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July 2023, Volume 29, Number 3

Canada, Mexico

Most of the 155,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada went on a 15-day strike in April 2023, demanding higher wages and the right to continue to work more days remotely; 44,000 were considered essential and continued to work. The PSAC demanded a 13 percent wage increase over three years, but accepted the government’s offer of a 12 percent wage increase over four years and two days of remote work a week.

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) has since 1966 allowed Caribbean and since 1973 Mexican workers to be employed in Canada for up to eight months. Over 40,000 SAWP workers are expected in 2023.

The Agri-Food Pilot launched in 2020 allows foreign workers who are employed in year-round jobs in meat processing, greenhouses, and livestock-raising to become immigrants. The families of Agri-Food Pilot foreign workers can obtain work permits and work in any job.

Canada experienced early and intense wildfires in May-June 2023. A million acres burned in northern Alberta in May 2023, prompting the evacuation of 30,000 people, many from indigenous communities. Warming temperatures allow insects to move further north, weakening or killing trees that burn when lightning ignites dry grasses. One result is fewer long-lived trees such as black spruce and more shorter-lived and faster-growing trees such as aspen and birch.

In June 2023, fires in Quebec sent smoke south to US cities, leading to dangerous levels of small PM 2.5 particles in New York City and other US cities that can lodge in the lungs. Many areas have air quality indices that combine ozone and PM 2.5 particles. AQI ratings of less than 100 are generally safe for all, while readings over 150 are unhealthy and over 300 hazardous.

Mexico. A 2022 survey of some of the 20,000 Mexicans who were deported from the US found that half used smugglers to cross the Mexico-US border, and migrants who used smugglers paid an average $7,000. Most were in their late 20s, had little education, and many had US relatives. Only a sixth of migrants arriving illegally from Guatemala used smugglers, and they paid an average $4,000.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has increased the role of the military in security and the economy, giving power to a largely unaccountable entity because there is often little accountability if innocent people are killed or wounded in military operations. The military operates Mexico City’s new airport, is building the Maya Train, and is in charge of collecting customs duties.

Mexico’s military was the first major buyer and major user of the Israeli NSO’s Pegasus software in 2011 that infects cell phones and sends the contents to monitors. It has continued to use Pegasus to monitor criminals and critics despite AMLO’s 2018 promise to stop “illegal” spying. Mexico’s military has a history of human rights abuses.

AMLO raised the salaries of Mexican K-12 teachers to at least 16,000 pesos ($900) a month, which is the average salary of the 22 million workers who are enrolled in the private sector IMSS. Mexico has 2.2 million teachers in 255,500 K-12 schools.

The US is clashing with Mexico over fentanyl. The US says that Mexican gangs make fentanyl in Mexico, while AMLO says that the gangs simply turn Asian-made fentanyl into pills. Some US Republicans want to designate drug gangs as terrorist groups and have the US military destroy Mexican fentanyl labs. AMLO says that the US should promote family values to reduce drug consumption.

Fentanyl is over 100 times more potent than morphine and is responsible for two-thirds of the 100,000 overdose deaths in the US each year.

Mexico produces a third of the world’s avocados, but production is growing fast in Colombia, Peru, and Kenya, the next leading producers that together account for a quarter of the world’s avocados. The world’s avocados were worth an estimated $18 billion in 2022.

Mexico exported 356,000 tons of strawberries in 2021, almost all to the US; two-thirds of the strawberries produced in Mexico are exported to the US. The US produces about two-thirds of the strawberries consumed in the country.

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele is credited with reducing the threat of gangs. An emergency was declared after a March 2022 weekend that left 80 people dead, prompting mass arrests of young men. Some 65,000 suspected gang members were arrested in 2022.

Caribbean. Puerto Rico has fewer than 5,000 farms with less than $500 million in annual sales, half from the sale of crops led by field crops ($75 million) and plantains and bananas ($50 million) and half from the sale of animal products led by milk ($170 million). Puerto Rico has about 250 dairies with almost 60,000 cows, most in the northern province of Arecibo. Coffee is grown above 4,000 feet on 13,000 acres. Rum exports, primarily to the EU and Canada, are worth $40 million a year.

Many Haitians enter the US with H-2A or H-2B visas do not leave, while others enter the US illegally or apply for humanitarian parole under programs that allow foreigners with family members in the US to sponsor their relatives who face threats at home for two-year work visas. Haitians were made eligible for H-2A or H-2B visas in FY22, but in mid-year 2023 local observers reported that only 23 H-visas were granted, and six more in FY23, since most Haitians are unable to convince consular officers that they will return to Haiti.

Brazil offers an example of premature industrialization: the share of manufacturing in GDP fell from 36 percent in 1985 to 13 percent in 2022. Many auto makers cite high costs and low profits as reasons for halting production, reflecting stagnant productivity linked to low education levels and lagging infrastructure. Russia, Argentina and the Philippines are other countries where the manufacturing share of GDP fell before per capita income reached $20,00.

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