustration of the plight of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Some ethnic groups have taken their own protective measures, such as shutting off access to their territories.

“For now it is the only way to stop contagion in these communities, where there is also a lack of hospitals and medicine,” said Adelfo Regino, director of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, or INPI in Spanish.

All of this dire economic news comes as much of the world has made huge gains in helping communities overcome poverty.

Credit: @WorldBank / Twitter

Since the Great Recession, the world has made huge progress in reducing poverty around the globe. In fact, over the last three decades more than 1 billion people – or 13% of the world’s population – have risen out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. 

Though the gains were largely driven by the economic gains of China and India, countries around the world have seen success. Across Latin America, Brazil and Mexico have largely driven the gains. Mexico is now the world’s 11th largest economy and has added millions of people to its middle class.

But Coronavirus poses a major threat to these economic miracles. If the Coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s the interconnection between all of the world’s countries.

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Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Things That Matter

Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Getty

Although the world is still struggling with how best to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, many governments are forging ahead with long term goals and development programs.

One of the most important to new programs to launch in Mexico is central to its economic and scientific future – its future in space. Together with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (some of which already have their own independent agencies), Mexico is looking to become the leader in the region when it comes to space research and exploration.

The country recently announced its intentions for just such an agency, that they hope would be based in Mexico with foreign capital providing the seed money to get the project off the ground.

Mexico announced its intention to head up a Latin American and Caribbean space agency.

Mexico has launched an ambitious new project – creating a Latin American Space and Caribbean Space Agency that would facilitate the sharing of satellite images and aims to observe the planet. The agency would be dedicated to earth observation, satellite image sharing and multi-sector dialogue.

The project was presented by Javier López Casarín, Honorary President of the Technical Council of Knowledge and Innovation of the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AMEXCID). López Casarín attended the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where he presented the project for the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency, an entity that will be at the same level as other agencies (think NASA and the European Space Agency) of world space research with which it hopes to exchange information.

As part of the same meeting, the Latin American coordinators highlighted the role of Mexico in charge of the presidency of the community of Latin American states and appreciated the proposal to create a joint space agency.

Mexico has had a space agency of its own since 2010 but they’re looking to expand the operations.

Mexico has had its own space agency, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, since 2010. Plus, several other countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have their own similar departments that over see satellites, information gathering, meteorological date, etc.

Mexico’s space agency has been tasked with carrying out study programs, research, and academic support, however, its duties have never included the aim of space exploration with its own infrastructure.

One of the agency’s key objectives is to help increase internet connectivity across the region.

In 2019, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana announced it was developing its space program around the needs of Mexican society – that it would be for the social benefit.

Among other techonoligcal solutions, the government has made it a core principle to help expand access to Internet across the country. By merging various space agencies into one, this increased Internet connectivity will likely spread to other countries in Latin America.

Internet connectivity rates vary from around 27% in El Salvador to close to 80% in Brazil – so bringing that wide gap is seen as critical for sustained development in the region.

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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