We are sending more than kids back to Central America

In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category, it turns out that the US is also shipping burros to Guatemala.  The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of dealing with wild horses and burros in the US.  Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, argues that instead of putting into place a feasible plan of dealing with fertility issues in these wild populations, the government has decided it’s easier to just ship them to Central America.

Pacelle, for one, is not amused.  He notes that the program is “at odds with the provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which requires that the BLM’s first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.”

He also sensibly adds that “Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM.”  I’ve read many cases of odd foreign aid practices over the years, but this is one of the strangest.  Or maybe it’s not foreign aid.  Perhaps we are selling the burros to cover the cost of their airfare!



Mexican Sub-National Growth

Viridinia Rios posted an interesting map of economic growth across states in Mexico in the last year.  Click on the map to make it more readable, but some of the most interesting parts I think are that:


1.  Much of the country is in red, which indicates negative to barely positive economic growth of between -14.4% and 0.4%.  I don’t know enough about Campeche to know why the income fell by more than 14% there last year.  Anyone have an idea?

2. There are states that grew quite fast,including several near the US border.  Despite the economic fallout of the drug war, those states still posted really good numbers.

3. I’m curious how Baja Sur and Quintana Roo grew so quickly, especially with the latter being so close to Campeche.  Most of what I read looks at Mexican aggregate conditions, so this is really interesting to see a state-by-state breakdown of what is going on.  It also makes me realize that I don’t have a good understanding of some of the complexities of the regional economies in Mexico.


There is no great stagnation, Venezuelan edition

Why are American airline companies fleeing Venezuela when the air there is so clean?  At least in the airport!  BusinessWeek has an article giving us the details.

First, the facts (plus conjecture).  Flights from the US are down “by more than 80 percent.” Jesus Ernesto Ortiz, president of Caracas travel agency Happy Tour Group argued that “Venezuela is going to receive less flights than Cuba or Haiti.”  The drop in the number of flights is being blamed by the President’s decision to place currency controls on international airlines, preventing them “from repatriating what they make from selling tickets in Venezuela.”   Definitely not a well-thought out policy.

Second,  “from July onwards, anyone flying to or from Simon Bolivar International Airport of Maiquetia in Caracas is going to have spend 125 bolivars — roughly $20, depending on the highly variable exchange rate — on what the airport has called a “breathing tax.”

As the article notes, the tax is supposed to pay for the “state-of-the-art” air purification system, which “deodorizes” and “sanitizes” the building.”  Awesome.  I’m sure tourists will be lining up to come to Venezuela for the clean airport air.

I love the understatement of the second part of the following sentence: “The move has caused a furor on social media in Venezuela, where people are already pretty unhappy with the government of Nicolas Maduro.”

Indeed, they are pretty unhappy!



Gang terror, schools, & the exodus of Central American children

The Global Post has a recent article called “El Salvador gangs kill teachers over as little as a failing grade” that is both heartbreaking and terrifying.  As I’m sure you’ve heard, there has been a flood of children showing up on the US border since October.  Estimates are that “52,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have arrived at the US border…[and that]…about 1 in every 240 Salvadoran children has been detained at the US border.”  While there are a lot of factors involved, it seems that the terror and violence of gangs is at least one of the reasons for the exodus of the children.

The Post reports that in the last few years, “27 Salvadoran teachers have been killed, and thousands extorted, as gangs have gained hold over even remote areas of the country.”

The reason for the violence can be as prosaic as a bad grade.  Here is one chilling example:

Raul Antonio Parada, 54, principal of a grade and middle school in eastern El Salvador, was only two years short of retirement when he was murdered. On the afternoon of May 21, an approaching storm caused him to dismiss his students and teachers early, but he stayed behind in the mostly empty school, organizing papers. Gunmen entered about 5 p.m., found Parada in the director’s office, and shot him 10 times in the head and abdomen. 

Days later, Luis Alonso Sandoval, a 22-year-old member of a local MS-13 cell known as the Sailor Locos, was arrested and charged with aggravated homicide. Oscar Rene Melendez, the lead investigator on the case, said he had two theories about Parada’s murder. “It could have been related to extortion,” he said. Or it had to do with Parade’s high academic standards. “Some students associated with the gangs felt uncomfortable over issues with their grades, with his level of discipline,” Melendez said.

Gangs have infiltrated the school system and it is no longer provides kids a safe place away from the violence:

Gang members in El Salvador recruit even in grade schools, where parents themselves are often involved with gangs, known here as “maras.” Principals are forced to collect money from teachers to pay “la renta,” the cynical term for extortions, and many have found themselves caught between opposing gangs trying to extort the same school.  Zetino said one MS-13 gang member recently offered to provide his school protection from the rival Barrio 18 gang. “It’s a sick joke,” he said. “What security can they offer me? But they are that bold now.”

The children may not meet the official definition of “refugee” but just sending them back to their country seems heartless and cruel.  I’m not sure what the answer is but it’s likely going to take a lot of changes back home to stem this tide.





Winter is coming?

Nothing like a good jobs report to get the inflation bugs going, eh? The recovery is dark and full of inflations.

Lets take a look at where we we’ve been and where we are. First, though, none of the BS of “excluding energy and food” or using the deflator for personal consumption expenditures, dammit. Let’s look at the whole hog (clic the pic for a more legible image:



The blue line is inflation calculated using the good old CPI for all urban consumers, The red is inflation calculated using the price deflator for GDP. Since CPI uses a fixed set of goods (no substitution) it’s a Laspeyres index and tends to overstate inflation. On the other hand, the deflator is a Paasche index (which allows perfect substitution in consumption) and it tends to understate inflation. For the last few quarters, they’ve tracked pretty closely. Note that both indices report that inflation now is lower than it was during much of 2011.