September 20, 2022
Hi! Are you following the UN General Assembly? We have a little bit about the speeches from Latin American leaders so far.
- Puede leer la versión en español aquí.
- This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, is 1,385 words, a 5-minute read.
1 big thing: Childhood poverty gains threatened
Experts are encouraged by the latest research showing a drastic drop in child poverty — which affects Latinos at much higher rates non-Hispanic white kids — but say key safety net programs must be extended, Astrid writes.
The big picture: Overall childhood poverty has been falling for decades and hit a record low in 2021, largely due to pandemic safety net programs like the extended child tax credit. But the end of that and of stimulus checks and free school meals threaten recent gains, experts say.
By the numbers: The U.S. Census' most recent data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure, released last week, shows the poverty rate for Hispanic children fell the most out of all ethnic or racial categories, from 29.1% in 2009 to 8.4% in 2021.
- Hispanic children are nearly three times more likely to be living in poverty than non-Hispanic white kids, according to a recent study by the research organization Child Trends.
- That study examined rates from 1993 to 2019 — purposely excluding the pandemic because the researchers consider it an anomalous year — and found a 59% drop in overall childhood poverty.
- For Hispanic children, poverty decreased from 52% in 1993 to 19% in 2019, that study found.
Details: The earned income tax credit (a tax break for lower to moderate income families), an overall long term healthy economy, state minimum wages and women's labor force participation also contributed to gains on childhood poverty, says Lina Guzman, the director of the Child Trends Hispanic Institute.
- "We actually we know what works and we know how to continue to build on those on the programs that work," Guzman says.
Yes, but: Policymakers need to continue safety net programs that have pulled millions of children out of poverty, says Brayan Rodriguez, a senior policy analyst with UnidosUS, the progressive civil rights group.
- That includes restoring the pandemic's expanded child tax credits, Rodriguez said.
- Rodriguez says UnidosUS is pushing Congress to reinstate the enhanced credits. It is garnering some Republican support, but critics say it deepens the U.S. deficit.
2. Puerto Rico's new hurricane ordeal
Only a fraction of Puerto Rican residents — still reeling from Hurricane Maria five years ago — have power and water back after Hurricane Fiona made landfall there this weekend.
Driving the news: Fiona also wiped out water supply in the Dominican Republic yesterday and hit the the Turks and Caicos Islands this morning after strengthening into a Category 3 storm.
- The storms caused outages in Puerto Rico's electric grid, which has been in tatters since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory in 2017.
- Blackouts have become even more common and prices have shot up since Luma, a private company, took over the grid last year. Residents' energy bills are, on average, $0.20 more costly per kilowatt hours than in the U.S. mainland.
In other developments: Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Pierluisi warned it could take days to get the lights back on, AP reports.
3. Mexico's tremors sow trauma
Many people in Mexico remain fearful after yesterday's strong earthquake hit just minutes after residents of the capital held a drill on the anniversary of two of the most deadly events in the city's history, Marina and Astrid write.
Driving the news: A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico’s central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person in the state of Colima and setting off a tsunami warning for the coast of Michoacán.
Flashback: A morning magnitude-8.0 earthquake shook Mexico City on Sept. 19, 1985, killing an estimated 10,000 people.
- On that same date in 2017, another powerful quake struck, killing about 369 people.
A thought bubble via Marina, who lives in Mexico City: It feels almost like a cruel joke that three big earthquakes would hit on the exact same date — a scientist in Mexico City did the math yesterday, and said the likelihood was 0.00075% — but I feel we get the last laugh because the phenomenon has made us stronger.
- Construction codes have improved, evacuation processes are faster, tolls have gotten lower, the memes keep getting better. But emotionally it's still tough; three people around me had panic attacks while the ground trembled yesterday.
- But, when the earth stood still, a tortillería started giving out free tortillas and bread (there's a Mexico City myth about carbs, nerves and earthquakes), also calling to mind another lesson from this weird Sept. 19 coincidence: how Mexicans can and have spontaneously come together, to clear the rubble, find survivors, keep calm and carry on.
4. Ecuador's U.S.-China straddle
Ecuador's interests are best served by "balanced" relations with the U.S. and China, President Guillermo Lasso tells Axios' Dave Lawler.
Flashback: One year ago, Lasso's ambassador to Washington told Axios that U.S. indifference was forcing Ecuador and other Latin American countries to turn to Beijing.
Yes, but: Lasso, who traveled to Beijing in February to renegotiate Ecuador's debt to China and seek a trade deal, says he's never felt any undue pressure from Beijing and trusts President Xi Jinping's promise that China will never place conditions on the relationship.
- Lasso hopes to finalize the trade deal with China by the end of this year, and he insists he's not giving up hopes of a free trade agreement with the U.S., which has shown little interest.
- "As the president of a country that is part of Latin America, I hope that the president of the United States will pay more attention to Latin America. Of course I do," Lasso says.
- But he highlights cooperation with the U.S., particularly on drug trafficking. He recently proposed a referendum that would allow drug suspects to be extradited to the U.S., among other measures.
The big picture: Lasso took office in May 2021 as Ecuador's first conservative president in two decades. He was initially popular thanks to a successful vaccine rollout.
- But parts of the country were paralyzed over the summer by protests against Lasso, initiated by Indigenous groups and triggered by the rising cost of living.
- Gang violence has also spiked.
5. Stories we're watching
1. Chilean President Gabriel Boric became one of the few Latin American leaders who publicly denounced Russia over its invasion of Ukraine while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly today. He also criticized rich countries for not doing enough to fight climate change.
- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, the first head of state to speak, gave a tepid speech in which he defended his COVID response.
- Colombian President Gustavo Petro criticized the war on drugs and a lack of action against climate change.
2. Lawyers for Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is facing corruption charges, appeared in court yesterday to begin their defense.
- Fernández de Kirchner, who recently survived an apparent assassination attempt, is accused of participating in a scheme in which certain businessmen allegedly bribed their way to public contracts. She's denied any wrongdoing.
- The prosecution rested its case at the end of August, asking for a 12-year sentence and for Fernández de Kirchner to be permanently barred from public office.
- The trial will last until the end of the year, at least.
6.🧵Smile to go: Sew to grow
A Honduran community group is teaching women who have survived domestic violence and teens with little access to education how to sew in hopes that they’ll have a profitable skill, Marina writes.
Details: The project is partly funded by a municipal government, which has pledged to hire the women for several years to sew school uniforms and dance costumes for community events.
See ya Thursday! Don't forget to send us your 🪅Pachanga submissions by replying to this email. And thanks to Carlos Cunha for the copy edits!