Helping refugees win their war
By Bruce Walker
The news stories about children from "Central America" seeking asylum in America need to make an important distinction: although we tend to view these nations as all "Banana republics" from a particular region between Mexico and Columba, these nations are not the same at all. Consider some statistics among these nations and start with the refugees leaving certain nations and taking refuge in other nations. These data precede the recent flood from Central America but provide a clear pattern of what is happening.
Here are the seven nations of Central America by the number of refugees who have taken asylum in each nation: Costa Rico 21,083, Panama 17,796, Guatemala 162, Nicaragua 140, Belize 104, El Salvador 45, and Honduras 17 and here are the numbers of refugees out of individual nations in Central America: El Salvador 8,171, Guatemala 6,388, Honduras 2,613, Nicaragua 1,532, Costa Rico 325, Panama 107, and Belize 39.
The ratio of refugees received to refugees departed in each nation is: Panama 166.3, Costa Rico 64.9, Belize 2.6, Nicaragua 09, Guatemala .02, Honduras .006, and El Salvador .005. This data suggests that "Central America" is anything but a homogenous mess. People are not leaving Panama, Costa Rico and Belize. People are moving into those nations of Central America.
This is reinforced by murder rate data for each nation per ten thousand: Costa Rico 8.5, Nicaragua 11.3, Panama 11.7, Guatemala 39.9, El Salvador 41.2, Belize 44.7 and Honduras 90.4. Life expectancy data also shows the same pattern: Costa Rico 79.8, Panama 77.8, Belize 76.9, El Salvador 74.7, Nicaragua 74.5, Honduras 74 and Guatemala 71.5. Life expectancy in Costa Rico is actually higher than in America (79.2)
Other data reinforces the picture. Here is the per capita GDP by nation in the region (in thousands of dollars): Panama $16.6, Costa Rico $12.9, Belize $8.7, El Salvador $7.5, Guatemala $5.6, Nicaragua $4.5 and Honduras $4.3 and the literacy rate by nation in the region: Costa Rico 96%, Panama 92%, El Salvador 84%, Honduras 80%, Belize 77%, Guatemala 69% and Nicaragua 67%.
Certain nations in the region succeed and other nations fail. Costa Rico in life expectancy and literacy is virtually equal to America, Japan or Western Europe. While the per capita income would be modest by our standards, it is three times greater than other nations within Central America.
The reasons for the relative success or failure of Central American nations become clearer when the highly respected Freedom House index of political rights and civil rights is examined. Costa Rico scores the highest rating – "1" – in both political rights and civil rights, better than any other nation in the region. Here are the scores for political rights for the other six nations: Belize 1, Panama 2, El Salvador 2, Guatemala 3, Honduras 4 and Nicaragua 4 and here are the scores for civil rights by nation: Belize 2, Panama 2, El Salvador 3, Nicaragua 3, Honduras 4 and Guatemala 4.
What we ought to seek, for our nation's own good, is to make the nations of Central America as much like Costa Rico as possible. The greatest danger to us is not more children from Guatemala and El Salvador coming to America but rather that the better nations of Central America are threatened. Freedom House notes, ominously, that Belize and Panama moved backward a bit since the last Freedom House survey.
What can we do? As Costa Rico has shown, foreign aid is not needed to have a successful nation in Central America. Good government is the solution and no one needs to lecture the Costa Ricans on how to have good government. Corruption permeates the government of many nations in Central America and while gangs and drug cartels are the current corrupter these nations have a culture of corruption dating back almost two hundred years.
This is an area in which the Catholic Church, especially the Pontiff from Latin America, could help: courage in the face of corruption is a potent weapon. If we could train police within these nations (particularly in the areas of law enforcement integrity) and help fund these law enforcement officers as (long as results were achieved) that would help.
We might also do something with the children and families who are already in America but who are facing deportation. Let them know that they have hope and that we are on their side in every way for any actions they take to transform their wretched homelands into relatively happy lands like other nations in Central America. This is, of course, a war – not state to state but people against thugs – but it is a war than the decent people of Central America can win, and it is in our interest to help them win it.
Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.