From today’s Wall Street Journal: “Latin American Migration, Once Limited to a Few Countries, Turns Into a Mass Exodus; Haitian standoff in Texas reflects broader mix of nationalities fleeing pandemic-hobbled economies from around the hemisphere.” (worth a look just for the photos)
Let’s roll back the clock to March 2020. The first country hit by SARS-CoV-2 infection was China, a country and society obsessed with protecting human life at all costs (where else do you see signs all over the subway system on how to avoid injury on escalators, etc.?). Ignoring established WHO advice on pandemics, the Chinese decided to attack the respiratory virus with strict lockdowns. The typical U.S. state governor copied this idea with about the same level of success that you see in the documentary American Factory, where an attempt is made in Ohio to produce automotive glass with the same quality and attention to detail that has been achieved in China. The U.S. states that were the most aggressive with lockdowns, mask orders, and other disruptions nearly all ended up with higher COVID-19-tagged death rates than give-the-finger-to-the-virus-sweep-up-and-move-on Sweden. Maybe nobody got infected in the shut-for-a-year K-12 schools, but adults could meet and mingle at bars, on Tinder, and while shopping for “essential” alcohol and marijuana in Massachusetts (there was no Chinese model for how to run a marijuana store during a respiratory virus pandemic because marijuana is illegal in China).
At the end of March 2020, I asked here ““For every saved American [via shutdown], though, aren’t we guaranteed to cause more than one death in a poor country?” Without the U.S. as a trade, tourism, and travel partner for Latin America, during the first 18 months (so far) of 14 days to flatten the curve, what actually happened? WSJ:
The broad wave includes single mothers from Ecuador, Nicaraguan teenagers and farm laborers in Chile. Many cite the same reasons for uprooting their lives and heading north: economic hits from the pandemic that cost jobs and income, the allure of a booming U.S. economy and the belief that President Biden’s administration would welcome them.
Struggling to put food on the table after the pandemic closed her small coffee business, Mayra Aguilar sold her car and left her home in Ecuador’s southern Andes last month, hoping for a better life in the United States.
Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole suffered the world’s steepest economic contraction last year, and the region’s biggest decline since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund. The pandemic cost some 26 million jobs.
Earlier this year, Yanisleidys Diaz began her trek to the U.S. after she was told she had to leave Chile in 180 days. The 39-year-old single mother from Cuba arrived in Chile in 2019 with her two sons, seeking informal work because they lacked a work permit. Her oldest boy, 17-year-old Leodan Riveros, worked construction and as a fruit picker at a farm, earning less than minimum wage.
They struggled to make ends meet even before the pandemic. Then Ms. Diaz said she was notified by the government that they could no longer stay without residency. They sold their furniture and clothes to pay for five bus rides to cross Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
The U.S. is not entirely to blame for other countries failing to follow the Swedish “experiment” (doing what humans have been doing for millions of years is an “experiment” while trying something that has never been tried before and for which no data exist is “following the science”), of course, but I think it is fair to say that we’re reaping what we sowed. As with our wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we went into lockdowns with no exit strategy and it didn’t occur to us that other nations might not have the ability to print money indefinitely while people cowered in place rather than work and study.
We are continuing our economic war against neighbors in this hemisphere, e.g., via telling Americans not to travel and/or making travel onerous (testing requirements, prison ship atmosphere on commercial airliners (mask orders, threats of fines if mask order is not complied with strictly and completely, etc.)). Is there any number of desperate migrants who show up on our border that would convince us that this isn’t a war worth fighting? (If we have 150,000 daily positive PCR tests (“cases”), that means we have roughly 1 million Americans who are infected and contagious at any one time, right? (not everyone who is infected will get tested and people who are infected will be contagious for several days) Why do we then require Americans to get a COVID-19 test as a condition of returning from a vacation in the Caribbean? Our theory is that 1 million coronaplagued people is bad, but 1,000,002 coronaplagued people is an out-of-control situation? Same question for European visitors! If we have 1 million residents incubating SARS-CoV-2, why does it matter if 6 more show up on Lufthansa?)
- If All Lives Have Equal Value, why does Bill Gates support shutting down the U.S. economy? (March 28, 2020), in which I asked “For every saved American [via shutdown], though, aren’t we guaranteed to cause more than one death in a poor country? The U.S. is 15 percent of the world economy. Our shutdown is going to make us poorer so we’ll buy less from the world’s poorest countries. People in those poorest of countries who were at a subsistence standard of living in 2019 are going to be without sufficient funds for food, shelter, and medicine in 2020. Even citizens of medium-income countries, e.g., those who work in industries that are tied to trade with the U.S., might be unable to afford previously affordable life-saving medical interventions. … It has proven to be an interesting window into the logic of the American Righteous. Planet Earth is exquisitely interconnected such that bringing a reusable shopping bag to the Columbus Circle Whole Foods will stop global warming and thus keep the seas from inundating Jakarta. On the other hand, we can stop trading with a country where people are living on $2/day and there will be no adverse consequences for those people.”