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gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in ColombiaMacroeconomic trends show there has been equitable growth in Colombia. While as of 2017 Colombia holds the second-highest wealth inequality rate in Latin America, only slightly better than Brazil, it has been on a downward trend since 2000. Additionally, poverty in Colombia dropped by 15% between 2008 and 2017 to a low of 27%. Extreme poverty was cut in half from 2002 to 2014, with more than 6 million people moving out of poverty. This put more Colombians in the middle class than in poverty for the first time. Finally, between 2008 and 2017, the country’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 3.8%. This is more than twice as fast as the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Problems

However, increasing exports drives much of the recent growth and reduction in poverty in Colombia. Commodity prices have risen significantly over the past several years. This growth is unsustainable, as a recent drop in prices has hindered the export industry. Colombia has also been struggling with such issues as a lack of financial inclusion, low productivity, low-skilled workers and a large informal economy.

The informal economy consists of such jobs as farmworkers, taxi drivers and street vendors where “they make no direct tax contributions, have no security of employment and do not receive pensions or other social benefits.” As of May 2014, informal workers made up nearly two-thirds of the Colombian labor force. This means millions do not possess a dependable income. They do not have the opportunity to contribute to or receive a pension fund or other government benefits. For these reasons, the large informal sector is also a big contributor to inequality and poverty in Colombia.

Another major issue holding back Colombia has been its decades-long internal struggle for peace. Nearly a quarter-million Colombians have died from the conflict, with 25,000 disappearing and nearly 6 million being displaced. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2016, tensions are still high in the country between the government and the rebel militia.

Solutions

Nonetheless, steps are being taken to ensure that Colombia is able to continue its recent progress. With nearly 6 million people displaced because of the internal conflict, land restitution is a key step to make. With the help of the World Bank, 1,852 land restitution legal cases were held by the end of 2014. Additionally, the World Bank helped the Colombian government give reparations to those affected by the conflict, with a focus on Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who were disproportionately affected.

Digitalization and use of technology are being used to help formalize businesses by simplifying the registration process and making tax collection more efficient, enabling businesses and individuals to pay taxes and contribute to the pension system and providing them access to many social benefits. Digitalization also provides greater access to financial services. This is done by providing micro-credits, expanding the outreach of banking services, lowering the cost of financial services and simplifying electronic payments.

USAID’s Role in Poverty Reduction in Colombia

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been involved in helping decrease poverty in Colombia by increasing the presence of democratic institutions in the country. Through this, the USAID hopes to “foster a culture of respect for human rights, promote access to justice, increase public investment and provide services to historically underserved and conflictive rural areas.” This organization fights for inclusive growth and encourages investment in rural areas. Additionally, it helps producers expand their market, provides financial services and helps restore the land to its original owners before the conflict.

All of these efforts and many more are being made to reduce poverty in Colombia. The goal is to keep the country on a path toward equitable and inclusive development that leads to a reduction of inequality.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Chile
Like many other countries, Chile has struggled to ensure its citizens remain out of poverty. Luckily, the country has experienced economic growth over the past few years, now one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. This success can be seen by looking at how much of the population was impoverished in 2000 compared to 2017. In 2000, 30% of the population was impoverished. By 2017, the country was able to cut that number all the way down to 3.7%. As a result, Chile has grown its economy, helped those in poverty and reduced the poverty rate.

3 Things to Know About Poverty Reduction in Chile

  1. Free-Market: Much of the reason there has been poverty reduction in Chile is due in part to its decision to become a free-market economy in the mid-1980s. This resulted in increased trade with other countries. From 1985 to 1989, Chilean exports doubled. That trend has only continued for the country up into the modern day. By becoming a free-market economy, the country set itself up for a healthier economy.
  2. Chile Solidario: The Chilean government has implemented a multitude of programs to bring aid to those in poverty and bring about poverty reduction in Chile. The Chile Solidario was the first large-scale version of such programs. The program continued throughout the years 2002 and 2009. One of the ways the program met the needs of impoverished people in Chile was by actually sending case workers out to meet with Chilean citizens in poverty and rectify the problems they struggle with. By doing so, the program was able to personalize the aid given to a family depending on the unique problems that family was struggling with. While Chile Solidario did not help with employing Chilean citizens in poverty or improving housing conditions, it did help them use the welfare system within the country to get them through their economic troubles.
  3. Countercyclical policy: A countercyclical policy works opposite to the business cycle rather than along with it. The country instead lowers taxes and increases spending during a periods when the market is not favorable and raises taxes and reduces spending when the market is favorable. During the early 2000s, Chile adopted a countercyclical policy. As a result, public spending remains at the same rate throughout the year. The countercyclical policy has proven effective and reliable in Chile. For example, copper is the most important export to the Chilean economy. During 2009, however, the copper industry suffered quickly and as a result unemployment increased to 10%. The excess money that Chile saved up due to its countercyclical policy was used as a stimulus to help the people. Therefore, this policy can promote poverty reduction in Chile should there be an economic crisis in the future.

Due to the Chilean government’s actions, Chile has reduced poverty and provided a better standard of living for its people. Moving forward, it is essential that the country and other humanitarian organizations continue to focus on poverty reduction and improving livelihoods. If they do, poverty in Chile will hopefully continue to decrease.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GuatemalaGuatemala is a Central American country that borders Mexico and Belize to the North, and Honduras and El Salvador to the Southeast. With a population of 17.2 million as of 2018, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. Of the country’s total population, an estimated 45-60% is indigenous, and approximately 59% of the total population lives in poverty. Although most demographics in the country face poverty, rural indigenous communities feel the effects most acutely.

Second-Highest Level of Poverty in the Americas

Poverty in Guatemala is disproportionately high for the country with the largest economy in Central America; while Guatemala had a Gross Domestic Product of $75.62 billion in 2017, it also has the second-highest level of poverty in the Americas. Since 2006, poverty has grown. Approximately 2 million people slid below the poverty line (measured by an income of less than U.S. $5 per day) from 2006-2014. During the same window of time, around half a million slipped into extreme poverty (U.S.$1.90 or less per day). According to a national survey, the poverty rate among indigenous, predominantly rural communities is as high as 79%.

Poor Distribution of Resources

Extreme socioeconomic and geographic inequality largely characterizes the nature of poverty in Guatemala. As many as eight in 10 citizens living in rural municipalities live in poverty. One study found, from a sample of six other Latin American countries, that Guatemala had the poorest distribution of health and educational resources. Access to health resources and quality education is key in enhancing social mobility and bringing individuals out of poverty. Poor distribution of these resources in rural areas fortifies the regional cycle of poverty between contributing to lower life expectancy and limiting opportunities for education.

Additionally, chronic malnutrition debilitates poor Guatemalan communities; the level of malnutrition in Guatemalan children—47% as of 2019—is the highest of all the Latin American countries, and among the highest globally. This aggravates the cycle of poverty as well. Malnutrition burdens the already-limited healthcare system and stunts the local economic potential by reducing the physical and intellectual capability of youth. While many families traditionally subsist on agriculture to feed themselves, chronic drought has left many of these communities fully reliant on overseas remittances for survival.

Effects of the Coronavirus

As is the case in many countries, experts anticipate that poverty in Guatemala will increase as a result of COVID-19. In addition to the uneven allocation of health resources, the country’s poor have also suffered under strict lockdown rules, job loss and an enormous reduction in overseas remittances. The country reported a 17.2% loss in remittances corresponding with the rising unemployment rate in the U.S. These remittances not only make up approximately 12% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product but directly impact those families that rely on that form of income to feed themselves.

Additionally, stay-at-home orders have effectively collapsed the country’s informal economy, in which 70% of Guatemalans participate. Unregulated by the government, the informal economy comes with no formal protections or benefits in the event of labor loss. Similarly, official reports of unemployment in Guatemala are disproportionately skewed, as only 30% of Guatemalans work in the formal sector; this allows for employment statistics to disproportionately represent the number of individuals at risk of slipping into poverty.

NGOs Working to Help

Both domestic and international NGOs have turned their attention to meeting the challenges of poverty; these include issues both introduced and aggravated, respectively, by the COVID-19 pandemic. The humanitarian group Plan International presently tracks food prices via telephone surveys throughout Guatemala, identifying which regions are most food insecure.

The locally-based Konojel Community Centre is working to adapt their boots-on-the-ground services, suspending traditional programs aimed at reducing child malnutrition in order to distribute food packages to the community’s most vulnerable families. Simultaneously, Konojel Community Centre’s director is currently pushing the Guatemalan government to apply for loans from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to lessen the blow of economic crisis in vulnerable areas.

This comes at a time that Konojel Community Centre, like many NGOs at present, is hard-pressed for funding with the sharp decline of the global economy. Despite the circumstances, these NGOs are working to prevent as much loss of progress on malnutrition and poverty in Guatemala as possible.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Drug Cartels Target Impoverished Children

Drug cartels are a rising problem everywhere, especially for those that are in poverty. Children, specifically children in poverty, are generally the most vulnerable population anywhere in the world. Latin American drug cartels target impoverished children specifically due to their innocence and willingness to obey. Although this situation seems unfixable, people are uniting together against Latin American drug cartels, providing much needed hope.

The Situation

In Latin America, 43 percent of children live in poverty. These children’s come from families with no money for food, clothing or shelter. Cartels know the struggles of these children, so they offer them work. Because many feel they have no choice but to accept work from Latin American drug cartels, 80 percent of children under 25 agree to work for them.

Young children in Mexico and other Latin American countries draw less suspicion than older individuals and are willing to work for little money. As a result, the cartels use them in every way possible. Cartels often send children unaccompanied to push drugs across borders. Subsequently, border security will help unaccompanied children, thus enabling drug traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.

How Countries Combat Drug Cartels

Luckily for these children, countries are taking steps to eliminate cartels. Recently, Mexico initiated a joint investigative team with the U.S. to fight against drug cartels. The U.S. and Mexico have worked together to combat cartels since the 1970s. For instance, one program, the Merida Initiative, worked to stop the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and, subsequently, Latin American cartels. Similarly, the U.S. and Mexico offer amnesty to drug dealers in exchange for information.

This new joint investigative team is based in Chicago and directly targets cartel finances. Cartels survive by distributing goods to suppliers and laundering money. Therefore, disrupting their finances and cracking down on money laundering will drastically slow their production. In doing so, the team intends to weaken and ultimately stop Latin American drug cartels.

How Nonprofit Organizations and KIND Help

Nonprofit organizations band together to help the children that drug smugglers employed previously. One organization in particular, KIND, is dedicated to offering such help. KIND protects children’s rights when unaccompanied children are detained by the U.S. and when they are on the move. KIND ensures detained children receive necessary legal aid, especially as these children are burdened with an immigration system they do not understand.

With the U.S. and Mexico targeting drug cartels’ financial assets and nonprofit organizations providing the necessary help, there is hope to eliminate drug cartels and keep vulnerable children safe. The U.S. and Mexico, along with nonprofit organizations, are executing solutions to keep drug cartels away from children and shut them down altogether.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

Helping the Poor in Latin America: Saving with Reliable MeasuresThe definition of poverty in Latin America has multiple standards. Twenty years ago, foreign academic fields and institutions considered those with an individual monthly income of less than 60 dollars as poor and less than 30 dollars as extremely poor. In addition, economic development in Latin American nations vary, while their different standards on salary, labor productivity, and purchasing power indicate varied distributions on social wealth. There is no doubt that helping the poor in Latin America urges global attention. The current population of poverty rates in Latin American countries are unevenly proportioned, as it is as high as 50 percent in the Honduras and Guatemala, and as low as 5 to 10 percent in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.

Poverty in Latin America stands for complex, chronic, chaotic events with cumulated difficulties to handle. Considering a representative nation with a significantly reduced poverty rate such as Chile, the successful experience is at least owing to two points. For one thing, continuous economic growth brings about more opportunities for employment, providing a solid foundation for helping people to overcome poverty. For the other, the government pays relatively high concerns on poverty issues and carries out certain measures to solve concrete problems related to the poor. Organizations guided by political leaders and officers of each level are dedicated to eliminating poverty and the national annual budget used for social welfare, takes a large proportion of their total expenditure. Looking at Chile as an example, it seems to be that a combination of both economic and social progress is needed in order to help the poor.

What are some other effective ways of helping the poor in Latin America? Besides the mutual efforts of individuals and governments helping the poor, other factors such as natural disasters, political unrest, and financial crises could easily aggravate the alleviated poverty reduction. As voices of experience, Latin American countries should regulate and execute social policies to help the poor with orientations on their actual needs and viabilities. Those individuals who are categorized as extremely poor must be prioritized, and the existing mechanism of economy also needs to balance assisting the poor and preventing reoccurrences of unemployment or poverty. Providing freedom of necessity on immigration, insurance, trade, and shelters require common agreement.

Poverty comes hand in hand with discrimination and inequality towards women in Latin America. It is a topic related to poverty treatment that cannot be emphasized enough. Distribution of wealth between genders is also uneven. Hence, governments must consider increasing the hiring of female labors, as well as leverage better welfare to single mothers and any family with multiple kids.

In sum, quite a few national and regional programs on helping the poor in Latin America have released poverty issues at certain degrees, with the root of poverty being originated from some kind of unfair distribution. The unique solution towards poverty is by means of fair distribution on social wealth. While justice of distribution requires a long way to go for helping and saving the poor in Latin America, decreasing instances of poverty is not impossible, involving important aspects of both national and social systems.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in Chile

Latin America is notorious for having poor water quality. Worried travelers and residents try to avoid drinking tap water or cooking with it. But most people do not know the facts about water quality in Chile. Here are a few from the north of the country all the way to its southern tip.

In northern Chile is the Atacama Desert, which is known as one of the driest places on Earth. This area, which contains many small towns and villages, receives about one millimeter or less of rainfall per year. Certain towns used to obtain water from a nearby well which was fed by a river flowing down from the Andes Mountains. However, out of the 20 wells, only one exists today. It is common for people here to buy bottled water; however, bottled water is nearly 10 times the cost of tap water.

Central Chile is where most of the bigger cities are located, and Santiago, the capital, is one of them. Very little water comes from the mountains on the outskirts of the city. Temperatures are rising, glaciers are retreating and the mountains are gradually losing their snow-capped peaks. Water availability is predicted to fall by nearly 40 percent by 2070, and experts are claiming that water will become the most important physical commodity worldwide, toppling oil and precious metals. The situation in Santiago is so bad that residents have staged multiple protests over the privatization of the water industry, which occurred in 1981.

Maybe the most iconic area of the country is Patagonia, in the southern portion of the country. Residents, researchers and travelers flock to this sparsely populated region of Chile. Some American and Chilean scientists claim that the Chilean Patagonia has the purest water on the planet. Dr. Guido F. Verbeck, director of the UNT Laboratory of Imaging Mass Spectrometry, said of Patagonia’s water, “Our results confirm that these waters are clean, the cleanest waters existing on the planet. In fact, the instruments we use to study the samples can detect chemical compounds in the water up to two parts per million, and here, we did not detect anything.” There is very little pollution in this part of the world. Unpolluted freshwater accounts for .003 percent of the total water available globally and most of it is found here.

There are many issues with water quality in Chile. From pollution and overpopulation to excessive mining and the draining of natural resources, it could be the reason that selling water in some cities is one of the highest tariffs in Latin America. There is some good news regarding the water quality in Chile, however. More wells have been dug, residents have set up reverse osmosis water purification systems and the country is implementing a national irrigation strategy that includes a plan to construct 15 reservoirs. If Chile continues to be proactive about maintaining its water resources, it can ensure good water quality and access for all of its citizens.

– Lorial Roballo

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South AmericaThe regions of Central and South America, in addition to the Caribbean Islands, collectively comprise what is currently recognized as Latin America, which is home to a growing population of roughly 637.6 million inhabitants. Of the three, the twelve nations of South America comprise the majority, or about 66 percent of that population. Despite all of these countries having experienced economic turmoil, political instability and social injustices, as a whole, the issue of hunger in South America does appear to be improving.

Since 1991, hunger in South America has seen significant declines. The largest of these has been Bolivia, which had 38 percent of its population without sufficient access to food in 1991. As of 2015, it had managed to reduce this number to 15.9 percent. Other countries have also made significant strides, such as Peru, which reduced its percentage of hunger from 31.6 in 1991 to 7.5 percent in 2015.

The basis for these accomplishments was established after Latin America adopted a U.N. Millennium Development Goal in 2000. The goal was to cut hunger in half in South America and its other regions by 2015, according to a State of Food Insecurity in the World report released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. The region fortunately accomplished this goal, and while South America still has the largest proportion of undernourished people to its population, it was able to do this at a quicker and more effective rate than Central America or the Caribbean Islands.

One reason it was likely able to do this is that a handful of countries in South America are major agricultural producers and exporters. Brazil, for example, uses 31 percent of its land for crops; the country mainly grows sugarcane, but they also are dominant producers of coffee, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, papayas and oranges. Additionally, they rank second behind the U.S. in terms of total beef production. Similarly, Argentina is also a large beef producer, and Ecuador is a dominant producer of bananas.

In fact, due to its current production levels and untapped resources, economists and agricultural experts have speculated that Latin American countries will have a decisive role to play in the coming decades when it comes to global food production, something that could certainly play to their advantage. As of 2015, Latin American food imports accounted for a mere four percent of food imports worldwide. In contrast, their food exports accounted for 16 percent of food exports worldwide.

However, there are still tens of millions of people experiencing hunger in South America today. The existence of such a problem reflects that South America’s issue is not that it lacks sufficient food resources, but that it lacks adequate methods of distributing and allowing access to these resources. This is typically reflective of a larger, systemic problem of inequality. However, if resolved, it could improve the continent’s ability to produce and distribute these resources at a rate that would allow its countries to not only be dominant economic players in the international community, but also to take care of their own citizens simultaneously.

In a world whose population is estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, and whose food demands are expected to be 60 percent higher than they are today, it is critical that Latin America, and more importantly South American governments, establish economic reform that would allow for more equal food distribution. By doing so, they could then benefit from and play a major role in assisting future food shortages across the globe.

– Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr

Violence in Latin AmericaEvery year, the Citizen’s Council for Public Security in Mexico releases a ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world. The list is based on homicides per urban residents and does not include conflict zones such as Mosul, Iraq. The recently released 2016 ranking demonstrates the range of violence in Latin America: of the top 50 cities, 42 are in Latin America.

The biggest Latin American country, Brazil, accounted for the highest number of cities on the list at a whopping 19. Mexico and Venezuela rounded out the top three, and the Venezuelan city of Caracas topped the list. It is also worth noting that a number of smaller Latin American countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, all had cities on the list. The concentration of urban violence in these 43 Latin American cities is alarming.

The link between global poverty and violence emerges clearly from this ranking. Many of the causes of violence in Latin America can be directly linked to symptoms of poverty such as hunger, political instability and weak public institutions. Venezuela, the country with the chart-topping city of Caracas, demonstrates this connection clearly.

Caracas ranked as the most violent city in the world for the second year in a row. In addition, four of the top 10 most violent cities were Venezuelan. Venezuela currently finds itself in a crisis state from a mix of political instability, extreme hunger and economic desperation. Venezuela’s financial woes spring from the collapse of the oil industry, governmental corruption and economic mismanagement. The crisis has become so extreme that 75 percent of the population has lost an average of 19 pounds in five years. The desperation and frustration from this situation have inspired massive government protests, many of which have turned violent. This confluence of factors has contributed to Venezuela’s prominent position on the list of most violent cities.

Venezuela presents one of the most extreme examples of the connection between poverty and violence, but a number of other trends also characterize the Latin American cities that dominate the list. Drug trafficking throughout the region is a large contributor. Violence between rival cartels placed Acapulco, Mexico in the number two spot on the list.

Brazil, the country with the most cities on the list, faces many of the same challenges as Venezuela. Governmental corruption and poor public services have spurred massive demonstrations that have led to widespread violence.

A few small Central American countries also face their own unique challenges. Countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have a disproportionately high number of cities on the list given their tiny sizes. Drug trafficking and weak public institutions are important causes in these countries. But impunity and histories of civil war and divisive social issues also play into the high violence rates in these small countries.

The range of violence in Latin America is large, but there are various factors that can be generalized across the region. Foreign aid from countries like the United States can help alleviate some of the common causes of violence. For instance, Venezuela’s economy has reached its last $10 billion. Providing food and economic support to the Venezuelan people could help stabilize the country and lead to more democratic and peaceful state than the violence currently ravaging the country. More than anything, people in Venezuela and the region at large need money and resources to stem the tide of violence across Latin America.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in CubaCuba is a unique island nation whose economy has been the subject of contention for decades. It is also a poor country that struggles to provide housing, transportation and other necessities. The Borgen Project outlines five of the main causes of poverty in Cuba.

Top 5 Causes of Poverty in Cuba

1. U.S. Embargo

Following Fidel Castro’s assumption of power in 1961, the U.S. imposed an embargo that abruptly deprived Cuban exporters of the recipient of 95 percent of their exports. Since then, the embargo has strictly restricted Cubans’ access to American products, contributing to shortages of everything from food, to electronics and internet access. The legislation of the embargo even includes sanctions against other countries that do business with Cuba. In this way, the embargo significantly limits Cubans’ access to products, partners and the means to climb out of poverty.

2. Agriculture

Like many developing countries across the world, Cuba has historically depended on agriculture as its main industry. Agricultural dependence often limits countries’ abilities to develop infrastructure and establish economic stability. Until the 1990s, the primary economic driver in Cuba was sugar. Because of this historical reliance on a single crop, Cuba has been ill-prepared to deal with changes in the global economy and to diversify beyond its agricultural roots.

3. Allies

For more than thirty years, Cuba was allied with the former Soviet Union. This relationship created special trading conditions which benefited the Cuban economy. Cuba traded sugar to the USSR for much-needed goods and economic support; but when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba experienced a 35 percent contraction of its GDP. In a country of only 11 million people, this financial crash was more extreme than the American Great Depression. Cuba has yet to fully recover from this economic blow.

4. Dependence

Cuba’s troubles with the USSR are part of a larger pattern of centralization. For the majority of the country’s history, Cuba depended on a single trading partner for over 90 percent of its foreign trade. Cuba’s exclusive relationship with first the U.S. and then the USSR caused big problems when these partners suddenly disappeared. Cuba also traditionally focused industrially on sugar production; this centralization further limits Cuba’s ability to find sources of revenue to meet the country’s needs.

5. Social Services

Cubans enjoy free health care and education, as well as subsidized housing and food rations. These social benefits form a safety net rare to the developing world and even many developed countries; but these social services come at a cost. Spending on social services can limit the amount of money available to the Cuban government and the Cuban people especially in times of economic crisis.

The causes of poverty in Cuba are similar to those in the rest of Latin America, but Cuba’s unique position also presents the country with some unique challenges. Still, thanks to Cuba’s vigorous social services, many Cubans can count themselves lucky compared to other impoverished nations.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Pixabay