How Covid-19 Is Threatening Central America’s Economic Lifeline

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How Covid-19 Is Threatening Central America’s Economic Lifeline

During the 20 years that Alejandro Carrillo has worked in the United States, he has always sent money home.

Earnings from his time with construction crews in Florida were enough to provide food and an education to each of his seven children and to build his wife a house in which to raise them.

It was also enough to later help his 33-year-old son, José Carrillo, purchase a small, green car to start a taxi business.

Funds sent back to Central America from migrants who work in economically developed countries are a lifeline to families like the Carrillos.

Remittances represent a steady cash flow which keeps receivers out of poverty and provides a safety net in times of crisis.

In 2019 alone, $10.5bn (£8.3bn) in remittances was sent to Guatemala, according to the country’s central bank.

And that number was steadily growing. Until Covid-19 hit.

No safety net

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Guatemala has reported more than 1,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Measures to slow its spread include nightly curfews and restrictions on movement rather than the all-encompassing lockdowns other Latin American governments have imposed in recent months.

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In March, Alejandro’s work practically evaporated and the remittances he used to send dried up too, leaving his family without their safety net.

The same is true for many of the millions of Central Americans in the US doing domestic work and manual labour. And this economic turmoil ripples across the communities they have left behind.

“Practically everything he earns goes toward surviving in the United States. He’s not sending anything anymore,” José Carrillo says of his father.

How Covid-19 Is Threatening Central America’s Economic Lifeline

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