Friday, February 22, 2008

Immigrants fuel growth

Friday » February 22 » 2008

Immigrants fuel growth
Nearly 20 per cent of Canadians born abroad, according to census

Shannon Proudfoot
CanWest News Service

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

OTTAWA - More than one million immigrants arrived in Canada in the last five years, settling in a country that is now home to 150 languages and people from more than 200 countries.

The country's foreign-born population has reached its highest level since the beginning of the Great Depression, with nearly one-in-five people born abroad, according to newly released census figures.

"We're adding cultural diversity to a wide range of cities in Canada, both large and small," says Tom Carter, a geography professor specializing in urban studies at the University of Winnipeg. "They're filling jobs, they're creating businesses, they're renewing neighbourhoods."

An estimated 6.2 million foreign-born people lived in Canada at the time of the 2006 census, representing about 20 per cent of the total population. That's the highest proportion since 1931, when those born abroad accounted for just over 22 per cent.

Among Western nations that are major immigrant magnets, Canada is now second only to Australia in its multiculturalism. Twenty-two per cent of Australia's population is foreign-born, while the U.S. counts just under 13 per cent.

The foreign-born population has grown four times faster than the Canadian-born population since the previous census in 2001, accounting for more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the country's population growth.

Almost six-in-10 (58 per cent) newcomers who arrived between 2001 and 2006 were born in Asia and the Middle East. For the first time, Canada is home to more people from Asia and the Middle East than from Europe, at 41 per cent compared to 37 per cent.

Immigrants have injected some much-needed youthfulness into Canada's labour market and aging society. Fifty-seven per cent of those who arrived in the last five years were in the prime working age group of 25 to 54, while only 42 per cent of the Canadian-born population is in that bracket. At the same time, almost 12 per cent of native-born Canadians are 65 or older, while just three per cent of recent immigrants to Canada fit into that age group.

"The gap or the need for labour has been filled by the immigrant worker, who plays a very vital role in the growth of cities," says Alan Green, an emeritus professor of economics at Queen's University.

Without immigration, there would be only two ways to fuel the workforce, he says: natural increase (more births than deaths) or movement from rural to urban areas. Both have levelled off in Canada in recent years, Green says, making the economic role of immigrants more important.


However, it's not always easy for immigrants to find jobs, says Victoria's Fanny He, 48, who worked as an English teacher in her native China and moved to Canada two years ago with her son. Her husband remains in Beijing because there are better business opportunities there for him, and the family reunites every six months or so. She attends workshops at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society and continues to look for a job in Canada.

"As far as immigrants are concerned, they need more help to settle down and get familiar with the living style," He says.

She initially settled in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond where her sister lives, later moving to Victoria to be close to her 23-year-old son while he attends university. Despite the challenges, He says she would recommend life in Canada to prospective immigrants with enough financial resources to establish themselves.

"I find people here are quite warm-hearted and most them are ready to help you," she says. "There are many immigrants here from many different parts of the world. I like to meet new people, we can share different cultures, different lifestyles."

The vast majority of immigrants are drawn to Canada's cities, often because of job prospects, family members or friends. Almost 95 per cent of the foreign-born population lives in an urban community, compared to 78 per cent of the Canadian-born population. Canada's three largest cities -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver -- alone are home to almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of the foreign-born population.

"It really makes Canada's cities international," says Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Maytree Foundation, a Toronto-based private foundation dedicated to immigration issues.

© The Windsor Star 2007

Immigrants are a political gold mine

Friday » February 22 » 2008

Immigrants are a political gold mine

Deirdre McMurdy
The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Statistics Canada may be scrupulously neutral in the collection and analysis of its information, but it formally opened a new political frontline yesterday with its latest report on census data on immigrants collected last year.

The fact that one in five Canadians is now foreign-born -- a 13.6-per-cent increase since 2001 -- precisely quantifies the single greatest challenge confronting traditional political parties: How to engage this massive and growing part of the Canadian population, 68.9 per cent of which has gravitated to Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.

"The days when a candidate could make a one-off courtship visit to a temple or a festival are long over," says John Wright of Ipsos Reid. "Working at the ethnic vote has become more mainstream and it's going to get even more so."

But acknowledging that reality and actually addressing it are two very different things.

For one thing, Mr. Wright says it typically takes three generations for new Canadians to become politically active -- and even then it may depend on the culture, religion and community background of the individual.

For example, according to a study from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Muslims overall are one-third less likely to vote than Hindus or Sikhs and 40 per cent less likely to vote than Jews. Muslim women have an even lower propensity to vote than Muslim men.

(A study by a McGill University political scientist, Jerome Black, for Elections Canada disputes the point that it takes three generations to engage politically. He cites research that "found only minor differences between the foreign- and native-born, and only for those in Canada less than 10 years was there a lesser likelihood of voting in federal elections."

He also points to findings that show the highest electoral participation levels are found among second-generation Canadians, while voting by fourth- and fifth-generation Canadians is below-average.)

Still, Victor Wong, of the Chinese Canadian National Council, is adamant that there are hurdles for new Canadians when it comes to politics.

"Language is a huge issue when it comes to voting and political participation, not to mention the fact it takes years for people to settle when they change countries," he says. "It's even more complicated when people come from a country where there's a lack of democratic tradition, like China."

Those cultural and linguistic differences pose more than just the obvious road blocks for politicians who want to win ethnic votes: these groups can also be very hard to track and poll.

"It's only been the last three years that there's been any focused effort by retailers and political organizations to poll ethnic groups," says Mr. Wright. "It's a challenge because of language and process. Some don't like to use the phone, some need to chat for a long time before answering questions -- a variety of things enter the mix."

As a result of that dearth of detailed profiling, politicians often make the mistake of lumping all Chinese or Indians together -- when in fact, they're widely diverse groups in terms of language, religion, community and experience.

"It's a very common mistake to assume there's a monolithic Chinese vote out there," insists Mr. Wong. "People from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China are all coming from very different places."

But even if they come from very different places, they're most likely to settle in one of three: Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. And that sort of urban concentration is, at least for the Conservatives, a tough barrier to expanding their base of support.

To date, they've gained nominal ground in the three cities where immigrants cluster. And their appeal won't have improved after federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently told Canada's largest cities to "stop whining" for infrastructure funding.

Furthermore, language education -- where federal Conservatives could connect directly with the growing number of immigrants who speak no English -- is a provincial domain. And the Harper government has strong views on messing with powers devolved to provinces.

That language issue is also cited as a factor in Quebec, which is entitled to a 25-per-cent share of all immigrants to Canada, but only attracted 17 per cent (compared with 52.3 per cent in Ontario) according to the census.

That's data that will almost certainly resurface in the simmering feud between the federal government and Ontario over proposed electoral reforms.

But perhaps the ultimate political frontier that's emerging is followup policies that will engage the immigrant influx politically and economically much faster.

"We have to come terms much more effectively with the fact these are, increasingly, people who are fundamentally different from the immigrants who used to come to Canada," says Linda Duxbury, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. "The whole point of immigration is economic and we seem to be missing that crucial point."

Ms. Duxbury adds that Canada needs to "spend money differently to capitalize on the skills of newcomers who are good people with good credentials -- but have weak language and communications ability."

If we fail to do that, she insists, we're going to lose the increasingly intense international competition to attract the talent required to bolster the fortunes of an aging population.

"Canada has a policy of welcome, but not the practice," says Mr. Wong. "Whoever manages to put the two together, we'll remember at the polls."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Study: Uneducated immigrants hurt country

By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY
A study out Thursday focuses on a central question in the immigration debate: Do immigrants help or hurt the USA?
The report by the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes limiting immigration, argues that the current levels hurt the country. Foreign-born adults have less education than native-born citizens and raise the rates of poverty, welfare use and lack of medical insurance, says Steven Camarota, the center's director of research.

"It doesn't seem the country is all that well served by the current immigration policy," Camarota says. "If you have a legal immigration system that mostly lets people in without regard to education, and you tolerate a lot of illegal immigration, you're going to get a very large share of immigrants who will be very low-skilled."

Critics say the study overlooks immigrant contributions. Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California, says immigrants help the economy by working and buying homes.

"If you don't have workers, you can't grow," Myers says. "Immigrants are making up a huge proportion of that."

The study, an analysis of 2007 Census data, concludes that there are 37.9 million foreign-born residents in the USA. It estimates that at least 11.3 million of those immigrants are in the country illegally.

One of the key findings is that 31% of immigrant adults don't have a high school diploma, compared with 8% of U.S.-born residents.

That is important, Camarota says, because it correlates with high rates of welfare and poverty: 33% of households headed by immigrants use at least one major welfare program such as the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, compared with 19% of U.S.-born households. "It costs a lot of money," he says. "Does it make sense to bring in lots of people who don't have lots of education?"

Myers says the economy needs unskilled labor. "You need some manual workers," he says.

He criticizes the study for ignoring homeownership among immigrants, which he says signals their entry into the middle class.

In the 1990s, foreign-born residents accounted for 21% of the growth in homeowners, he says. This decade, they are 40%.

Angela Kelley, director of the American Immigration Law Foundation's Immigration Policy Center, faults the study for analyzing immigrants at one point in time instead of over a longer period.

Over time, she says, immigrants assimilate and succeed.

"Folks learn English, they buy homes. If given the chance, they naturalize and they intermarry," Kelley says. "That is a story as old as America."

Find this article at:

Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

That ’70s Look: Stagflation

Here is another commentary that came out today in the NYTimes by GRAHAM BOWLEY about apparent "stagflation," titled "That ’70s Look: Stagflation"This does not look good for the U.S. and other countries that are highly dependent on it like Mexico.
-Dra. Valenzuela

Rising Inflation Limits the Fed as Growth Lags

Matters look dim right now with the economic forecast reminiscent of the 70s stagflation. The Federal Reserve appears in a quandary about what to do. "Certainly inflation is nowhere near the double-digit rates of the late 1970s, and many economists agree with Fed officials that inflation will cool as the economy slows.

But the combination of rising prices and stalling growth, aggravated by the deepening downturn in housing and credit markets, has put the Fed in a box of its own making." -Dra. Valenzuela

Rising Inflation Limits the Fed as Growth Lags
Published: February 21, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve, for all its power, faces tough new limits on its ability to keep the economy out of a recession.

Even though the Fed cut short-term interest rates twice in January, home mortgage rates have edged up steadily in the last few weeks and credit for businesses is as tight as it was when financial markets seized up last August.

On Wednesday, the central bank, led by Ben S. Bernanke, found itself facing hints of a problem that the United States has not seen in decades: stagflation, the mix of slumping growth, sharp spikes in oil and food prices and a rising pace of overall inflation.

The Labor Department reported that consumer prices jumped 4.3 percent in January, compared with one year earlier. That was the biggest jump in more than two years. Even after excluding the volatile prices for food and energy, inflation was up 2.5 percent — well above the central bank’s unofficial target of 1 to 2 percent.

A few hours after the report on consumer prices, Fed officials acknowledged that they had reduced their forecast for growth this year to an anemic pace of 1.3 to 2 percent and that joblessness was likely to climb to 5.3 percent, from 4.9 percent today.

The Fed’s outlook helped propel the stock market higher on the expectation that the central bank’s more dismal outlook for the economy would lead to further interest rate cuts aimed at reviving growth. After being down earlier, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 90 points, or 0.73 percent, to 12,427.26, while the Nasdaq composite index erased an earlier 0.6 percent loss to end 0.9 percent higher.

The Fed’s new forecast, however, assumes that growth will be all but stagnant for the first six months of this year before the economy gets a lift in the second half from the economic stimulus package Congress recently passed, as well as from the Fed’s own decisions to lower interest rates sharply.

Certainly inflation is nowhere near the double-digit rates of the late 1970s, and many economists agree with Fed officials that inflation will cool as the economy slows.

But the combination of rising prices and stalling growth, aggravated by the deepening downturn in housing and credit markets, has put the Fed in a box of its own making.

On one hand, officials are cutting interest rates in order to keep the economy growing at a time when oil prices are surging, credit is tightening and major financial institutions are shell-shocked from the housing and mortgage busts.

On the other, the fear of rising inflation makes it more difficult for Fed officials to jolt the economy with another wave of cheap money. Lower interest rates have already pushed down the value of the dollar, which in turn prompted oil-producing countries to push for higher oil prices.

“They are walking a very fine line right now,” said Stephen G. Cecchetti, a professor at Brandeis International Business School. “They are trying to maintain their low-inflation credibility at the same time they are dramatically cutting interest rates. The facts are that growth is falling quickly, and that inflation is high and rising.”

Nowhere have the Fed’s limitations been more apparent than in the home mortgage market. Even though the central bank cut short-term interest rates twice in January, in part to stabilize the housing market, investors remained so worried about the longer-term outlook that mortgage rates have edged up steadily in the last three weeks.

“What’s disturbing and scary is that the Fed is doing all the right things — cutting rates, and saying they’ll do more — but it’s not doing anything,” said Michael Menatian, president of Sanborn Mortgage, based in West Hartford, Conn. “We have hundreds of customers who want to refinance, but they’re locked out.”

Fed officials do not see themselves as powerless. The central bank stunned investors by reducing rates twice in January, once at an unscheduled emergency meeting on Jan. 22 and again at a scheduled policy meeting on Jan. 30. Those moves brought the Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate down to 3 percent.

According to minutes of both meetings, released on Wednesday along with policy makers’ latest economic projections, Fed officials were increasingly worried that plunging confidence in financial markets would lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of tighter credit conditions, stalled activity in the broader economy and even more fear in financial markets.

Edmund L. Andrews reported from Washington, Michael M. Grynbaum from New York

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Estadounidense repatriado a México espera volver al país donde fue adoptado

Delirio. David, nombre que le dieron sus padres adoptivos, sueña a diario con las comodidades que tenía en Nueva York. (GARDENIA MENDOZA/La Opinión)

De Nueva York a Puebla
Estadounidense repatriado a México espera volver al país donde fue adoptado

Gardenia Mendoza Aguilar
Enviada especial
13 de enero de 2008

ATLIXCO, México.— "¿Sabe quién es Carlous Marrrtínez Plata?, inquirió un agente de seguridad a uno de los reos de la prisión de New Jersey.

"No tengo idea. Jamás he escuchado ese nombre, nunca…"

"Qué raro [dijo el policía]. Porque es usted… usted ingresó a los Estados Unidos de manera ilegal en 1977. Y va a ser deportadou".

David Lawrence Greene sintió como una intempestiva fiebre por todo su cuerpo.

"¿Yo? ¿Deportado? Pero si tengo mi green card y social security y con 30 años no conozco ni una sola palabra de español. ¿Carlous? ¿Marrrtínez? Un error, seguramente…

"Disculpe, oficial, yo soy de Nueva York y mis padres judíos… algunas veces vamos a la sinagoga. Ya sé que parezco mexicano, pero soy norteamericano. Fui a la high school y a la escuela de enfermería... pregunte…"

"Sorry, Mexican, you have to go to your país", le dijo el policía, haciendo una mueca para contener una risa burlona. Después se fue. Los siguientes días continuaron los preparativos para la repatriación.

David había tomado con tranquilidad su arresto de 10 meses por tener relaciones sexuales en su automóvil con una muchacha de 15 años. Las autoridades lo acusaron de corrupción de menores.

"Me dijo que tenía 19 años cuando la conocí y, como casi todas las afroamericanas, los aparentaba", pensaba David, y se recriminaba por su falta de cautela: estaba enamorado y nada le importaba, ni siquiera manejar cuatro horas desde Nueva York a New Jersey para verla.

Pero ahora David estaba en un embrollo más complicado. ¿Deportado? Mejor telefoneó a sus padres.

"Sí, te adoptamos en México", le respondió su padre desde el hospital donde convalecía por la amputación de una pierna a causa de complicaciones por la diabetes. Como te contamos desde hace años: tus padres son de allá, pero eres nuestro hijo y te sacamos tu ID… ¿Acta de nacimiento? No, no nos pidieron nada para registrarte".

David, ¿o Carlos?, se echó a llorar. Desde que tenía 2 meses de nacido no había vuelto a México. No conocía a nadie, sólo Dios sabe cuál fue la suerte de sus padres naturales.

Rechinó el cerrojo de una de las celdas. "Vamos a cambiarte de cárcel, Carlous Marrrtinez. No, no puedes llamar a tus padres, ni a tu abogado", le dijeron.

David había conseguido a un defensor, Tim Block, a través de las organizaciones defensoras de los derechos de los inmigrantes American Friends Service y Tepeyac. Con su apoyo logró frenar la repatriación en dos ocasiones.

Pero las autoridades de su país insistieron en deportarlo, y 10 días antes del tercer veredicto del juez lo sacaron con base en el argumento del cambio de prisión.

Horas después ya estaba en Texas, rumbo a la frontera, acompañado por un mexicano que conoció en la cárcel y lo invitó a ir a vivir a Santa María Soyula, en Puebla; una caja de cartón en la que llevaba su ropa y 20 dólares era todo su capital.

"Qué estúpido he sido", pensaba al recordar su vida en Nueva York: su madre con principios de Alzheimer, sus tres sobrinos, sus ganas de estudiar hematología, su salario de 1,200 dólares a la semana como chofer de limosina —que gastó en tonterías, acepta—, sus dos mil discos de música hip pop, rap, electrónica…

Se quedó dormido.

Buenas tardes… stán escuch… "¿What?" la WH… radio, en Matamoros, Tamaulipas "¿Where?". David despertó. "¿Qué dicen?", preguntó a su amigo mexicano.

"Que eres bienvenido a México", le respondió.

Cruzaron la frontera. Qué maravilla. David se sintió como un turista explorando unas tierras exóticas, aunque los "pinches gringos" le dijeran que éste era su país y sus amigos mexicanos lo trataran como a un igual, pues el físico moreno, cabello negro y bigote caído lo hermanaban.

Así que ya no se extrañó cuando un desconocido que conducía una camioneta con placas de Nueva York se ofreció a llevarlo hasta Puebla, una misión que no pudo concluir, pues un policía en Orizaba, Veracruz, lo detuvo para quitarle el vehículo —"por tener placas del otro lado"— y el dueño tuvo que ir al cuartel policiaco para defenderlo.

El tío de su amigo de Santa María Soyula les envió cien dólares para que pudieran llegar al pueblo.

Fue entonces cuando a David le cayó encima su realidad: ¿Cómo podrían cobrarlos si no tenía identificación? Él era literalmente un fantasma. No existía. Los estadounidenses dicen que no es de allá, pero en México jamás quedó registro legal de su vida.

La cajera de la casa de cambio confió en ellos y les dio el dinero sin identificación. Así, siguieron el camino.

"Páaasele, pásele… pantalones, camisas, playeras, qué talla, pregúnteme, jefe", gritaba David en el mercado ambulante, el único empleo que pudo conseguir en Santa María Soyula con su atropellado español. "Lo más barato son 95 pesos, no se puede menos, patroncita".

Los primeros días transcurrieron rápidamente para David, vendiendo ropa, esperando noticias de su abogado Tim Block.

Finalmente, éste le recomendó esperar y no intentar cruzar la frontera, pues su estatus migratorio está completamente en el aire, como una papa caliente, en manos de la justicia estadounidense, en tiempos de leyes antiinmigrantes.

David se desesperó de vivir en Santa María Soyula, de vender ropa, amontonar milpa y recoger piedras del campo para ganar 25 dólares a la semana. "¡Ay! Recuerdo cuando ganaba 1,200 dólares semanales", recordaba.

Además, allá tampoco hablan español, sino náhuatl, y la gente se asustaba de que hablara a gritos, "como cualquier neoyorquino".

Por eso se fue a vivir a Atlixco, la segunda ciudad más grande del estado de Puebla, donde el ex neoyorquino se siente más cómodo rentando un minúsculo departamento de cien dólares mensuales donde tiene un colchón en el piso y un librero donde guarda su ropa.

También tiene un patio que le sirve de ducha, pues el baño no tiene regadera, ni mucho menos tina. David se baña a cubetazos con el agua que calienta al sol; luego, entra a la única recámara para secarse sobre una colcha que utiliza como alfombra y sueña con regresar a Estados Unidos, "sólo para hacer dinero" y volver a Atlixco.

"Pinches gringos", piensa el neomexicano.

Dangerous delays in immigration checks

February 19, 2008 WASHINGTON TIMES

By Paul M. Weyrich - It seems immigration, legal and illegal, is too numerically overwhelming for the federal government to handle properly.

I recently praised the Labor Department and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao for the decision to change the wage and visa application rules governing farm laborers in an attempt to reduce the demand for illegal immigrants. This was a positive step after the debacle last year of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, in which Americans were told illegal immigrants live among us in the shadows and that the federal government has no way of knowing who they are. The Labor Department's proposed changes acknowledge that most of the agricultural workers in this country are illegal immigrants.

But how are Americans supposed to trust the federal government to enforce the border and deport those who arrive illegally when it is incapable of checking those who are here legally? This is an egregious problem, highlighted earlier this month when President George W. Bush"s administration announced it will grant permanent residency status to tens of thousands of legal immigrants without first completing their required background checks against the FBI investigative files because the backlog of legal immigration cases is too large and growing rapidly.

The change in status will affect an unknown number of applicants whose cases otherwise are complete but whose FBI checks have been pending more than six months. The backlog has left many legal immigrants in limbo. I applaud these immigrants for following the rules and applying to live here legally. They are not the problem; the federal government is.

Part of the problem is that the system of background checks is inefficient. The FBI stores more than 86 million investigative files which electronically complete the background checks for about 90 percent of legal immigrants within three months. The remaining 10 percent can take years to finish through paper-based searches for any mention of an applicant"s name in records stored in 265 locations across the country.

What type of signal does this send to those who may be criminals in their home country or who seek to destroy America for ideological reasons? The signal is loud and clear: Those with criminal records, including violent ones, or who would mount terrorist attacks against us can beat the system because the federal government is too uncoordinated and lethargic to check their backgrounds. This is a serious threat to our national security, not because all these legal immigrants have criminal intentions but because it only requires a few to slip through to wreak havoc on our cities and country.

The decision to grant permanent residency status to tens of thousands of legal immigrants without first completing their required background checks is a disservice to American citizens, as much as the lengthy wait period is for legal immigrants, many of whom may have jobs and families in limbo hinging on the outcome of their residency status. The federal government is failing both groups.

Congress has approved more money to speed the FBI name checks. Unfortunately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency handling the background checks for permanent residency status, plans to use the increased funding to hire more FBI contractors. As has come to be expected from the federal government, this is an outdated way to handle the matter. What USCIS should do is mount an intensive campaign with the FBI to make all FBI files electronic, so it will no longer require so much time and manpower to dig through paper files across the country. But such a common-sense idea rarely occurs to bureaucrats.

The federal government needs to get a handle on immigration, both legal and illegal, and to do so soon. It has failed the American people on this issue more than any other and will continue to fail unless we demand an immediate overhaul of the current system. And that does not mean more bureaucracy.

Paul M. Weyrich is chairman and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation.

Negocios a la baja por falta de visas de trabajo

Negocios a la baja por falta de visas de trabajo
La escasez agrava la situación de los indocumentados

Jorge Morales Almada / 19 de febrero de 2008 / La Opinion

"¿Por qué cruzan la frontera ilegalmente? ¿Por qué no piden permiso para ir a trabajar?", preguntó de manera inocente Jill Jordan mientras veía a un grupo de migrantes en la barda fronteriza de Tijuana que acechaba a la Patrulla Fronteriza en espera de una oportunidad para echarse a correr.

Jill, una turista estadounidense, se asombraba de esa valla de metal que es la frontera y de los riesgos que tienen que pasar los migrantes en busca de trabajo.

"¿Más de 400 muertos al año? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué cruzan así?", insistía casi angustiada.

Cada año el gobierno de Estados Unidos otorga 66 mil permisos de trabajo para empleos temporales fuera de la agricultura, que son las llamadas visas H-2B para trabajadores especializados. Para los campesinos, según datos del Departamento del Trabajo (DOL), son alrededor de 75 mil los permisos anuales dentro del programa de visas H-2A.

Grupos defensores de los inmigrantes estiman que cada año más de 400 mil personas intentan cruzar de manera indocumentada la frontera en busca de trabajo.

La cuenta matemática es clara. Las visas de trabajo son insuficientes. "Claro que son insuficientes, con las visas que se disponen es casi considerar que no hay", comentó Gisela Chevalier, directora de la compañía Tropi-Cuba International Inc., una empresa dedicada a la tramitación de visas y contratación de trabajadores temporales que opera en Louisiana.

Esa escasez de visas H-2B está agravando el problema de la inmigración ilegal y orillando a las empresas a contratar trabajadores sin documentos, consideró.

"Si hubiera un sistema establecido para venir legalmente a trabajar, que sea accesible para el trabajador y el empleador, y que la embajada sirviera como catalítico, eso ayudaría a que la gente no arriesgue la vida en la frontera", dijo Chevalier. "La gente no tendría la necesidad de cruzar ilegalmente y los empleadores no estarían contratando a ilegales…, no les están dando [a los empleadores] la oportunidad de traer gente legalmente".

Si el gobierno federal ofreciera unas 200 mil visas H-2B para trabajos temporales para las industrias de la construcción, de restaurantes, de hoteles, etc., aun así sería una cifra conservadora, calculó Chevalier.

La Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos emitió un comunicado en el que insiste en la necesidad de reformar el sistema de inmigración.

"El aumento en la dependencia de visas H-2B y el hecho de que el límite se ha sobrepasado por dos años consecutivos, confirma nuestra larga postura de que el sistema de inmigración debe ser reformado como un todo para cumplir con las necesidades económicas del país", dice el escrito. "Mientras algunos empleadores toman ventaja de las visas H-2B, muchos han cerrado completamente sus negocios debido a que no cumplen con los requerimientos. Límites artificiales y un sistema burocrático y obsoleto, fomentan la inmigración ilegal".

La poca disponibilidad de visas H-2B es un factor que también está agravando la ya de por sí desacelerada economía, opinaron empleadores.

Davey Helm suele emplear a mexicanos a través de las visas H-2B para operar su negocio de entretenimiento en los carnavales que se llevan a cabo en el Sur de California y algunos en Arizona.

Pero este año ha tenido que cancelar sus participaciones debido a que no obtuvo visas para sus empleados y aquí no ha podido conseguir trabajadores.

"Normalmente abrimos nuestra temporada en febrero, pero ahora hemos tenido que cancelar algunos eventos por falta de empleados, tendremos que esperar hasta abril, ahora sólo estaremos participando en una feria en Caléxico, pero sólo somos 12 empleados cuando se necesitan 50, pero se tiene que hacer para obtener dinero", comentó Helm, supervisor de los juegos mecánicos e hijo del dueño de la compañía.

Helm and Sons Carnival, es una empresa fundada en 1959 con base en Colton, California, la cual emplea cada año a unas 90 personas, de las cuales unas 70 son a través de la visa de trabajo temporal H-2B.

Esperar hasta abril para ver si consigue visas, dijo Helm, les ocasionará grandes pérdidas económicas como empresa familiar.

"Con las actuales cancelaciones estamos perdiendo una cantidad enorme de dinero, porque cada semana que no tenemos la fuerza laboral necesaria, estamos perdiendo alrededor de 200 mil dólares", mencionó.

Helm dijo saber que en el Sur de California hay al menos otras cuatro empresas dedicadas al ramo del entretenimiento en carnavales o ferias que están en el mismo escenario ante la falta de visas H-2B.

"Esta situación nos está doliendo en el bolsillo y somos empresas que damos dinero a la comunidad, a los departamentos de policía, a hospitales, a fundaciones, pero sin ingresos es difícil", comentó.

Para este pequeño empresario, la insuficiencia de permisos de trabajo temporal está provocando lo opuesto a la intención del programa de visas.

"Porque necesitan alimentar a sus familias, de alguna u otra forma van a venir y trabajar", mencionó. "Esta gente está pagando impuestos, está sumada a la economía y está ayudando a California, pero la regla está quitando dinero de California".

Pedro Mandoki, ex director de la American Hotels and Lodging Association (AH&LA), calificó la situación de "terrible".

"Necesitamos mucho más que 66 mil", indicó quien es propietario del centro vacacional Gulf Shores Plantation Resort, en Alabama.

"Hoteleros como yo tenemos la necesidad de tener empleados temporales, porque no tenemos negocio todo el año, sólo en el verano, pero es difícil conseguirlos", dijo Mandoki.

Cada año, cuando alcanza visas H-2B, Mandoki contrata de 25 a 30 trabajadores temporales, muchos de ellos procedentes de Europa. "No he tenido la oportunidad de traer de México, muy pocos de los permisos son para mexicanos", comentó.

Hace tres meses, tras el fracaso que representó el diálogo entre legisladores para acordar una reforma migratoria, varios empresarios, activistas y organizaciones, así como las asociaciones de hoteleros, de restauranteros, de abogados y la Cámara de Comercio, agrupados en la "H-2B Workforce Coalition", enviaron una carta a la Cámara de Representantes y al Senado pidiendo la aprobación de la iniciativa HR1843 o S988, llamada "Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act 2007".

La "H-2B Workforce Coalition" representa, según la misiva, a decenas de miles de patrones que tienen negocios temporales.

La iniciativa señala que los participantes en el programa de visas temporales durante los últimos tres años, no sean contados dentro de las 66 mil visas que cada año se otorgan y así incrementar la participación de trabajadores en el programa.

"El mandato del Congreso de limitar en 66 mil al año el número de trabajadores participantes en el programa, que fue establecido en 1990, no refleja la realidad económica actual o las necesidades de las empresas que requieren emplear a personas temporalmente", indica la carta.

El programa de visas H-2B obliga al empleador a que antes de contratar trabajadores huéspedes o extranjeros, ofrecer las posiciones a la fuerza laboral doméstica o local.

"Los trabajadores huéspedes no están quitando los empleos a los estadounidenses", destaca el escrito. "Sin la acción inmediata del Congreso, las consecuencias económicas se extenderán y afectarán severamente a los diversos sectores de la economía a través del país, incluyendo a los hoteles, restaurantes, parques de diversión, centros vacacionales, procesamientos de comida, viajes y turismo, construcción, entretenimiento, recreación y muchas otras industrias de estación".

El congresista Joe Baca, presidente del Caucus Hispano del Congreso (CHC), dijo que la discusión sobre las visas H-2B deber ser resuelto en el contexto del debate migratorio.

"El Congreso tiene la obligación de proveer soluciones sostenibles tanto con los negocios como con las comunidades de inmigrantes, y por esa razón el programa de visas H-2B tiene un papel vital en cada propuesta introducida y promocionada por el CHC este año", señala una declaración por escrito de Baca. "En cuanto nosotros sigamos adelante en 2008, ansiosamente esperamos trabajar con negocio

A la segura con la H-2B

Jorge Morales Almada / 19 de febrero de 2008
La Opinión

En el estado mexicano de Veracruz hay un pueblo llamado Tlapacoyan, donde es muy común que muchos de sus habitantes emigren al norte para trabajar.

Lo que hace diferente a esta comunidad del resto de las regiones de México que expulsan a sus trabajadores, es que ahí lo hacen de manera legal, con visas temporales de empleo. Ellos no tienen que andar jugándosela con el cruce en la frontera. Van a la segura. Con su pasaporte y el visado de la H-2B, un permiso que otorga el Departamento del Trabajo (DOL) a las compañías que requieren emplear de manera temporal a su personal en áreas ajenas a la agricultura.

La compañía estadounidense debe probar que tiene la intención de emplear al trabajador extranjero sólo por cierto período y que tiene necesidad de esa mano de obra especializada. El DOL certifica los requisitos y luego el Departamento de Seguridad Interna (DHS) otorga la visa de no-inmigrante para trabajar en la compañía y lugar determinado.

Uno de sus aproximadamente 55 mil habitantes que tiene Tlapacoyan es Gemalí Romero, un joven de 19 años de edad a quien su tío recomendó con el reclutador del pueblo: don Víctor Apolinar, quien a su vez contacta a los trabajadores huéspedes con una agencia estadounidense encargada del papeleo.

El año pasado llegó a California para trabajar como encargado de juegos en una feria de la compañía Helm and Sons, en Colton.

"Vine por el dinero, porque allá es poco el dinero que se consigue", dice Gemalí.

Aquí gana 300 dólares a la semana, libres, mientras que allá hacía 700 pesos [65 dólares] en una empacadora de cítricos.

"Una vez mi tío regresó allá a Tlapacoyan y me dijo que me iba a recomendar, así es como funciona esto, por recomendaciones, hay que decir que eres una buena persona y chambeadora", comenta el muchacho.

De lo que gana, 200 le envía a su mamá y él se queda con 100 para la comida y lo que se ofrezca.

"Mi mamá ahorra ese dinero, es para comprar un terreno y hacer una casa, porque la casa donde viven ahorita mis papás nos la prestan".

Luego de una buena temporada el año pasado, Gemalí regresó a finales del mes pasado para trabajar con la misma empresa, ahora como armador de los juegos mecánicos. Para noviembre tendrá que regresar a Tlapacoyan, pero es un trabajo que considera satisfactorio.

"Le neta, me vine por dinero y pues, para probar, para ver qué tal está el trabajo, para salir pues, para no estar ahí en el pueblo toda mi vida, sino para salir a buscar".

Temp worker bill advances in Ariz. House

Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 18, 2008 05:16 PM

Gene Feldman said he checks the employment eligibility of all the workers at his structural steel company and has advertised in an effort to fill empty jobs that pay at least $12 an hour.

Still, the Tempe business owner is losing workers.

"We've hired one person since Jan. 1. He came from out of state," Feldman told Arizona lawmakers. "I'm very confident about my business and very worried about the future."

Feldman, like many employers, wants the Legislature to pass a bill that would seek federal permission for Arizona to create and run a guest-worker program for Mexicans to fill jobs Americans aren't taking.

In the wake of the state's new employer-sanctions law, which threatens to pull licenses from businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, the proposed legislation is seen as another bold step toward addressing a problem that federal authorities have not.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, passed 6-0 Monday in a hearing of the House Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee that he chairs. Rep. Albert Tom, D-Chambers, voted present. A similar bill introduced by Sen. Marsha Arzberger, D-Willcox, is pending in the Senate.

At least 27 lawmakers have signed on as sponsors to the bills - 18 Democrats and nine Republicans. Lawmakers in Colorado and Kansas have inquired about the plan Arizona is considering, Arzberger said. Even so, it is unclear whether the bills have enough support to receive a vote in either chamber.

Critics have suggested a temporary-worker program needs to be passed by Congress, and that Americans would fill such jobs if wages were not undercut by foreign workers.

"This bill will allow many people who are here illegally . . . to get back-door amnesty," said Carl Seel, chairman of the PAChyderm Coalition, a pro-Republican organization that opposes the legislation. He tried to equate the proposal with slavery, a move Konopnicki rejected as untrue and off point.

Konopnicki stressed that the bill would create a two-year test program that allowed only legal immigrants from Mexico who would be screened and monitored. It doesn't offer a path to citizenship or residency and would require the workers to remain with a sponsoring employer.

Jennifer Allen, executive director of the Border Action Network, said the bill is a good start, but should ensure safe working conditions and promised wages for workers. Ideally, it should allow those workers to work with other employers if they want, she said.

The legislation comes as the Bush administration has proposed loosening and expanding the existing H-2A program for growers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis. That program is considered overly cumbersome and is seldom used.

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-4493.

Immigration measures move ahead at Capitol

by Mary Jo Pitzl / The Arizona Republic
Feb. 19, 2008 12:00 AM

Arizona's conflicted views on immigration surfaced Monday at the state Capitol, as a bill that would create a guest-worker program and another that would make it harder for day laborers to solicit work both won approval in their first outing.

It's the first round of immigration-related bills to be debated by lawmakers. A third measure, which would add illegal immigrants to the list of groups prohibited from carrying a gun in Arizona, died on a tie vote that broke along party lines.

For the second year in a row, Rep. John Kavanagh is pushing a bill that would allow police to cite people for criminal trespass if they are found to be actively soliciting work and disrupting traffic to do so.

It's an attempt to break up the huddles of day laborers who seek work by standing on sidewalks at busy intersections. The practice has been typified by last year's standoffs in front of Pruitts Furniture Store in Phoenix, as people seeking day-labor jobs blocked the entrances to the business and spurred counterprotests.

Kavanagh said House Bill 2412 would give police the authority to ticket people who disrupt traffic, such as by waving or gesturing for drivers to pull over and hire them. Current law, he said, only allows citations if a person is found to have obstructed traffic.

"It's basically a traffic-safety bill," Kavanagh told members of the House Homeland Security and Property Rights Committee. "It's painted as an illegal-immigration bill, because many day laborers are illegal."

Under his bill, people who are standing in a public street or highway, or next to one, and actively looking for work could be cited with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill defines soliciting work as "verbal or nonverbal communication by a gesture or a nod."

The Rev. Saul Montiel of the United Methodist Church urged committee members to reject the bill, calling it an attack on the immigrant community.

"Are you trying to destroy the economy of Arizona?" he asked, noting that many of the people seeking labor today will be the replacement force for retiring baby boomers.

Kavanagh said he worked on the bill with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. It's their second run at legislation to try to curb day laborers. A similar bill passed the Legislature last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.

On Monday, the bill was approved on a 5-3 committee vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

While that bill was winning approval, a proposal to create a pilot Arizona guest-worker program was being discussed by another legislative panel.

The Arizona Temporary Workers Program, or House Bill 2791, drew heavy support from Arizona's business community, whose members said they need the labor pool that Mexican guest workers could provide.

"There are gaps in our labor force," said Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

"There are certain areas where if we don't get much-need workers into our country, we will see business leave our state and our country."

The bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would allow Arizona employers to recruit temporary workers, from Mexico only, after demonstrating that there is a shortage of local labor to fill jobs.

The bill outlines a process, to be run through the state's Industrial Commission, that would regulate the hiring of temporary workers.

Provisions include a criminal background check of the applicant and a two-year limit on a temporary-worker ID, although the time could be extended. Workers would be drawn only from Mexico and would be authorized to travel between Mexico and Arizona, but not other states.

Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford and a sponsor of the legislation along with Sen. Marsha Arzberger, D-Willcox, tried to keep the hearing civil. He said he had received numerous e-mails protesting the bill and said the racist tone he detected in many of them would not be tolerated in public comments.

Ron Seel, who opposed the bill, said that a temporary-worker program would depress wages for native-born workers. And, he said, the bill would open the door to amnesty, a charge that committee members rejected.

House Majority Whip John McComish said the bill does not provide a way for a worker to become a U.S. citizen. McComish, R-Phoenix, said the guest-worker proposal is a fitting byproduct of Arizona's policy "laboratory," which last year produced the strictest employer-sanctions law in the U.S.

The bill passed on a 6-0 vote, with Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, voting "present."

The guest-worker program would need the blessing of Congress before it could take effect, assuming HB2791 succeeds in the Legislature.

A companion measure, HCM 2012, asks Congress to grant Arizona the authority to run the trial program. It also passed on a 6-0 vote.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Vean este informen detallado de Enero, 2008 también.



«De los más de 30 millones de personas que conforman el medio rural en México, solamente 8.5 millones tienen trabajo en actividades agrícolas y ganaderas; en tanto que otros 10 millones 262 mil no tienen ingreso alguno y 8.8 millones perciben apenas un salario mínimo». UNAM

Si nos hemos de apegar a la realidad socioeconómica que se observa en todo el país predominada por la miseria, el hambre y la marginación en más del 50 por ciento de los mexicanos-, simple y sencillamente se deduce que tampoco se puede hablar de la verdadera democracia, como tampoco de la justicia social, por más que Michoacán siga presumiendo en su escudo de armas: «Heredamos libertad, legaremos justicia social», que a la postre no fue sino sólo una quimera del gobernador José Servando Chávez, que instituyó ese emblema oficial, surgido de la imaginación del pintor Agustín Cárdenas.

La semana pasada, en la apertura del foro Internacional «Gobierno y Desarrollo Democrático», en Morelia, el mismo gobernador Lázaro Cárdenas Batel precisó que no puede haber democracia mientras prevalezcan los actuales índices de pobreza, mientras que ayer la facultad de Economía de la UNAM, en su informe ‘Situación del campo en México; pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión’, consigna que de los más de 30 millones de personas que conforman el medio rural en México, solamente 8.5 millones tienen trabajo en actividades agrícolas y ganaderas; en tanto que otros 10 millones 262 mil no tienen ingreso alguno y 8.8 millones perciben apenas un salario mínimo. Además, los que reciben remesas de sus familiares enfrentan tarifas depredatorias que les quitan parte importante de los envíos, como las que aplica la empresa Electra y otras filiales.

Esas condiciones de clara y evidente explotación en poco o en nada difieren de las condiciones de ‘semiesclavitud’ que sufren también miles de trabajadores birmanos, los que laboran en Tailandia a razón de un peso la hora y cuyos detalles fueron dados a conocer por diversos medios internacionales ayer lunes, llegándose a condiciones extremas como el trabajar turnos diarios de 15 horas y solamente descansan un día al año. Sin embargo, y con toda desfachatez, hay panistas en Michoacán que rechazan abiertamente las opciones que manejan los migrantes michoacanos en Estados Unidos, ya que a decir de Salvador López Orduña, ex alcalde de Morelia y ex candidato panista a la gubernatura del Estado, los michoacanos que deciden irse a trabajar al vecino país del norte «simplemente ha sido por su gusto».

De hecho y según los más recientes informes de la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM, el número de hogares que reciben remesas se incrementó de 600 mil a 4.1 millones en el periodo entre 1995 y 2005; de igual forma, se incrementó 500 por ciento el volumen de dólares por remesas, siendo las de mayor crecimiento las transferencias electrónicas y las ‘money orders’.
A lo anterior habrá que agregar los reportes del presidente de la Comisión de Seguridad de la Cámara de Diputados, el perredista Miguel Angel Navarro Quintero, quien advierte que de no atenderse de inmediato la demanda asistencial de adultos, que va en ascenso, se podría llegar a un conflicto de seguridad nacional en todo el país. México, sostuvo el legislador perredista, tiene un atraso de 30 años en temas de seguridad social en relación con países de la Unión Europea, y «en un futuro cercano la situación estará peor porque la atención que se brinda en este terreno es muy distante de la demanda nacional».

Y en esa misma pirámide de pobreza y de marginación en todo el país, si bien las condiciones más degradantes y lesivas se ciernen sobre los campesinos y los trabajadores del campo en lo general; la desigualdad, la discriminación y la iniquidad en el manejo del presupuesto también lastima desde hace muchas décadas a los Ayuntamientos municipales, tal como lo corroboró el pasado fin de semana el alcalde de Morelia, el priísta Fausto Vallejo Figueroa. Aseguró el funcionario que a pesar de que los gobiernos municipales son la base del federalismo, «los ayuntamientos siguen sin valer nada para el gobierno federal», por lo que éstos siguen en las mismas condiciones desde 1972, precisamente el año en el que el actual edil vallisoletano elaboró su tesis recepcional sobre los desequilibrios en las diferentes esferas del poder en México.

Por cierto que Fausto Vallejo Figueroa ha sido hasta ahora el único funcionario público en funciones que se ha atrevido a expresar sus discrepancias políticas, a través de los medios, ante las tesis que sostiene el gobernador electo de Michoacán, Leonel Godoy Rangel, quien desde su campaña política y en diversas ocasiones recientes se ha pronunciado a favor de la revocación de mandato, como una propuesta que debería ser aprobada por el Congreso del Estado. El viernes anterior, Vallejo Figueroa sostuvo que es necesario hacer un análisis «minucioso» de la referida propuesta para la revocación de mandato, toda vez que esto podría generar que los gobernantes estuvieran sujetos a presiones políticas partidistas o de grupos de poder, e incluso comentó que a partir de esta «podríamos llegar a desembocar, si no la manejamos bien, a esquemas de ingobernabilidad, de efervescencia política permanente, en donde se evitaría el desarrollo».

El alcalde priísta y ex presidente del CDE del PRI llegó a calificar de «buenas, en general» otras propuestas que ha hecho públicas Leonel Godoy Rangel, tales como el que se incluyan en la Constitución de Michoacán figuras jurídicas como el referéndum, el plebiscito y la participación ciudadana, mismas por las que han simpatizado los últimos diez gobernadores del Estado, pero nadie, hasta ahora, las ha llevado a propuestas ante el poder Legislativo. De todo lo que Fausto Vallejo llegó a hablar a ese respecto, el gobernador electo de Michoacán externó sus deseos y las conveniencias para que ambos puedan reunirse para intercambiar impresiones sobre el mismo tema, aunque a la postre no se ha fijado fecha.

Lo que sí ha venido a apaciguar el ambiente y el clima de inquietud en la política purépecha, es el nuevo anuncio hecho por Godoy Rangel para dar a conocer su gabinete precisamente el 14 de febrero -un día antes de su toma de posesión-, cuya fecha ha provocado ya desde ahora infinidad de especulaciones y connotaciones humorísticas, por tratarse del Día de la Amistad, de San Valentín y también del amor.

Insuficientes, los servicios básicos para el sector rural

Insuficientes, los servicios básicos para el sector rural

El CAM realizó un estudio para conocer la situación del campo

19/02/2008 12:36:41 a.m.


Revela un estudio del Centro de Análisis Multidisciplinario (CAM) de la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM ,que de acuerdo con cifras oficiales, 78.1 por ciento de la población nacional tiene acceso a drenaje; mientras, en el medio rural sólo 38.2 por ciento cuenta con ese servicio.

La investigación muestra que 88.8 por ciento de los habitantes del país pueden hacer uso de agua potable, pero sólo la recibe 68.7 de los que viven en el campo, esto durante la realización del estudio denominado, “El análisis Situación del campo en México; pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión.

Referente al servicio de electrificación, el promedio nacional es de 95 por ciento, mientras que en el ámbito agrario el porcentaje se reduce de manera drástica, hasta 68 por ciento, de acuerdo con el reporte elaborado por economistas de esta casa de estudios.

Se redujo desde septiembre del año pasado la utilización de estos servicios por el incremento en el cobro de impuestos. En tan sólo tres años, la disponibilidad en el medio rural descendió 11.5 por ciento, por el importe de agua, drenaje y luz. En la actualidad el campo está en una situación similar a la prevaleciente en 1933.

Dicho estudio fue realizado por David Lozano Tovar, Luis Lozano Arredondo, Miguel Xochiteotzin Peña, Javier Lozano Tovar, Jaime Vázquez, Claudia Solís, Sofía Corona, Berenice Chávez, Rodrigo Ortiz, Paola Domínguez, Berenice Jiménez, Yolanda Bustamante y Karla Antonio Correa.

También se destaca, que si bien se cree que se gana más y se vive mejor en EU, siete por ciento de las familias migrantes perciben mil 600 pesos mensuales, 44 por ciento entre mil 600 y cuatro mil, 24 por ciento entre cuatro mil y seis mil 400, y el porcentaje restante más de seis mil 400 pesos al mes.

Por tal motivo con la entrada en vigor del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN) en 1994, se acrecentó el deterioro del sector agrario, a pesar de que para unos cuantos significó el ingreso del país al “primer mundo”.

El sector ganadero es otro de los sectores más afectados debido a la apertura comercial ya que de acuerdo con la Confederación de Porcicultores de México, la entrada indiscriminada de carne ha provocado la desaparición del 85 por ciento de los porcicultores del territorio.

En tanto, la introducción de pollo y de res del mercado estadounidense a los grandes centros comerciales del país se ha incrementado 60 por ciento, y la caída de los precios de la leche por la introducción de sustitutos, ha provocado la quiebra de casi 57 por ciento de los pequeños productores.

La Columna en Cifras

por Manuel Avila Flores / EL PORVENIR
Domingo, 27 de Enero de 2008

Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público En 2007, la balanza comercial de México con el mundo reportó un saldo deficitario de 11 mil 183 millones de dólares (mdd), el mayor en 13 años. Este año el déficit comercial aumentó 82%, lo que equivale a 5 mil 050 mdd respecto a 2006, frente al año pasado en que el déficit fue de 6 mil 133 mdd. En diciembre, el déficit comercial resultó de 1 mil 103 mdd. El año pasado las exportaciones de mercancías crecieron 8.8%, derivado de un incremento de las exportaciones petroleras de 9.9%, mientras que las no petroleras lo hicieron en 8.6%. Esta última tasa se debió al avance de 5% de las exportaciones dirigidas a EU y de 30.3% de las canalizadas al resto del mundo

“Situación del campo en México; pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión”, informe elaborado por la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM De los más de 30 millones de personas que conforman el medio rural, solamente 8.5 millones tienen trabajo en actividades agrícolas y ganaderas; otros 10 millones 262 mil no tienen ingreso alguno y 8.8 millones perciben apenas un salario mínimo. Además, los que reciben remesas de sus familiares enfrentan tarifas depredatorias que les quitan parte importante de los envíos, como las que aplica la empresa Elektra. El medio rural del país ha sufrido un despojo económico y social, enfrenta una caída de sus ingresos y ha incrementado su migración en 40% en los seis años recientes. El número de hogares que reciben remesas se incrementó de 600 mil a 4.1 millones entre 1995 y 2005; de igual forma, se incrementó 500% el volumen de dólares por remesas, siendo las de mayor crecimiento las transferencias electrónicas y las money orders

Consejo para la Ley y los Derechos Humanos, Evaluación sobre Seguridad Pública en México 2007 En 2007 se registraron mil casos de secuestro, donde la organización criminal pedía en promedio 1.5 millones de pesos, y se presentaron tres mil 127 ejecuciones, siendo elementos de la policía y narcotraficantes el principal objetivo. La extorsión telefónica presentó un incremento de 200% con respecto al año 2006 y generó ganancias por 217 millones de pesos durante los últimos seis años a nivel nacional. Se ha documentado el uso de 31 mil 129 teléfonos celulares para cometer este ilícito y 15 de las bandas más activas operan desde penales del DF, nueve de ellas del penal Neza-Bordo, y 270 organizaciones criminales en el resto del país

Unidad Mixta en Atención al Narcomenudeo Dentro del programa de combate al narcomenudeo, en tres cateos realizados por elementos de la UMAN en Monterrey, Guadalupe y San Pedro, se detuvo a ocho personas y se aseguró cocaína en piedra (al menos 400 grapas) y mariguana (cinco kilos, con un valor aproximado de 50 mil pesos en el mercado). En la colonia Alfonso Reyes, "La Risca", en Monterrey, se detuvo a tres personas, un presunto distribuidor y dos de sus clientes

Consideran canasta básica mexicana inaccesible para campesinos

México, 21 ene (PL) El costo actual de la canasta básica mexicana es inaccesible para el 91,3 por ciento de la población rural, aseguró hoy un estudio de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

El informe, elaborado por la Facultad de Economía, se denomina "Situación del campo en México: pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión" y apunta que el medio rural del país sufrió un despojo económico y social.

Sólo 8,5 millones de un total de 30 millones de personas que conforman el medio rural tienen trabajo en actividades agrícolas y ganaderas, mientras otros 10 millones 262 mil carecen de ingreso alguno y el resto percibe apenas un salario mínimo.

Por otra parte, quienes reciben remesas de sus familiares residentes en el exterior enfrentan tarifas depredatorias, las cuales les quitan parte importante de los envíos, agregó.

En el sector se incrementó la migración en 40 por ciento durante los seis últimos años y los campesinos han enfrentado, además, un proceso de despojo de la tierra por parte de empresas privadas.

Todo esto provocó que 27,4 millones de mexicanos que viven en las zonas rurales no puedan adquirir la canasta alimentaria básica cuyos precios aumentaron, señaló la UNAM.

Un total de 10,8 millones de mexicanos que viven en Estados Unidos enviaron a sus familiares en el 2007 más de 23 mil millones de dólares, pero una parte importante de esas remesas quedó en manos de las empresas nacionales y extranjeras tramitadoras de su entrega.

Ellas aumentaron sus ganancias mediante la imposición de tarifas sumamente elevadas y el cambio de las tasas en las transacciones, lo cual significa un constante robo a las familias campesinas, puntualizó el estudio.

Quienes trabajan en el extranjero son presas de la rapiña por parte de las firmas privadas dedicadas a tramitar lo relacionado con las remesas, las cuales lucran con el dinero enviado, concluyó.



Deterioro de 44% en el medio rural en los últimos 7 años: estudio

Deterioro de 44% en el medio rural en los últimos 7 años: estudio

Patricia Muñoz Ríos

El despojo económico y social que enfrenta ha incrementado la migración en un 40%, señala un análisis elaborado por la UNAM.

México, DF. De las más de 30 millones de personas que conforman el medio rural en México, solamente 8.5 millones tienen trabajo en actividades agrícolas y ganaderas; en tanto que otras 10 millones 262 mil no tienen ingreso alguno y 8.8 millones perciben apenas un salario mínimo, además, los que reciben remesas de sus familiares que están en el extranjero, enfrentan tarifas depredatorias que les quitan parte importante de los envíos, como las que aplica la empresa “Elektra”.

El informe Situación del Campo en México, Pobreza, Marginación, Explotación y Exclusión, elaborado por la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM, señala lo anterior y establece que el medio rural de nuestro país ha sufrido un despojo económico y social, enfrenta una caída de sus ingresos y ha incrementado su migración en un 40 por ciento en los últimos seis años.

El número de hogares que reciben remesas se incrementó de 600 mil a 4.1 millones en el periodo entre 1995 y el 2005; de igual forma se incrementó en un 500 por ciento el volumen de dólares recibidos por remesas, siendo las de mayor crecimiento las transferencias electrónicas y los money orders.

Indica la información elaborada por los especialistas y catedráticos la UNAM, que los campesinos además de que han enfrentado un proceso de despojo de la tierra, en el que empresas privadas han avanzado contundentemente en la posesión de predios; han sufrido un descenso de sus ingresos, al grado de que 27 millones de mexicanos que viven en el sector rural no pueden acceder a comprar una canasta básica alimentaria.

El 28 por ciento de estos mexicanos sobrevive con un ingreso de uno a dos salarios mínimos y “con el incremento de los productos de la canasta básica durante el primer año de Felipe Calderón, las familias que viven en el campo acumulan del 1º de diciembre del 2000 al mismo día del 2007, una pérdida del 44 por ciento en su ya deteriorado nivel de vida.

Uno de los principales apoyos que les ayuda a sobrevivir económicamente a los campesinos, son las remesas, las cuales han ido creciendo de manera exponencial al grado de que para agosto del 2008, 10.8 millones de mexicanos que vivían en los Estados Unidos, enviaron más de 23 millones de dólares, “buscando compensar así el desempleo y el bajo ingreso de sus familias”, señala el análisis y detalla que sin embargo, el 78 por ciento de estos recursos se utilizaron en el gasto en alimentos, renta y salud.

Sin embargo, una parte importante de estas remesas, quedan en las empresas privadas como Elektra (propiedad de la familia Salinas Pliego), la cual incremento sus ganancias ya que aplica tarifas sumamente elevadas, ya que por ejemplo Western Unión cobra 5.76 por ciento de comisión, mientras empresas como Citibank cobra 1.04 por ciento sobre el monto original del envío.


El TLC acaba con el 85% de porcicultores del país

Blanca Estela Botello | Nacional LA CRONICA DE HOY
Martes 19 de Febrero de 2008 | Hora de publicación: 02:49

Con la entrada en vigor del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN) se acrecentó el deterioro del sector agrario en México, aunque para unos cuantos significó el ingreso del país al ‘primer mundo, señala el Centro de Análisis Multidisciplinario (CAM), de la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM.

El CAM refiere que el valor de las exportaciones agrícolas de Estados Unidos a México pasó de tres mil 476 millones de dólares entre 1991 y 1993, a siete mil 516 millones de dólares en el último trienio, lo que representó un incremento de 116 por ciento, según el reporte del Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos.

En el estudio denominado ”Situación del campo en México; pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión“, el CAM indica que los efectos del acuerdo en el medio ambiente han sido igualmente catastróficos.
“En la actualidad, el costo del agotamiento y la degradación ambiental equivale al 10 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto, lo cual anula la posibilidad de crecimiento económico“, señala el CAM, a través de un comunicado.
Otro sector seriamente afectado por la apertura comercial, destaca el CAM, ha sido el ganadero y refiere que, con base en datos de la Confederación de Porcicultores de México, la entrada indiscriminada de carne ha provocado la desaparición del 85 por ciento de los porcicultores del territorio.
En tanto que la introducción de pollo y de res del mercado estadounidense a los grandes centros comerciales del país se ha incrementado 60 por ciento, y la caída de los precios de la leche por la introducción de sustitutos que utiliza la industria de lácteos, ha provocado la quiebra de casi 57 por ciento de los pequeños productores.
Por otra parte, el Centro de Análisis Multidisciplinario refiere que en el medio rural, sólo 38.2 por ciento tiene drenaje y que mientras 88.8 por ciento de los habitantes del país puede hacer uso de agua potable, sólo la recibe 68.7 de los que viven en el campo.
Respecto a la cobertura del servicio de electrificación, el promedio nacional es de 95 por ciento, mientras que en la zona rural el porcentaje se reduce a 68 por ciento.
“Desde septiembre del año pasado se redujo la utilización de esos servicios por el incremento en el cobro de impuestos; en tan sólo tres años, la disponibilidad en el medio rural descendió 11.5 por ciento, por el importe de agua, drenaje y luz. En la actualidad el campo está en una situación similar a la prevaleciente en 1933“, informó el CAM.
Resalta que en los últimos seis años el fenómeno de la migración en las comunidades rurales se ha incrementado 40 por ciento, debido a la crisis del campo, la baja en los precios de los productos agrícolas y el encarecimiento de los insumos para el sector agrícola.
De acuerdo con el Consejo Nacional de Población, añade el Centro de Análisis, para agosto del año pasado 10.8 millones de mexicanos que vivían en Estados Unidos enviaron casi 23 mil 234 millones de dólares, tratando de compensar el desempleo y el bajo ingreso familiar.
Los recursos fueron distribuidos: 78 por ciento para comida, renta y salud; nueve por ciento para ahorro; siete para educación; uno por ciento para adquirir una propiedad; uno por ciento para inversión en negocios, y el cuatro por ciento para gastos diversos.
Destaca: “si bien se cree que se gana más y se vive mejor en Estados Unidos, siete por ciento de las familias migrantes perciben mil 600 pesos mensuales; 44 por ciento entre mil 600 y cuatro mil; 24 por ciento entre cuatro mil y seis mil 400, y el porcentaje restante más de seis mil 400 pesos al mes”.

116 por ciento, el incremento de las exportaciones agrícolas de EU a México, que pasó de tres mil 476 millones de dólares, entre 1991 y 1993, a siete mil 516 millones de dólares en el último trienio

60 por ciento, alza de la introducción de la carne de pollo y de res estadunidense a los grandes centros comerciales del país

40 por ciento aumenta la migración en las comunidades rurales en los últimos seis años debido a la crisis del campo

85 por ciento, la quiebra de los porcicultores nacionales

Sagarpa: México, decimotercer productor de alimentos

La Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (Sagarpa) estima que para este año se obtendrá una producción de 177 millones de toneladas de los 50 principales productos del campo y del mar.
Con esto, informó la dependencia, México se mantendrá como el decimotercer país productor de alimentos en el mundo y ocupará un lugar similar como exportador de productos del campo.
La Sagarpa informo que su titular, Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez, firmó un Convenio de Coordinación para el Desarrollo Rural Sustentable con el gobierno de Jalisco por 2 mil 663 millones de pesos. También firmó un Convenio de Coordinación con el gobierno de Zacatecas, por un monto de 2 mil 217 millones de pesos y entregó recursos por 99 millones de pesos, en el marco del Programa de Competitividad para el Frijol, dinero que será destinado para la instalación de seis módulos forrajeros, dos módulos de labranza y dos cosechadoras de frijol. (Blanca Estela Botello)

No tan fácil se alcanza el sueño americano: estudio de la UNAM

No tan fácil se alcanza el sueño americano: estudio de la UNAM
Edición 14953 martes 19 de febrero de 2008 Publicación de Hoy

Un estudio de la UNAM, revela que si bien se cree que se gana más y se vive mejor en Estados Unidos, siete por ciento de las familias migrantes perciben mil 600 pesos mensuales, 44 por ciento entre mil 600 y cuatro mil, 24 por ciento entre cuatro mil y seis mil 400, y el porcentaje restante más de seis mil 400 pesos al mes.

Por otro lado, el análisis del CAM afirma que con la entrada en vigor del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN) en 1994, se acrecentó el deterioro del sector agrario en México, a pesar de que para unos cuantos significó el ingreso del país al “primer mundo”.

Por otro lado señalada que de acuerdo con cifras oficiales, 78.1 por ciento de la población nacional tiene acceso a drenaje; mientras, en el medio rural sólo 38.2 por ciento cuenta con ese servicio, revela un estudio del Centro de Análisis Multidisciplinario (CAM) de la Facultad de Economía de la UNAM.

El análisis Situación del campo en México; pobreza, marginación, explotación y exclusión, muestra que 88.8 por ciento de los habitantes del país puede hacer uso de agua potable, pero sólo la recibe 68.7 de los que viven en el campo.

Respecto a la cobertura del servicio de electrificación, el promedio nacional es de 95 por ciento, mientras que en el ámbito agrario el porcentaje se reduce de manera drástica, hasta 68 por ciento, de acuerdo con el reporte elaborado por economistas de esta casa de estudios.

Desde septiembre del año pasado se redujo la utilización de esos servicios por el incremento en el cobro de impuestos. En tan sólo tres años, la disponibilidad en el medio rural descendió 11.5 por ciento, por el importe de agua, drenaje y luz. En la actualidad el campo está en una situación similar a la prevaleciente en 1933.

El análisis fue elaborado por David Lozano Tovar, Luis Lozano Arredondo, Miguel Xochiteotzin Peña, Javier Lozano Tovar, Jaime Vázquez, Claudia Solís, Sofía Corona, Berenice Chávez, Rodrigo Ortiz, Paola Domínguez, Berenice Jiménez, Yolanda Bustamante y Karla Antonio Correa.

El reporte subraya que en los últimos seis años el fenómeno de la migración en las comunidades rurales se ha incrementado 40 por ciento. Ello, a consecuencia de la crisis del campo, la baja en los precios de los productos agrícolas y el encarecimiento de los insumos para el sector agrícola, entre otros factores.

De acuerdo con el Consejo Nacional de Población, para agosto del año pasado 10.8 millones de mexicanos que vivían en Estados Unidos enviaron casi 23 mil 234 millones de dólares, tratando de compensar el desempleo y el bajo ingreso familiar.

Tales recursos son distribuidos de la siguiente manera: 78 por ciento para comida, renta y salud; nueve por ciento para ahorro; siete para educación, uno para la adquisición de una propiedad, uno para inversión en negocios y el restante cuatro por ciento para diversos gastos.

Copyright :Diario de Mexico

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Ugly Side of Microlending

IN DEPTH December 13, 2007, 5:00PM EST
The Ugly Side of Microlending
How big Mexican banks profit as many poor borrowers get trapped in a maze of debt

by Keith Epstein and Geri Smith

In a gleaming office tower in Mexico City secured with retinal scanners, bulletproof glass, and armed guards, dozens of workers in white lab coats dart around a large operations center monitoring long rows of computers. Along one wall, 54 enormous screens flicker dizzyingly with numbers, graphs, and fever charts: a relentless stream of data. You'd think the urgent mission involved tracking the trajectory of a spacecraft or the workings of a national power grid, not tiny amounts of cash and credit for Mexico's working poor.

The transactions are so minuscule they hardly seem worth the bother. The average loan amounts to $257. But for Banco Azteca, a swiftly growing bank affiliated with Latin America's largest household retailer, the small sums represent a torrent of revenue that has caught even its founders by surprise. For three decades, micro-lending was seen as a tool of nonprofit economic development. Now poor people are turning into one of the world's least likely sources of untapped profit, primarily because they will pay interest rates most Americans would consider outrageous, if not usurious.

With no legal limits on interest levels and little government oversight, for-profit banks in Mexico impose annual interest rates on poor borrowers that typically range from 50% to 120%. That compares with a worldwide average of 31% among nonprofit micro-lending institutions, and the 22% to 29% that Americans with bad credit histories incur on credit-card debt. Azteca's business model succeeds not only because it can charge credit-starved clients almost whatever it wants. Equally important is that low-income Mexicans anxious about maintaining their reputation tend to pay back what they owe, regardless of the hardship. Those who slip behind receive frequent visits from motorcycle-riding collection agents. Default rates are infinitesimal. "We lend to them as much as they can borrow," says Azteca Vice-Chairman Luis Niño de Rivera, "and they can borrow as much as they can pay."

In a Mexico that is modernizing economically even as most people still struggle to make ends meet, Azteca has discovered an improbable market for financial services. Much larger companies based in the U.S. and Europe also have picked up the whiff of profits. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), which obtained a Mexican banking license a year ago, began offering loans for purchases at 16 of its 997 Mexican outlets in November. In the U.S., the retailer markets itself as a friend to the budget-conscious. In Mexico, it charges interest rates that might set off popular and political revolts back home, although Wal-Mart describes its terms as appropriate to the Mexican market. At one store west of Mexico City, a 32-inch LG plasma TV with a price tag of $957 can ultimately cost as much as $1,474, thanks to a 52-week payment plan that carries an annual percentage rate (APR) of 86%.

Banamex (C), Mexico's second-largest bank and a wholly owned unit of Citigroup, is stepping up its pitches of personal loans to the working poor in 127 cities where it operates shops called Crédito Familiar, or Family Credit. HSBC Holdings (HSBC) last year bought a 20% stake in Financiera Independencia, a high-interest consumer lender that went public on Nov. 1. The Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services (ZFSVY) is underwriting term life insurance policies that are sold along with small loans in Mexico. And homegrown nonprofit Compartamos morphed into a full-fledged commercial bank last year; it went public in April, reaping hundreds of millions of dollars for investors. All are examples of how financial players worldwide are pursuing profits by putting loans within reach of deprived borrowers.

Access to credit opens opportunities for the poor (BusinessWeek, 12/14/07). But it creates tempting hazards as well, which in Mexico are drawing many unsophisticated families into a maze of debts. Pawnshops and loan sharks, whose interest rates of up to 300% have plagued generations of Mexicans, now face rivals offering terms that are less harsh. But along the road to previously unavailable financing, some Mexicans are stumbling badly.

The Arana family is but a blip on one of the wide screens at Azteca's operations center. Beneath the digital glimmer lies a story of striving. Adrián Arana Sánchez, his wife, Francisca, and their extended family take whatever work they can find, adding a few pesos here and there. Last July, Adrián lost an $80-a-week job delivering soft drinks to stores in gritty, exhaust-choked San Martín Texmelucan, a city of 143,000 two hours southeast of Mexico City. He now brings home half that amount peddling vegetables door to door and making plaster-cast statuettes of Jesus. Francisca sells crunchy slices of jicama root outside an elementary school. With four children, two grandchildren, and a son-in-law, they live in a four-room cinderblock house in the shadow of snow-capped volcanoes once revered by the Aztecs.

Although indigent by U.S. or Western European standards, the Aranas see themselves as aspiring consumers and even as entrepreneurs in a society that makes all manner of goods and services available for what seem like manageable weekly payments. Banco Azteca plays a central role in that emerging credit economy. Started five years ago, it operates from the nearly 800 locations of its parent, Grupo Elektra, Latin America's largest electronics and home appliance chain. Elektra/Azteca has the sort of ubiquitous presence that Wal-Mart enjoys in the U.S.

The dazzling yellow facades of Elektra/Azteca outlets shout for attention in rundown neighborhoods. Inside the store across from the Catholic cathedral in San Martín Texmelucan, a tag on a six-speaker sound system throbbing with ranchero music carries a price of $691, but larger bold print stresses weekly payments of only $16. An installment plan can be arranged by Azteca staffers who work from metal desks at the back. Over 18 months, the weekly payments nearly double the price, to $1,248. That's an APR of 88%. APR is commonly used in the U.S. to compare total loan costs. In Mexico, Azteca isn't legally obliged to disclose it—and doesn't. (Mexican loans include a 15% tax on financial services.)

Adrián Arana, 50 years old and with a sixth-grade education, has become a regular customer at this branch of Elektra/Azteca. He and Francisca, who completed only the second grade, have obtained a series of small loans over the past four years to purchase a CD player, bicycle, TV, video camera, and bedroom furniture. In 2006 they took the next step, borrowing $920 to pursue a long-cherished ambition: opening a dry-goods store in the front room of their house. They saw the store as a means to achieve stability, and maybe a middle-class life. But like many tiny businesses started by inexperienced proprietors, this one soon failed. A neighbor had just opened a similar but better-stocked home shop. The Aranas toiled diligently at their other jobs to pay back the loan, missing some weekly payments and incurring late fees. With an APR of 105%, the loan ended up costing about $1,485 over a year. But they paid it off.

Determined to try again, they were back at Azteca in February with a new plan, this time to start a gift shop. Azteca granted them a bigger loan, for $1,380 over 18 months, but deducted $65 up front, leaving the Aranas with $1,315 and an APR of 90%. They say they didn't understand these terms. They focused instead on the weekly payment of only $32. "They never tell you what the interest rate is," says Adrián. "They say, Sign here,' but they don't give you time to read everything."

Some Azteca executives concede that borrowers sometimes walk away confused. "Terms are explained to them, maybe not as clearly as they should be, but many clients don't understand," says Pedro Morales, head of the bank's local legal department. "They take on financial commitments they can't meet." But Niño de Rivera, the bank's vice-chairman, says: "There is no pressure to sign loans, and consumers are encouraged to shop around freely for what best suits their needs."

The Aranas used the $1,315 to buy picture frames, toys, and inexpensive cosmetics, which they displayed in their front room, beneath a dangling lightbulb illuminating a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Once again, their business faltered. Two textile factories in the area had closed recently, throwing thousands out of work. Mexico offers no government benefits to cushion such adversity. The Aranas saw few customers.

For six months they made their payments, but then, in July, Adrián lost his soft-drink delivery job. By September, past-due notices and interest charges were piling up, and an Azteca collection agent was visiting regularly. "We either eat or we pay off the loan," says Adrián. The despairing family resorted to borrowing $200 from a loan shark at 10% a month. Informal lending of this sort, despite its attendant threat of violence, is not prohibited in Mexico. Azteca's local collections chief, Alejandro Tejeda, says it's a shame that borrowers can land in such trouble. "But these people made a commitment, and they need to live up to it," he says.

With no money to pay the loan shark or Azteca, and fearing that the bank will seize their few belongings, the Aranas are trying to sell their house. So far they haven't found a buyer, and if they do, it's not clear where they would live. They're keeping food on the table, barely, with Adrián's door-to-door sales of tomatoes and herbs, which he transports in the basket of a large tricycle. "We never thought this would happen," he says. "We're sinking fast."

Banco Azteca and Grupo Elektra are key parts of Grupo Salinas, an amalgam of media, telecommunications, and retail businesses controlled by billionaire Ricardo B. Salinas Pliego. A maverick among Mexico's business elite, he has sparked controversy. In 2006 he settled civil fraud allegations by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission concerning the finances of his TV network, then traded on the New York Stock Exchange. He denied wrongdoing but paid $7.5 million and was barred for five years from serving as an executive or director of companies listed in the U.S.

The Salinas family began selling furniture on credit more than a century ago in the northern city of Monterrey. Ricardo, 51, says he learned early in life that those who work in Mexico's informal economy, without pay stubs or much collateral, and who can't afford sofas or blenders outright, will snap up merchandise if offered seemingly manageable terms. "If you want to become rich, sell to the poor," he recalls his grandfather instructing him.

He learned to get even richer by lending to the poor, and to those who are better off. Azteca targets 14.5 million Mexican families earning $5,100 to $33,600 a year. Mexico has a total population of 109 million, with a median annual household income of $7,297. Mainstream Mexican banks cater to the wealthier elite, while less than one-third of working-poor families have access to any banking services at all.

Azteca has absorbed Elektra's ethos of high-pressure employee quotas and incentives. Elektra clerks, clothed in the store's signature bright yellow, earn commissions on top of their standard weekly salary of $120 for tacking on extras such as warranties, life insurance, and even long-distance bus tickets. The biggest score comes from persuading a customer to spread payments over the longest possible period, 104 weeks. "Sell on credit and earn much more money!" an online company training manual states.

The strategy has far exceeded the expectations of Grupo Elektra executives. The bank already contributes one-fifth of its parent's $5 billion in annual revenue. It boasts a consumer loan portfolio of $2 billion and a healthy 22.3% return on shareholder equity.

The main Elektra/Azteca branch in San Martín Texmelucan aims to meet a daily target of $9,000 in fresh loans. The money isn't spewed out carelessly. With efficiency unusual in the Mexican marketplace, the bank deploys a cavalry of credit and collection agents on motorbikes. These jefes de crédito y cobranza visit borrowers within 24 hours of a purchase or loan application.

Juan Carlos Pérez Lopanzi, a 25-year-old college graduate who studied international commerce, serves as one of 13 credit agents in San Martín Texmelucan. One October morning, he rumbles up to the home of Maria Teresa Hernández as neighbors peer from their windows. Hernández, a 50-year-old street vendor, wants to borrow $460 for a new hot dog wagon. She isn't home, so Lopanzi questions her adult daughter about the family's finances. Do they rent or own? Have they lived there at least two years? What do they spend on food?

With each answer, Lopanzi taps the screen of a handheld computer. Data will be routed to Azteca's operations center in Mexico City. The state-of-the-art system keeps the cost of processing 7 million transactions a day to a mere 3 cents per transaction, according to Azteca. "It's amazing—all this is for poor people," says Juan Arévalo Carranza, the bank's technology chief.

Back in dusty San Martín Texmelucan, Azteca's proprietary software alerts the agent, Lopanzi, that Hernández, who earns $276 a month, doesn't qualify for a $460 loan. He offers $370 instead. That will require $10.60 weekly payments for 12 months for an APR of 85%. Hernández will end up paying $551. "If she had more income, she could have a shorter payback period, and the interest rate would be lower," the agent explains to the daughter. She shrugs, then nods in acceptance.

"Tell her she can go by the store this afternoon for her check," Lopanzi says, as he registers the serial numbers of the daughter's stereo, DVD player, TV, and refrigerator. The items' resale value, preprogrammed into Lopanzi's digital device, must add up to around double the value of the loan. If the woman fails to pay, Azteca will cart away the daughter's possessions and sell them in a Grupo Elektra used-goods store.

Azteca deducts the depreciated value of seized goods from outstanding loan balances, so if someone who doesn't pay has enough possessions to cover the debt, the bank considers it paid. Azteca bars such customers from borrowing again but doesn't count them as having defaulted, which helps explain its stated loan failure rate of just 1%. Banks serving more prosperous clients average a 5.3% default rate on consumer loans.

Mexican lenders benefit from attitudes cultivated in a society lacking a welfare safety net, personal bankruptcy system, or meaningful consumer protection laws. Credit bureaus have recently sprung up in Mexico, including one that Elektra helped start in 2005, and many among the working poor worry about sullying their new credit ratings. They assume that, one way or the other, they or their relatives will just have to pay back whatever they borrow, says Gustavo A. Del Angel, an economic historian who studies micro-finance at the Center of Research & Economic Teaching in Mexico City.

Borrowers who fall behind realistically fear public embarrassment. Photocopies of debtors' national identification cards sometimes turn up on telephone poles and at central marketplaces with warnings that say "DON'T LEND TO THIS PERSON!" Six months ago, an Azteca agent in San Martín Texmelucan posted such flyers. The company fired him. "Our system is not intended to be publicly shaming," says Niño de Rivera, Azteca's vice-chairman, but he acknowledges it "is intended to exercise peer pressure."

Even as Mexico's economy modernizes, companies operate with minimal oversight from government. Luis Pazos, head of Condusef, Mexico's regulator of consumer financial transactions, says his agency logs complaints about Azteca's collection methods and the adequacy of its disclosure of credit terms. "We've talked with that bank about the bad manners they've had," he says. But Condusef hasn't taken any substantial action against Azteca, which says it scrupulously polices the behavior of its employees. Last year, in a brash move characteristic of Grupo Salinas, lawyers for Azteca went to court rather than comply with a new law requiring banks to inform clients of the total financing costs they are charged. Azteca sought a type of protective order with which individuals or companies can shield themselves from application of a particular law or other government action. A federal judge granted the exception.

Freed of disclosure requirements, Azteca continues stressing weekly payments rather than long-term interest rates. When pressed for its average annual rate, Azteca asserts that it is about 55%. But Chuck Waterfield, a consultant based in Lancaster, Pa., who specializes in financial modeling for micro-lenders, points out that if Azteca's average rate is translated to make it comparable with APRs in the U.S., it comes to 110%. That's because Azteca charges interest on the full amount borrowed throughout the life of the loan, even as the principal declines—not on the declining balance, as is common in the U.S. An adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, Waterfield has no relationship with Azteca.

When Azteca loans go bad, the results can be bruising for borrowers. Porfirio Soriano Pérez and his son Zalatiel bought a $1,435 Chinese-made motorcycle last year on an 18-month plan that required $29 weekly payments. They intended to use the bike to scout out customers for the parsley they grow on several acres just outside San Martín Texmelucan. The Sorianos knew the 68% financing would boost the motorcycle's total cost to $2,289, but they lacked cash to pay up front.

In February, disaster hit. A hailstorm wiped out their crop and with it their $350 monthly income. "Suddenly," says Porfirio, "we had nothing to sell, and no money." They fell behind on payments. Soon a collection agent began showing up at the extended Soriano family's unpainted home. In October, Azteca delivered written warning of legal action. "The problem is that people go into the store and buy out of pure emotion," says Morales, chief of Azteca's local legal department.

The Sorianos already had paid $1,560 on the motorcycle—more than the original sticker price—and owed about $700 more, but ended up returning the purchase. That erased the debt in Porfirio's name. The company will resell the bike and recover the money it's owed. The Sorianos, meanwhile, have nothing left to plant a new crop.

Debate Room: Does access to credit help or hurt the poor?

Epstein is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau. Smith is BusinessWeek's Mexico bureau chief.

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FBI Combating Growing Violence Along The U.S. Border With Mexico

By Michael Webster
February 16, 2008
One of the FBI's important efforts to combat the growing violence along the U.S.border with Mexico is to deal with the region between the Texas cities of Del Rio and Brownsville which has experienced high levels of drug-related turmoil since 2003. The focal point of much of this activity is Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a border city situated directly across the Rio Grande River from Laredo, Texas.

Chris Swecker Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote drug traffickers have exacted an especially bloody toll in Nuevo Laredo and neighboring Mexican towns. Significant levels of violence and drug-related criminal activity also plague Laredo. As you know, this bloody drama revolves around the Gulf Cartel drug-trafficking organization, which dominates the region and commands smuggling operations along this stretch of the American Southwest.

Mr. Swecker in his report to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary stated that one of the cartel's enforcement groups are known as Los Zetas, bears primary responsibility for the most of the raising violence. They have been fighting a turf war on behalf of the Gulf Cartel against rival drug trafficking organizations. Because the Bureau focuses on large-scale enterprise investigations that target the command and control structures of criminal groups, we are well suited to help dismantle these trafficking organizations.

One of the most significant ramifications of the unrest along the border has been a string of kidnappings involving U.S. citizens. Between May 2004 and May 2005, there have been 35 reported abductions of U.S. citizens in this region (much larger numbers of Mexican citizens have been abducted along the border. From January to mid-August 2005, 202 kidnappings occurred in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel's operational center, which includes the cities of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa.) Thirty-four of these abductions occurred in Nuevo Laredo and involved U.S. citizens who had crossed the border. Twenty-three victims were released by their captors, nine victims remain missing, and two are confirmed dead.

These numbers likely represent only a fraction of the actual occurrences, because many kidnappings of U.S. citizens go unreported. There are two reasons for the underreporting of abductions along the border. First, victims and their families fear reprisal from kidnappers. Second, since many victims are alleged to be involved in drug trafficking, they and their families are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement.

In San Antonio there are 26 pending kidnapping cases. The FBI have offered all available resources to assist Mexican law enforcement and have followed every domestic lead to locate the U.S. kidnapping victims.

The Laredo Resident Agency received complaints from the families of U.S. citizens Janet Yvette Martinez and Brenda Yadira Cisneros after they disappeared on Sept. 17, 2004 in Nuevo Laredo. They remain missing. Investigation revealed that alleged members of Los Zetas kidnapped Martinez and Cisneros. Mexican authorities have cooperated and the FBI are working with them to review evidence in this case.

The FBI has interviewed all cooperative kidnapping victims subsequent to their release. In cases where the victim remains missing, they have tried to obtain DNA samples to identify any human remains, if recovered. In the one case where the kidnapping occurred within the United States (Laredo), the FBI helped rescue the victim before he was transported to Mexico. This investigation is pending and the assistant United States attorneys in Laredo and Houston are pursuing charges.

The FBI has Investigations Targeting Cartel Activity. The San Antonio Division alone has over 50 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations. These target Mexican drug trafficking organizations and related activities, including money laundering and gang violence. One of the investigations, Operation Cazadores, led to the indictment of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas-Guillen. The investigation continues to pursue fugitive Gulf Cartel leaders indicted along with Cardenas-Guillen.

United States Attorney Johnny Sutton and FBI Special Agent in Charge Ralph Diaz announced the indictment against 23 San Antonio residents, all of whom are in leadership positions in the Texas Mexican Mafia, for violating the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute.

"Intimidation, violence and murder are standard operating procedure for these gangsters. This indictment is the first step in putting them out of business," stated United States Attorney Johnny Sutton. "Since 2004, our office has put over 130 members of the Mexican Mafia in federal prison and we are committed to disrupting and dismantling this criminal organization."

Other pending investigations in Laredo, Houston, El Paso, and Dallas focus on the leadership of organizations affiliated with Cardenas-Guillen and others. 23 TEXAS MEXICAN MAFIA HIERARCHY CHARGED IN FEDERAL R.I.C.O. CASE

Mexican drug cartels responsible for recent border violence have also cemented ties to street and prison gangs on the U.S. side. U.S. gangs retail drugs purchased from Mexican traffickers and often work as cartel surrogates or enforcers on U.S. soil. Intelligence suggests Los Zetas ("They're known as Los Zetas") have hired members of various gangs at different times including the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, MS-13, and Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos to further their criminal endeavors.

The FBI claims that they are well-equipped to deal with these groups. The FBI, in conjunction with their law enforcement partners, has established a National Gang Intelligence Center at FBI Headquarters. In addition, they have established task forces throughout the country to disrupt gang activity. The FBI's San Antonio Division currently operates two Safe Street/Gang task forces addressing border violence in San Antonio and the total Rio Grand Valley.

These FBI-led task forces include FBI special agents, other federal agents, and local law enforcement officers: the San Antonio Safe Streets/Gang Task Force is comprised of nine FBI special agents and 13 task force officers; the Rio Grande Valley Safe Streets/Gang Task Force is comprised of eight FBI special agents and five task force officers.

The FBI claims they continues to collect and share intelligence with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Through Safe Streets task forces, they are collecting intelligence and exploring the connections between Mexican cartels and gangs along the border. The FBI is currently participating in Operation Blackjack, an interagency endeavor in conjunction with Mexican authorities. Through this program they have exchanged vital targeting intelligence on Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel with their law enforcement colleagues, including DEA, ATF, and appropriate elements of DHS.

More broadly, at the core of their intelligence-gathering effort lies the FBI's McAllen Intelligence Center. The MIC, as it is commonly known, is comprised of representatives from various local, state, and federal agencies in Texas. This is the central repository for border violence-related intelligence. The MIC collects and analyzes criminal intelligence from state, local, and federal investigations along the Texas/Mexico border.

The center routinely shares intelligence with Mexican officials and over 300 law enforcement agencies in South Texas. This includes material regarding corrupt Mexican officials, gang activity along the border, and drug trafficking. The McAllen Intelligence Center also maintains a comprehensive database of Zetas, their associates, and members of both the Gulf Cartel and its rivals.

The FBI has had several operational successes based on intelligence they gathered and passed on to Mexican officials. Some of the information the FBI provided to Mexican officials helped Mexican federal and military authorities locate two Zeta safe houses in Nuevo Laredo in June 2005, where they rescued 44 kidnapping victims.

FBI officials recently met with their Mexican counterparts and discussed the location of several suspected Zeta-owned ranches. Based on information furnished by the FBI, Mexican authorities conducted surveillance of the locations and provided the FBI with the resulting intelligence.

Eight other FBI special agents in the Resolution 6 program cover five major cities in Mexico working in DEA offices, which affords complete coordination with DEA resources and investigations. These agents develop intelligence regarding the activities of Mexican criminal enterprises to support U.S. investigations.

All of this work is coordinated with representatives from key DEA offices and Mexican officials. Recently Mexican authorities used FBI Resolution 6 intelligence to conduct several drug seizures, including seven tons of marijuana attributed to Joaquin Guzman-Loera, archrival of the Gulf Cartel. In September 2005, FBI Headquarters deployed analytical resources to Monterrey, Mexico, to provide case support.

The FBI says they are committed to continue to aggressively pursue the major organizations and violent criminals responsible for lawlessness along the border. The FBI, along with there colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State, is working with the Mexican Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey to identify Los Zetas members and their associates in order to revoke their immigration documents. This measure will make it more difficult for them to enter and operate in the United States. FBI is also cooperating with other U.S. law enforcement agencies in investigations targeting Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and their enemies.

On October 13, 2005, the U.S. attorney general announced the creation of an ATF-led Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) in Laredo. In combination with the VCITs already established in Los Angeles, Tucson, Albuquerque, El Paso and Houston, the Laredo VCIT will address cross-border violence. The VCIT model combines local police resources with ATF investigative and technical expertise and the resources of ICE, CBP, and other federal law enforcement partners to reduce the violence that plagues our most crime-ridden communities.

The Mexican government has described the violence as revenge for President Felipe Calderón's year-old crackdown on organized crime that sent thousands of soldiers and federal police into violence-plagued Mexican cities bordering the United States. The FBI is taking pro-active measures to assess and confront this heightened threat to public safety on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, including participation in multiple bilateral multi-agency meetings and working groups to hone strategies to address the problem. Our intelligence gathering activities provide windows into these organizations and their operations while our investigative efforts strive to disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations and reduce the violence in the region.

Paramilitary groups such as the Zetas, Los Negros, Los Numeros, and others who work for Mexican drug cartels as enforcers are a serious threat to public safety on both sides of the entire U.S./Mexico border. They are well financed and well equipped. Their willingness to shoot and kill law enforcement officers on both sides of the border makes these paramilitary groups among the most dangerous criminal enterprises in North America.


Laguna Journal

FBI's McAllen Intelligence Center, Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States Customs Service (USCS), Federal Bureau Of Investigation FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Customs Enforcement and Bureau of Customs Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Pima County Sheriff's Dept., US Army Defense Intelligence Agency, El Paso Police Dept. El Paso Sheriff Dept.

Rommel Moreo Manjarrez, Baja California's attorney general, Mexican Army Gen. Germn Redondo Azuara,

Edgar Millan a top official with Mexico's federal Public Security Secretariat, and Juarez Mexico Police Dept.