Nicaragua exports its poor… to Costa Rica:
Historically, Nicaraguans have always used their southern neighbour as a refuge during periods of violence, such as the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza or the war of the 1980s. But since the 1990s migration has been driven by the struggle for economic survival. After the fighting ended, demobilisation left thousands of soldiers and counter-revolutionaries on the loose, with no resources or future, in a country whose economy was unable to integrate them. At the time, the Nicaraguan government’s priority was to privatise and reduce public spending. Costa Rica, which has impressive economic growth and a remarkably well-developed welfare state for Central America, seemed an accessible El Dorado.
As I have said before, there is no such thing as “Hispanics”. The article explains,
“Costa Ricans see Nicaraguans as a negative value,” said Carlos Sandoval, a sociologist at San José university. He argued that Costa Ricans construct their identity around powerful ideas: the paleness of their skin, which is unusual in Central America (and is the result of the fact that there were only a few indigenous inhabitants when the conquistadores arrived); the stability of a democracy that has experienced little violence; and the success of an economy and a welfare state unique in the region. Costa Rica and its neighbours describe it as “the Switzerland of Central America”. Its ecotourist-friendly beaches and jungles, its relaxed way of life attract prosperous foreign tourists in numbers its neighbours can only dream about.
From this perspective, Nicaragua, with its wars and chronic instability, seems an immature country condemned to poverty. In Costa Rica, the dark-skinned immigrants are often described as violent, ignorant and untrustworthy, as thieves and alcoholics. “No seas Nica” (“don’t be an idiot”) is a common insult. This latent xenophobia, and correspondingly strong anti-Costa Rican feelings in Nicaragua, rises to the surface each time the perennial conflict over navigation rights on the San Juan river turns nasty.
The Economist has an article on Salvadoran gangs: El Salvador’s crime wave. The government is trying to tame criminal gangs
President Saca did his share of finger-pointing, lambasting the US, in particular, for worsening the problem of gangs (knows as “maras”) by deporting back to El Salvador thousands of Salvadoran nationals who had served time in US jails for crimes committed while in the US. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, there was a 26% rise in the number of Salvadorans deported from the US between January and September 2006. Among the deportees, almost one-quarter have criminal records. Since most have not committed any crimes in El Salvador, the authorities are unable to arrest them upon arrival at the international airport.
HE TOOK office as Mexico’s president only on December 1st, but Felipe Calderon has lost no time in putting pressure on the country’s powerful drug gangs. Last month he dispatched 7,000 troops and police to the central state of Michoacan. Forces of similar size have since been sent to Tijuana on the northern border, and to the Pacific resort of Acapulco. On January 19th, the government extradited four drug kingpins and a dozen lesser figures to the United States for trial. Notably, they included Osiel Cárdenas, the head of the so-called “Gulf Cartel”, by far the most powerful drug gangster to be extradited so far.
This flurry of action responded to a “real anxiety in some parts of the country” that organised crime was “out of control”, Mr Calderon told El Pais, a Spanish newspaper, this week. There were 2,100 drug-related murders last year, up from 1,300 in 2005. Some 600 killings took place in Michoacán alone in 2006. Many of the murders involved brutal cruelty: in a notorious case, five severed heads were dumped in a dance hall in Michoacán. Much of the violence stems from a turf war between the Gulf Cartel and its main rival, based in Sinaloa. Paradoxically, this was triggered by arrests made by the previous government of Vicente Fox.
Two things compound the problem. The first is the continuing demand for drugs across the border in the United States. The second is that during the seven decades of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, defeated by Mr Fox in 2000, the main objective of policing was political control rather than crime fighting.
What do all these items have in common? They all pertain to immigration.