January 2023, Volume 29, Number 1
President Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in a summit in January 2023. Trade between the three USMCA countries topped $1.5 trillion in 2022, and Mexico received more FDI in 2022 as more firms moved operations out of China.
The Three Amigos promised, for instance, to ensure safe, orderly, and humane migration under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection and to address the root causes and impacts of irregular migration and forced displacement.
Canada. Canada had 39 million people July 1, 2022, up almost 300,000 from the previous year and up from 35 million in 2012, due in part to record immigration levels of over 400,000 each in 2021 and 2022. Canada plans to raise immigration levels to 465,000 immigrants in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.
Over half of the immigrants admitted in 2021 were already in Canada, such as asylum applicants and guest workers and foreign students. A third of new immigrants settle in Toronto, the largest city in Canada with 6.2 million residents, where many struggle to find affordable housing.
The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act blocks foreigners from buying nonrecreational and residential property in Canada in 2023 and 2024. Foreigners can still buy vacation homes in Canada, but some real estate brokers say that the new law will reduce immigration to Canada.
Canada’s 2021 census found a record 23 percent of residents were born abroad, exceeding the 22 percent who were born abroad between 1910 and 1930. The share of Canada’s immigrants living in Ontario has been declining and was 44 percent in 2021, followed by 15 percent each in Quebec and British Columbia.
The leading countries of origin for immigrants in 2021 were India, which accounted for 19 percent of 2021’s immigrants, the Philippines, 11 percent, and China, nine percent; these three countries accounted for 40 percent of the annual inflow. Over 60 percent of the immigrants arriving in Canada in the 21st century are from Asian countries.
Canada uses a point selection system to choose immigrants. In 2021, over 56 percent of immigrants were admitted through the economic stream and a third were admitted via the provincial nominee program that allows provinces to recommend immigrant visas for foreigners who meet local labor needs and agree to live in the province for two years. Many provincial nominees in the prairie provinces are guest workers who are recommended by their employers.
Canada had a record number of vacant jobs in 2022. Since November 15, 2022, the 500,000 foreign students in Canada may work more than the previous limit of 20 hours a week.
The Canadian government has apologized several times for past treatment of indigenous people, who are often known as First Nations, especially the forced separation of children from their parents so that they could be integrated into white society at boarding schools that were usually run by the Catholic Church. Many universities give preference to students and professors with indigenous backgrounds, prompting investigations that found some of those who claimed indigenous ancestry could not prove any links to First Nations. As more pretendians (pretend Indians) are uncovered, some public institutions are requiring more than self-declaration of indigenous status.
Mexico. Mexican President AMLO promised to fight corruption, crime and impunity, but prosecutors investigated and took legal action on less than five percent of reported federal crimes in 2020, the same as in previous years. About 10 percent of estimated total crimes were reported to state prosecutors in 2021, and they filed charges against defendants in three percent of the complaints, the same as during previous years. In the US, half of victims of violent crimes reported them in 2021.
In many Mexican states, the federal government is effectively in charge of public security due to the nationwide deployment of more than 100,000 soldiers and federal agents. Many Mexicans do not report crimes because they believe there will be no justice. AMLO created a National Guard in 2019 that is now under the control of the military that has failed to reduce crime and violence.
AMLO’s government in August 2022 reported that the government found that 43 students at a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa who commandeered a bus in September 2014 were killed by drug traffickers working with the police and the military.
Mexico approved legislation that requires employers of the 2.3 million maids, drivers, and gardeners, 90 percent women, to enroll their employees in the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) scheme. Employers pay taxes to provide their employees with IMSS health and pension benefits. Over 95 percent of household employees are not registered with IMSS.
Mexico City, where monthly salaries average $220, is receiving more remote foreign workers after partnering with Airbnb; the arrival of well-paid foreigners is raising rents for middle-class workers, especially in the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods. One database found that average CDMX rents rose from $900 in January 2022 to almost $1,100 by the end of 2022; rents in Condesa and Roma are double these levels.
Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49; two-thirds of the 107,000 US drug overdose deaths in 2021 were linked to fentanyl, almost 200 a day. Mexican cartels smuggle fentanyl into the US in vehicles that cross the border with people and goods, and half of the Mexican fentanyl believed to enter the US in California ports of entry. A ton of fentanyl a month is confiscated at US ports of entry.
Mexico received over 111,000 applications for asylum in 2022, about the same as 2021.
Ag. The value of Mexican food and beverage exports topped $34 billion in the first eight months of 2022. Mexican food and beverage imports were $29 billion in the first eight months of 2022, led by corn worth almost $4 billion and soybeans worth $3 billion. Remittances rose to a record $60 billion in 2022, double the $30 billion earned from Mexican oil exports.
Mexico is the world’s leading exporter of avocados, accounting for 60 percent of the 2.5 million tons worth $7 billion that were exported worldwide in 2020-21. The US received half of all global avocado exports, and a third went to the EU and the UK.
Globally, some 20,000 hectares of avocados are planted each year, and yields are rising, which could mean five million tons exported by 2025. Peru exported 400,000 tons in 2021, and Colombia, Chile, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Israel, Spain and Morocco also export avocados.
Mexico exported 467,000 tons of berries worth $2.4 billion in the first half of 2022. The 272,000 tons of strawberries worth $748 million were almost 60 percent of berry exports by tonnage and a third by value, while the 80,000 tons of raspberries worth $746 million were 17 percent of the tonnage and a third of the value. The 58,000 tons of blueberries worth $513 million were 12 percent of the tonnage and a fifth of the value.
Mexico exported $5 billion worth of beer in 2021, making Mexico the world’s leading beer exporter. Heineken, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Constellation Brands have plants in Northern Mexico, where water is scarce but transport costs to the US are lower; about 2.5 liters of water are required to make a liter of beer. AMLO in summer 2022 said that brewers should shift beer production to water-abundant southern Mexico. In 2020, a Constellation plant being built in Mexicali was halted and the plant relocated to Veracruz.
Industrial users including breweries consume about five percent of Mexico’s water, compared with 76 percent used by agriculture.
An AMLO decree in 2020 bans the import of GMO corn by 2024, but is ambiguous about whether GMO corn can be imported and fed to livestock. Mexico imports about 17 million tons of US GMO yellow corn each year and produces about six million tons of the white corn that is often used to make tortillas. AMLO is committed to increasing Mexican corn production.
Global blueberry production was 1.8 million metric tons in 2022. China is the largest blueberry producer, followed by the US, Peru, Chile, Mexico and Canada. Peru is emerging as the world’s leading exporter of blueberries, expected to account for a quarter of global blueberry exports by 2025 from 20,000 hectares that yield 10 tons an acre, compared to eight tons in the US. Peru’s blueberry exports peak between August and December, and were worth $1.2 billion in 2021.
Central America. More migrants are crossing the Darien Gap, a 70-mile roadless portion of southern Panama. Migrants hire guides to traverse the route from Colombia to a government camp in Panama. The US is tackling the root causes of emigration by promoting economic development, especially in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.
El Salvador has a gang problem that has been tackled by a state of emergency that allows police to make mass arrests of young men with gang tattoos. Critics denounce arbitrary arrests and torture, including the incarceration of over 100,000 people by the end of 2022, but many residents welcome the drop in homicides and extortion. Honduras has followed suit, using emergency decrees to tackle gang violence in its largest cities.
Dublin-based Fyffes produces and markets fresh produce, including melons from the Suragroh and Melon Export farms in Honduras that employ over 10,000 during the peak season between November and May. Fyffes pays at least the minimum wage to its employees, but does not deduct social security payments from the wages of seasonal workers despite a 2015 law because the government has not yet developed a collection mechanism. Instead, Fyffes pays seasonal workers a bonus at the end of the season. The Fyffes ripening facility in Basingstoke is the largest in Europe, able to ripen 2,100 tons of bananas at once.
Caribbean. CBP in November 2022 announced that it would block sugar imports from the Dominican Republic’s Central Romana because of forced labor involving Haitians who live in company-owned housing and cut sugar cane by hand. The Florida-based Fanjul Corporation owns part of Central Romana, the largest landowner in the DR.
Luma Energy took over Puerto Rico’s state-run power grid in June 2021 promising more reliable electricity, but required two weeks to restore power after Category one Hurricane Fiona in September 2022. The state-run PREPA power company was a patronage machine for political parties that deferred maintenance on 33,000 miles of transmission lines, leading to damage or destruction of 80 percent of the power grid after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Luma says the PREPA workforce it inherited lacked skills, and that it needed to hire security firms to protect its employees from protestors. PREPA still owns the power plants that rely on oil to generate electricity and break down frequently.
Haiti’s PM appealed for foreign forces to restore order in October 2022 as gangs competed for turf in Port-au-Prince. UN peacekeepers in Haiti between 2004 and 2017 were accused of introducing cholera, which has flared again as gangs limited access to fuel and other goods. Gangs often kidnap the relatively few people in vehicles to collect ransoms.
DHS offered temporary protected status to the estimated 250,000 Haitians in the US in December 2022, some of whom applied for asylum. TPS allows foreigners to work in the US for at least 18 months, and repeated extensions mean that some Haitians have been in the US with a TPS status since the 2010 earthquake.
Cuba is no longer the most populous Caribbean island nation. Both Haiti with 11.3 million people and the Dominican Republic with 10.7 million are growing, while Cuba’s 11 million population is shrinking due to low fertility and emigration. Cubans left in waves in 1980 (125,000) and 1994 (35,000), but the 2022 exodus is larger. Some 250,000 Cubans entered the US by flying to Nicaragua and then entering the US via Mexico in the past few years.
In a bid to reduce the exodus, the US agreed to issue 20,000 visas in 2023 to Cubans in Cuba wishing to emigrate, and Cuba agreed to accept the return of Cubans deported from the US. Cuba blames the exodus on US sanctions and a 1966 law that makes all Cubans who reach the US refugees.
South America. Latin America’s 670 million people, including over half in Brazil (217 million) and Mexico (130 million), are losing faith in democracy. Polls find that many Latin Americans believe that their countries are governed by corrupt elites who look out for their own interests rather than the broader public interest.
The rise of China at the beginning of the 21st century raised commodity prices and living standards, lifting many people from poverty to middle class status and raising expectations of more growth. However, growth began to slow after 2013, and covid led recession and rising poverty.
Three Latin American countries are considered dictatorships: Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Some 7.5 million Venezuelans emigrated since 2015; most went to neighboring countries. USAID is funding integration centers in Colombia to help some of the 2.5 million Venezuelans in Colombia to become self-sufficient.
Over 150,000 Venezuelans were apprehended just inside the US border with Mexico in the first 10 months of 2022. Almost all are allowed to apply for asylum and remain in the US, a policy that is encouraging more Venezuelans to enter the US. Mexico in October 2022 agreed to accept the return of Venezuelans expelled from the US under Title 42.
Brazilians in October 2022 re-elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-10) by 51-49 percent to replace Jair Bolsonaro (since 2019) as president, as the poor and more educated urban voters defeated the 3 B’s supporting Bolsonaro, beef, bibles and bullets, reflecting Bolsonaro’s support from farmers, evangelicals, and the military. With the election of Lulu, six of Latin America’s seven largest countries have elected leftist leaders since 2018.
Ecuador’s $2.7 billion Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant, completed in 2016 as part of China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road loan scheme, is in trouble as the turbines that generate electricity develop cracks. Chinese banks lent Ecuador $18 billion between 2007 and 2017, so that 90 percent of Ecuador’s power now comes from hydro including the Coca dam, which provides a third of Ecuador’s electricity.