Over the Borderline: Part Three.

Barbed wire surrounding an encampment at the border. Image Description: Barbed wire surrounding an encampment at the border.

Summary: Our third and final installment of Over The Borderline stays below the U.S. southern border to look at the economic factors that contribute to mass migration from Central and South American countries specifically. We look at the root economic causes of migration, the U.S. failure to meaningfully partner with LAC nations to promote mutually beneficial economic conditions and the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Latin America and the geopolitical impact that’s having on our relationships.

The first installment of this series covered the surge of migration to non-border state cities like New York and the impact it’s having on city services, agencies and the migrants themselves. We interviewed Marlene Galaz from New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) to help us understand the issue from both the social services perspective and the experience of migrant families and individuals who often find themselves in precarious situations. The second installment examined immigration from the political perspective of Latin American nations in particular. To help us work through this complex narrative we spoke with Maureen Meyer from The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Our third and final installment of Over The Borderline stays below the U.S. southern border to look at the economic factors that contribute to mass migration from Central and South American countries specifically. We look at the root economic causes of migration, the U.S. failure to meaningfully partner with LAC nations to promote mutually beneficial economic conditions and the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Latin America and the geopolitical impact that’s having on our relationships.


Chapter One: Newsflash. We’re not the only America.

Sometimes it feels as though the only economies in the world that matter are the U.S. and China. At least, that feels like the dominant narrative on mainstream news and business reporting outlets. In fairness, U.S. GDP at the close of 2023 was around $27 trillion and China was $17 trillion. After that, the drop is substantial with Germany and Japan each reporting a little more than $4 trillion. So I’ll concede that there are levels to this economic game. If you add Brazil and Mexico together, they’re about the same size as Germany or Japan. To give an idea of scale, the entire LAC region—again that’s Latin America and the Caribbean—is somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5 trillion according to the World Bank.

This month, the World Bank released a comprehensive report on the LAC region that benchmarks its performance against other economies and speaks to some of the institutional challenges it faces post-COVID. Broadly, it shows that the LAC has recovered lost GDP since the pandemic, but that the overall recovery has been much slower than most other economies. It’s important to note that when we look at economic figures of the LAC in totality, Brazil and Mexico have a tendency to influence the figures due to the size and scale of their populations and economies. Brazil’s population is around 216 million and Mexico is about 128 million. For reference, the next most populous country is Colombia at 52 million.

Because Brazil and Mexico are projected to slow down in 2024, the overall forecast for the region was downgraded from 2.3% in September of 2023 to 1.6% as of March of this year.

One of the positive signs, however, has been the LAC’s ability to combat inflation, bringing it down to 3.6% as of the end of 2023 compared to a sustained average of 6% in the OECD nations. According to the World Bank:

“This encouraging performance is due to the dissipation of the supply shocks to food and fuel, as well as the easing of pandemic-induced supply chain congestion, and the energic monetary policy response of the monetary authorities.”

There are positive and negative stories to tell, of course. What’s tricky is that Brazil and Mexico really do have an outsized impact on economic data. For example, poverty has worsened since the pandemic in most LAC nations, but as a whole it improved because Mexico and Brazil have managed poverty programs better than their peers. This is particularly true in Brazil where Lula da Silva has reinstated the Bolsa Familia suite of public welfare programs that were a hallmark of his original tenure. In Mexico there was an increase in earnings and labor participation, which has helped bolster the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Conglomerates and Corruption

The report details some of the structural differences between LAC economies and perhaps what we’re used to in the U.S. and China by comparison. As much as the United States has seen its share of massive consolidation and giant companies—especially in the tech sector, protein manufacturing industry, the airline industry and media for example, and the PRC is still a dominant factor in central planning—Latin American industries are rife with large combinations and oligarchies that exercise control over economic and political decisions.

For example, the World Bank report specifically calls out the writ of amparo, which was designed to protect individual constitutional rights and really has no analogous feature in common law for us to compare. The report isolates amparo because powerful corporations have been using it for their benefit to tie up antitrust rulings. The World Banks says the practice is suddenly so widespread that consulting firms specializing in defending conglomerates are popping up all over Latin America. I suppose we could liken this to the impact of the Citizens United decision in the U.S. to protect corporate speech as a civil liberty.

This specific note highlights one of the biggest issues that pervades governance in the LAC. Special interest corporations have a far greater impact in the LAC than in other parts of the world, which has made many countries prone to systemic corruption. This corruption is expressed in different ways throughout the region.

Ecuador, for example, has been infiltrated by international drug cartels most notably from Albania. Few countries in the LAC escaped the corrupt labor and environmental practices of large corporations such as the notorious United Fruit Company, one of the most ruthless monopolies in modern history.

Figures like Carlos Slim loom large over Mexican economic affairs, though Slim appears to have had a reasonable working relationship and understanding with the Obrador administration. In Mexico there is a delicate dance between tycoons like Slim, the powerful drug cartels, administrative state and increasing influence of the Mexican military over civilian affairs.

And then, there’s the hundred year miss on the part of the United States to fully appreciate and recognize the potential of the Latin American economies and natural resources on our own economy.

And that’s what brings us to the matter at hand.

We’ve spoken at length about our nefarious interventions and colonial behavior in nearly every Latin American and Caribbean country over the past 100 years. Suffice it to say, we’ve been a terrible big sibling. Not since the brief experiment of dollar diplomacy under the Taft administration has there been a coordinated and comprehensive economic policy toward Latin America. And, no, NAFTA doesn’t count.

It’s impossible to say what the state of affairs in Latin America would be had we pursued true partnerships rather than a combination of neocolonialism and neoliberalism. And that doesn’t touch on the ideological-based military interventions during the Cold War era, which destabilized much of Central America and the Caribbean and parts of South America; a philosophy that pervades State Department thinking today as evidenced by our sanctions policy toward Cuba and Venezuela—though the latter is beginning to thaw—and our tendency to intervene in electoral politics.

Old habits die hard.

Conditions for Economic Success

If you think about the extraordinary conditions required to make an economy like the United States perform so far beyond every other nation on the planet, it’s quite remarkable. You need:

  • A competent labor force.
  • An educated population.
  • Diverse natural resources.
  • Robust transportation infrastructure.
  • Access to ports and waterways.
  • A stable government.
  • Competent bureaucrats.
  • A reliable legal system.
  • A universal regulatory framework.
  • And an established banking system.

My feelings on the abuses of the capitalist system aside, the U.S. economy is a complex marvel. Outside of these internal building blocks upon which any economy rests is an equally complex web of human and financial transactions that facilitate the movement of goods, capital, labor and services. It’s here the United States and other mature so-called liberal economies have gorged themselves and where our story takes hold.


Chapter Two: Conquest.

In A Short History of U.S. Interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean, author Alan McPherson encapsulates the U.S. relationship with Latin America.

“Economic goals were present in almost all interventions, but sometimes in abstract, indirect ways. In the Mexican War and filibustering expeditions, land acquisition was a central motif, and large U.S. landowners and slaveholders were cheerleaders for war. But most U.S. citizens were more concerned with national greatness and racial hierarchies. The ‘liberation’ of Cuba in 1898 was even less economic, since sugar producers were divided and would only later recognize the advantages of acquiring Cuban lands. Cold War interventions, meanwhile, were economic only in that they aimed to protect capitalism - but, with the exception of United Fruit in Guatemala and copper companies in Chile, not specific capitalists. The apex of U.S. economic motives came with the rash of small interventions and large occupations in the first third of the twentieth century. To be sure, this speaks to the importance of economic motives such as land purchases, tariff revisions, acquisitions of markets abroad, and extensions of Wall Street loans. But even in that overtly imperialist era, interventions such as the Punitive Expedition had next to no economic rationale.”

I love this explanation because it describes the imperial and paternalistic relationship between the U.S. and the LAC. Looking back it seems so obvious that a coordinated regional and hemispheric effort to build mature and fair trade relationships would have inured to the benefit of both the U.S. and Latin America. Instead, we largely ignored it and built a Rube Goldberg network of economic relationships constructed around false foreign policy narratives, racialized world views and exploitation.

Much of the focus of this piece is on Central and South America, leaving the Caribbean nations to the side. Through an economic lens, the contributions of the Caribbean nations to trade tend to be small and narrow. Exports such as sugar, gold, certain alcohols and fossil fuels and industry drivers like tourism and financial havens are all sectors of influence in the Caribbean. But again, the impact on the regional or global trade infrastructure is minimal.

So let’s zoom out to examine the economic characteristics of some of the larger Latin American nations to understand exactly where they fit into the global economic portrait.

Brazil

As the largest economy in South America, Brazil’s export profile is diverse. Its primary exports include agricultural products like soybeans, beef, poultry, and coffee. Additionally, Brazil is a significant exporter of iron ore, which is vital for the steel industry. The country also exports aircrafts, automobiles, and other manufactured goods.

Honorable mention goes to the whole of the Amazon, largely located in Brazil for generating one of the most important natural resources for the planet: Oxygen.

Argentina

Another agricultural powerhouse, Argentina’s top exports include soybeans, corn, wheat, and beef. Additionally, Argentina is known for its automotive industry, exporting vehicles and automobile parts to various countries.

Chile

Chile is one of the world’s largest producers of copper. Other important exports include fruits (such as grapes, apples, and avocados), fish and seafood, and wine.

Mexico

Mexico has a diverse profile. Its top exports include automobiles, electronics, machinery, and petroleum products. The automotive industry is particularly significant, with Mexico being a major exporter of vehicles and automotive parts to the United States and other countries. Additionally, Mexico exports a substantial amount of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

Colombia

Colombia is known for its exports of coffee, which is one of the country’s most iconic products. Other important exports include petroleum, coal, and cut flowers. Colombia is also becoming increasingly known for its exports of fruits such as bananas, avocados, and tropical fruits.

Peru

Peru’s economy is heavily dependent on mining, with copper, gold, and zinc being some of its top exports. The country is also a significant exporter of agricultural products such as grapes, avocados, and asparagus. Additionally, Peru exports fish and seafood, particularly anchovies and fishmeal.

Costa Rica

While smaller in comparison to some of its neighbors, Costa Rica has a growing high-tech manufacturing sector and is known for its exports of medical devices, microchips, semiconductors and electronic components. Additionally, Costa Rica exports agricultural products such as bananas, pineapples, and coffee.

Bolivia

Also on the smaller end of the scale you have countries like Bolivia, which has enormous lithium deposits and is grappling with the regulations and infrastructure involved in bringing this critical mineral to market to satisfy our growing demand for lithium batteries.

Point being, Latin America is a source of abundance with its own dynamic and complex architecture that are challenged by systemic corruption and the influence of unchecked conglomerates. These circumstances have been exacerbated by U.S. attitudes towards Latin America as a whole, seeing it as some underdeveloped region that exists to exploit rather than partner with.

Interventions

When we think about economic policies and circumstances that factor into the root causes of migration, there are a few obvious ones. We can argue about causation versus correlation, but there’s a serious discussion to be had about the impact of U.S. foreign policy and trade policy in the Americas. How much did NAFTA contribute to inequality in Mexico? What were the long-term consequences of U.S. sanctions against the Chavez-Maduro regimes in Venezuela. Or our obsession with Cuba since the ‘59 revolution? Why did we pursue industrial relationships with China across the world instead of fostering them closer to home? Did our interventions into elections in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua create permanent barriers to building a comprehensive industrial and trade policy throughout Latin America?

The best parts are the fun names we come up with:

  • Operations Mongoose and Zapata - Cuba, 1961.
  • Operation Power Pack - Dominican Republic, 1965.
  • Operation Urgent Fury - Grenada, 1983.
  • Operation Blast Furnace - Bolivia, 1986.
  • Operation Just Cause - Panama, 1989.
  • Operation Uphold Democracy - Haiti, 1994.
  • Operation Secure Tomorrow - Haiti, 2004.

That’s just a smattering of the interventions, funded guerrilla operations and outright coups we’ve carried out or participated in over the years.

Point being, whether it’s through economic warfare or outright war, U.S. neoliberal policies have contributed to economic outflows and destabilization in developing nations throughout the world. A study by Pablo González Casanova showed that 41 African nations, 23 Asian countries and 32 LAC nations have all experienced net capital transfers to developed countries throughout the so-called neoliberal period. We see, we extract.

Washington Consensus

Carol Wise, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, recently published a book titled Dragonomics: How Latin America is Maximizing (or Missing Out on) China’s International Development Strategy. In it she examines the impact of Chinese investments into the LAC and how this relationship has begun to transform the economic outlook for several nations, albeit to varying degrees. It’s fascinating to think that the United States has ceded this territory to the PRC considering the basic geography. But as Wise notes:

“Not only would there be no equivalent of the Marshall Plan for Latin America, but also, from the early 1950s on, US attention toward the LAC region would turn narrowly on the imperative to block the spread of communism to the Western Hemisphere.”

The intense myopia of U.S. Cold War foreign policy essentially turned the entire LAC into a giant economic blind spot for the United States, with the possible exception of NAFTA and the reimagined version under Trump, the USMCA.

This lines up with previous episodes we’ve done on Latin America, most specifically on the so-called Washington Consensus. Recall this was the term coined by economist John Williamson to describe the U.S. overarching policy toward the LAC comprised of ten main points:

  1. Lower borrowing to keep debt to GDP ratios low.
  2. Move away from subsidies to long-term investments like education, healthcare and infrastructure.
  3. Tax reform to broaden the tax base.
  4. Allowing interest rates to be determined by the markets.
  5. Allowing currency to float freely under a unified exchange rate.
  6. Opening up trade by lifting restrictions and utilizing standard but nominal tariffs instead.
  7. Allow direct foreign investment.
  8. Privatizing state owned and controlled enterprises.
  9. Abolish regulations that restrict competition but allow for prudent oversight.
  10. Develop and secure property rights.

The analysis we offered previously was that Williamson wasn’t offering a policy prescription, rather he was broadly describing attitudes that informed our general policies throughout the neoliberal period; policies that benefited U.S. corporate activities by exploiting LAC markets to our advantage.

Much in the way the IMF has been criticized for incentivizing social austerity programs in return for debt service, U.S. economic policy has been intertwined with our foreign policy, which is to say that we basically impose our will through bi-lateral agreements to extract the resources we need, preferably through the auspices of multinational corporations. And if we don’t get what we want, we simply look elsewhere.

It’s a trade policy that amounts to “my way or go fuck yourself.”

Author Tad DeLay, whom we interviewed in last week’s Phone A Friend, offers a current example of our exploitative policy toward Latin America in his book Future of Denial where he talks about zones for employment and economic development in countries like Honduras.

“ZEDEs are subject to Honduran military authority, but they are, as the immigration researcher Todd Miller explains: ‘Autonomous zones run by a technical secretary appointed by a committee that is in many ways separate from the sovereign country from which it was carved…zones each have their own laws and judicial systems, and their own government, serving the principles of free-market capitalism.’ Overseeing the creation of these zones stood a committee of right-wingers including Grover Norquist and Reagan speechwriter Mark Klugmann, who predicted ‘Central America could soon become—as southern China has been—the fastest-growing economic region in the world.’”

These autonomous zones are the perfect allegory for our entire approach to the LAC. Give us what we need, do not interfere. Exploit whoever and whatever you need to and we’ll look the other way. No rules. No regulations. No problem. If your government gets too involved, let us know and we’ll back the opposition in the next election.


Chapter Three: Belts, Roads and Blinders.

One of the things that makes Latin America ripe for exploitation is an economic phenomenon known as the Resource Curse. Because much of the LAC was subjected to colonial exploits throughout its history, even before U.S. interventions, political and economic infrastructure was slow to develop. The economic conditions that we described in Chapter One that undergirded the success of the U.S. and European economies, never fully materialized under Latin American regimes that developed in fits and starts. While there are ongoing efforts to create a unified trade and tariff architecture to streamline economic growth as a region, most of the LAC nations still operate on bilateral agreements and are subject to convulsions depending upon the political regimes in power.

Thus, many of the major economies relied heavily on their primary natural resources such as fossil fuels, agricultural products and minerals. Sole sourced economic models such as these develop in a paradoxical fashion that are extremely price sensitive. For example, oil rich Venezuela has thus far failed to develop a diverse economy that might otherwise insulate it from commodity price shocks. This is what is meant by the Resource Curse. A corollary to this phenomenon is often called the Dutch Disease, though there’s a slight difference between the two.

Resource Curse: The concept of Resource Curse usually extends to formerly colonized countries that were unable to develop holistically and independently, with much of the gain from commodity extraction going to a small fraction of elites in the home country and the economic benefit to the colonizing forces that extract them. This results in a fragile nation state almost exclusively reliant on the whims of both the colonizers and the elites that run the country.

Dutch Disease: Basically, an extreme focus on a single commodity within an underdeveloped economic and political structure robs other industries from much needed attention, regulation and investments required to foster growth. For example, pouring resources into extracting fossil fuels robs the manufacturing and agriculture sectors of capital and attention.

In both cases, when commodity prices—which are global and out of the control of the producing countries—experience negative volatility it has a drag on the entire economy and all the functioning tributaries that flow from such activity such as social services, education and other sectors that rely on revenues and taxes generated by the primary activities.

The paternalistic and colonizing attitude inherent in U.S. foreign policy, both political and economic, means that we haven’t been as much of a productive and consistent partner as we could have been in building the necessary infrastructure to promote positive trade. One nation that understood this and deliberately took advantage of this attitude is China.

Belt and Road Initiative

The PRC’s interest in the LAC predates Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, which usually garners the most attention. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the BRI is a “vast collection of development and investment initiatives…originally devised to link East Asia and Europe through physical infrastructure. In the decade since, the project has expanded to Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, significantly broadening China’s economic and political influence.”

But these are the more recent eye-catching investment projects that have begun to worry the U.S. state department and put foreign policy hawks on the defensive, manifesting in the anti-China rhetoric we see today. Infrastructure investments under the BRI sometimes take the shape of classic infrastructure projects like bridges, tunnels and roads, but often they facilitate transformational energy and mining projects. Dollars and debt is one thing. Natural resources is another entirely if you’re looking to get the attention of policy makers in the United States.

It’s important to understand the economic arrangement between China and the LAC because it further clarifies how inept the United States has been for a hundred plus years in fostering authentic partnerships in Latin America.

In fact, Chinese investment into Latin America is so long standing that it’s beginning to cool off. As Carol Wise writes, “As the process of deepening China-LAC relations has now entered its third decade, outflows of Chinese FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) to the region have leveled off. Some of this leveling is due to China’s own slowing growth but also to its weak record of due diligence. Environmental transgressions, conflicts with local communities, and numerous allegations of old-fashioned corruption have also caught up with Chinese investors.”

So China’s experience hasn’t been all wine and roses. But it’s fascinating that the United States has only recently awakened to the reality that our supposed primary competitor on the other side of the world has been investing heavily into neighboring countries right under our noses for three decades.

Reading state department position papers one might have the impression that China has suddenly invaded our territory and is acting nefariously and with ideological motives. Another example that we’re incapable of breaking from the Cold War mindset. In fact, China appears to have very little interest in fanning ideological flames when it comes to their investments. And this goes back quite some time.

Again, as Wise notes, “When a homegrown Maoist guerrilla insurgency openly launched its own people’s war in Peru in 1980 Beijing wanted nothing to do with it.” And more recently Wise writes, “The bottom line is that China has brokered loans-for-oil deals with Ecuador and Venezuela but does not intend to spend political capital in support of their anti-US follies.”

There are a couple of important concepts related to Chinese involvement in Latin America to unpack before we close with a conversation about immigration.

First off, China does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to investing in Latin America. Sometimes they come to the table with low interest rate loans that have fewer strings attached than the ones offered by the IMF. That has made China a de facto global infrastructure development bank. Other times they are investing into physical infrastructure projects that lean heavily on imported Chinese labor, which is a double edged sword for their partners but at least the money flows. The one thing every investment shares in common, however, is the requirement that the partner nation recognize China over Taiwan. That’s the price of admission all must pay to do business with the PRC.

Some of the more stable nations such as Chile, Costa Rica and Peru have worked diligently to reform and regulate the capital markets and streamline trade agreements, tariffs, labor protections, environmental regulations and intellectual property rights. Essentially modernizing their economic systems and aligning them with the expectations of the U.S. and China. The results, according to Wise, are evident. “Ironically, the biggest overall gains have been achieved by the three small open economies considered here, two commodity exporters (Chile and Peru) and one aspiring export-led industrializer (Costa Rica).”

Wise and other observers note that the one thing that separates Costa Rica from the rest of Latin America is its insistence on the highest environmental standards.

Ironically, the country with the most potential upside that hasn’t been able to capitalize on FDI from China and an extremely close relationship with the United States is Mexico. In fairness to the latter, NAFTA and the USMCA were extremely favorable to U.S. corporations. The former, however, is a bit of a head scratcher.

Despite the proximity to the largest consumer base on the planet, Mexico somehow allowed China to crowd out Mexican exports. Wise attributes this to China “actively deploying public policy in the expansion, upgrading, and infusion of technology into its manufacturing sector.” Essentially, NAFTA could have been a clear victory given the inflow of investment and desire among U.S. corporations to exploit the Mexican labor force, but it failed to scaffold the opportunity through public policy and simply allowed U.S. corporations and Mexican oligarchs to line their pockets.


Chapter Four: The Economic Causes of Migration.

Mexico has had a center left administration under Obrador and is likely going to continue this way in the upcoming election under Claudia Sheinbaum. It has the largest inflow of migrants into the United States. Venezuela exists under the autocratic rule of Maduro and has forced hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to flee to Colombia, the United States and other locales. Ecuador, Nicaragua and Peru are mostly conservative. Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras are considered liberal.

Point being, there is no direct correlation between political ideology and migration, broadly speaking.

Climate change, however, is certainly having an impact on migratory patterns throughout the world and Latin America is no exception. According to the Congressional Research Service:

“Some rural families already had been selling off land and migrating when the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricanes Eta and Iota struck the region in 2020. Those crises contributed to gross domestic product (GDP) contractions of 9.0% in Honduras, 7.9% in El Salvador, and 1.8% in Guatemala in 2020. According to the World Food Program, the number of food insecure people in the Northern Triangle nearly tripled from 2.2 million in 2019 to about 6.4 million in late 2021; an estimated 5.5 million Guatemalans and Hondurans were food insecure as of late 2023.”

Climate change is arguably more of an economic crisis than a political one, though there are overlaps to be sure. But climate change is indiscriminate and many of the Latin American and Caribbean countries are precariously situated to receive the brunt of severe changes in weather patterns and extreme conditions.

The World Bank provides the most comprehensive economic analysis of the LAC each year in a report referred to as the LACER report, which stands for Latin America and the Caribbean Economic Review. The most recent LACER reveals that the region is the most violent in the world, which is “an impediment not only to the welfare of citizens, but the instability discourages investment, both domestic and foreign. Further, much of the violence is being driven by illicit trade, especially in narcotics, which is expanding into countries previously immune.”

It also cites tax policy, the cost of capital, poorly educated workforce and immature infrastructure as major reasons that nearshoring—i.e. partnerships with the U.S. manufacturing sector—hasn’t produced the type of growth that China experienced over the past three decades.

Regardless of politics and ideology, myriad structural economic factors plague the LAC and have prevented it from fully realizing the potential of its vast natural resources and labor pool. These conditions have made it susceptible to a level violence and corruption that forces populations to uproot and move. It’s never just as simple as the headlines make it out to be. And the United States is largely, but not entirely to blame for this phenomenon.

Capitalism’s Refugees

Latin American nations went from colonial properties to independent states gradually over two centuries only to wind up back in a neocolonial economic trap called neoliberalism. But let’s take a step back from our clinical diagnosis of economic conditions to take a wider view. Latin America failed to follow the global capitalist model example set by the United States and Western Europe. And it’s too segmented to have crafted a centralized planning model like we see in China.

So let me be extremely clear about this point.

Just because the LAC failed to follow the liberal trade rules established then abandoned by the U.S. and the U.K. in particular doesn’t mean it failed. Nor does it suggest that it’s somehow separate and apart from the capitalist model. It just hasn’t fit the capitalist oppressor model.

Recall Rosa Luxemberg’s keen economic observation about Marx’s capital model. Marx hypothesized that if labor was the central ingredient in creating the exchange value of a commodity then displacement of workers due to industrialization would therefore reduce profitability for owners. Luxemburg, however, foresaw capitalist imperialism. She understood that capitalists would forever pursue cheap labor and thus partner with nation states to exploit global labor through corporate colonialism. She was right. In this way, Latin America has been the perfect partner for U.S. and now Chinese capitalist tendencies.

Climate change, violence, repression and instability have contributed to excessive immigration. They are also the natural and necessary byproducts of capitalism.

The influx of migrants on the streets of New York City that we covered in Part One are refugees of capitalism. In Part Two we spoke of the workers in Mexico who flee violence and financial hardship.

These are refugees of capitalism.

The poverty stricken families that try to escape the cartels in Ecuador, the state sponsored violence in Venezuela, or gang violence in Honduras…

These are refugees of capitalism.

The World Bank, the IMF, the U.S. Congress, Biden and Trump administrations, European Union and PRC would all have you believe that the answer lies in the free markets. And they’re right to the extent that it could work for countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. They’re big enough to open their markets to the corporate class and pursue the buzz words of the Washington Consensus in their own right. But it would be at the expense of other nations as Luxemburg so rightly predicted. And in doing so it will shift the refugee and asylum seeking crisis to other parts of Latin America and the world.

Because that’s what capitalism demands.

Perhaps the conditions are indeed ripe for an economic revolution in Latin America. It’s just not the market revolution the global institutions insist upon. The resources required to transform the global economy and energy infrastructure are beneath the feet of Brazilians and Bolivians. Costa Rica has developed a high tech sector while maintaining its environmental protection standards. Put another way, a social democracy, democratic socialist state and environmental beacon are lighting the way. There is no immigration crisis tied to nations that put people and the planet before profit.

Here endeth the series.

Max is a basic, middle-aged white guy who developed his cultural tastes in the 80s (Miami Vice, NY Mets), became politically aware in the 90s (as a Republican), started actually thinking and writing in the 2000s (shifting left), became completely jaded in the 2010s (moving further left) and eventually decided to launch UNFTR in the 2020s (completely left).