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As the U.S. and Central American governments continue to discuss how to curb the number of people leaving Central American countries for the U.S. border, a new research paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that Honduras' agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may prolong Honduras' economic problems, which include high poverty, unemployment and high inequality.
As the U.S. and Central American governments continue to discuss how to curb the number of people leaving Central American countries for the U.S. border, a new research paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that Honduras' agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may prolong Honduras' economic problems, which include high poverty, unemployment and high inequality. The paper, "Honduras: IMF Austerity, Macroeconomic Policy, and Foreign Investment," by CEPR Research Assistant Stephan Lefebvre, notes that the agreement, which provides Honduras with $189 million in financing over three years, includes many austerity measures, despite the weak labor market and growing poverty, and provides almost no protections for the most vulnerable sectors of society. As a condition of the deal, Honduran authorities agreed to implement fiscal consolidation amounting to 6.5 percent of GDP over four years, in addition to so-called "structural reforms" including privatizations, pension reforms and public sector layoffs.
"Thousands of people fled Honduras for the U.S. last year due to widespread crime, broken institutions, and a deteriorating economy," CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot noted. "Yet the IMF's prescriptions are likely to weaken the economy further and worsen Honduras' problems.
"Honduran labor markets have yet to return to their pre-global-recession level and both poverty and inequality remain too high, with little sign of improvement," Weisbrot said. "Following a program of austerity--which the IMF itself seems to recognize will be highly unpopular--is likely to cause further deterioration."
The paper notes:
"The foreign investment-dependent strategy that the IMF favors is fraught with risk, because FDI flows can be fickle and exhibit high volatility," Lefebvre said. "This macroeconomic plan is also an important driver of some dubious projects intended to attract foreign investment, such as so-called 'model,' or 'charter cities.'"
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.(202) 293-5380
"Now it's time for the entire rail industry, which made over $26 billion in profits last year, to provide at least seven paid sick days to every rail worker in America," said Sen. Bernie Sanders in response.
After sustained pressure from organized workers and their allies, freight rail giant CSX Transportation agreed Tuesday to provide 5,000 employees in two unions with four days of paid sick leave each year—an industry-first move progressive said should serve as an example for other companies to follow.
The agreement reached between Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX and two unions—the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED)—will provide four days of fully paid sick leave each year, while allowing union members to take up to three personal leave days annually. Additionally, employees can apply their unused paid sick days to their 401K retirement accounts or take payouts.
"We are extremely proud that BRC is one of the very first unions to reach this type of an agreement," said Don Grissom, president of the BRC—which represents mechanical workers—in a statement. "This agreement is a significant accomplishment and provides a very important benefit for our members working at CSXT. The other carriers should take note and come to the bargaining table in a similar manner."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 This paid sick leave agreement with CSX is certainly welcome but long overdue. We look forward to other rail crafts reaching similar agreements with CSX and other railroads following suit. \n\n#PaidLeaveforAll\u201d— TTD | America's Transportation Unions (@TTD | America's Transportation Unions) 1675817167
"Today's agreement is a huge win for our members at CSXT," Grissom added, "and we will continue the fight to secure paid sick leave for our members working on other railroads."
Referring to the classification for railroad companies with annual revenue exceeding $250 million, BMWED president Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement that "the other Class I railroads just reported extremely healthy earnings for 2022, many of which were record-setting."
"Other than absolute greed, there is no reason why the other Class I railroads cannot enter into an identical paid sick leave agreement."
"The workers are responsible for these profits," Caldwell added. "Other than absolute greed, there is no reason why the other Class I railroads cannot enter into an identical paid sick leave agreement with BMWED, or any other rail union for that matter, especially in light of what CSX and the BMWED have done today."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an outspoken supporter of railroad workers, tweeted that "now it's time for the entire rail industry, which made over $26 billion in profits last year, to provide at least seven paid sick days to every rail worker in America."
\u201cLet me congratulate @BMWEDIBT and @TCUnionHQ for guaranteeing paid sick days for 5,000 rail workers at CSX. Now it's time for the entire rail industry, which made over $26 billion in profits last year, to provide at least 7 paid sick days to every rail worker in America.\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1675872420
On the other hand, labor advocates have called out Republicans, many Democrats in Congress, and the Biden administration for siding with corporations and billionaires over workers.
Paid sick leave was a key issue in last year's contract negotiations between a dozen rail worker unions and railroad companies. While eight of the unions voted in favor of a tentative agreement negotiated by the Biden administration—a deal that had no paid sick days—four unions rejected the proposal.
Congress subsequently intervened to compel the four holdout unions to accept the contract, while House Democrats passed a concurrent resolution adding seven days of paid sick leave to the agreement.
On Thursday, Sanders will join with unions in a joint press conference where they will make a fresh demand for paid sick leave across the industry.
Illegal mining in the Yanomami land has polluted water, degraded the landscape of the rainforest, and spread disease.
With Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva warning his administration "will not allow illegal mining on Indigenous lands," the government announced Wednesday that environmental special forces destroyed at least one helicopter, an airplane, and a bulldozer used by "mining mafias" in the territory of the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest this week.
The raids aimed at removing illegal mining operations involving tens of thousands of ore and gold miners from the region began on Monday, just over a month after the leftist president, known as Lula, took office.
The Guardian reported that the special forces set up a base near the Uraricoera River, which illegal miners used during right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro's administration.
"The Yanomami want peace—that is all they want. And this is what we are going to give them."
Bolsonaro condemned the Yanomami people's control of the land, the largest Indigenous territory in Brazil, and encouraged deforestation and mining in the Amazon. Roughly 25,000 illegal miners poured into the region during his four-year term.
The forces have seized aircraft, boats, and weapons from miners this week.
"We are in the process of removing illegal miners from Roraima," Lula said on social media Tuesday, referring to Brazil's northernmost state. "The situation that the Yanomami find themselves [in] near the [mining camp] is degrading."
The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), and the newly-created Indigenous affairs ministry took part in coordinating the raids, with Defense Minister José Múcio monitoring the operation.
Sonia Guajajara, who was appointed by Lula to be Brazil's first-ever minister of Indigenous affairs, surveyed the region, where nearly 30,000 Yanomami live, ahead of the operation.
\u201cA Ministra dos Povos Ind\u00edgenas, @GuajajaraSonia, sobrevoou neste domingo (5) a regi\u00e3o de Homoxi, na Terra Ind\u00edgena Yanomami afetada pelo garimpo ilegal. Hoje mais um beb\u00ea Yanomami morreu v\u00edtima de desnutri\u00e7\u00e3o.\n\n\ud83d\udcf7 Gilvan Alves/@TVBrasil\u201d— Sonia Guajajara (@Sonia Guajajara) 1675640915
"The Yanomami want peace—that is all they want," Guajajara toldGloboNews. "And this is what we are going to give them."
In addition to degrading the landscape and polluting the waterways of the Brazilian Amazon, illegal mining in the Yanomami land has had a "devastating impact" on the health of the community, Greenpeace said last week:
The use of mercury in the activity poisons the land the Indigenous people use to plant their food and the rivers they use to fish. By poisoning the water, mercury also gets into the people's bodies, causing serious health problems, and even death.
Besides that, the presence of the miners in the Indigenous territory exposes those living there to other diseases. An explosion in cases of malaria and malnutrition, due to the lack of access to food and traditional ways of production in the Yanomami land, has been a serious threat to the lives of the Indigenous people, especially children. 11,530 confirmed cases of malaria were recorded in 2022 alone.
At least 570 Yanomami children reportedly died of curable diseases during Bolsonaro's administration, and dozens of children have been airlifted to hospitals in recent weeks, suffering from malnutrition and malaria.
"More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw... was a genocide," Lula said last month after a visit to the region. "A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people."
On Tuesday, the president said his administration will "restructure everything that exists from the point of view of controlling our Indigenous lands, the environment."
"We are going to try to create a new dynamic," he added, "to have the results that Brazilian society wants."
"To make America truly energy independent, we must break our addiction to oil by expanding the use of clean energy technologies that can lower emissions and energy costs," argued Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette.
House Republicans held a hearing Tuesday to consider several pieces of Big Oil-friendly legislation that experts warned would exacerbate the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency and leave U.S. consumers with higher energy bills.
During a joint legislative hearing titled "Unleashing American Energy, Lowering Energy Costs, and Strengthening Supply Chains," two subcommittees of the GOP-led House Energy and Commerce Committee reviewed more than a dozen bills aimed at rescinding regulations to boost the production of planet-heating and illness-inducing fossil fuels.
In the words of Marc Boom, director of federal affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the hearing's "vague and seemingly benign title disguises an oil, gas, and coal industry wish list of 17 bills to turn back the clock towards weaker environmental laws, more unbridled development of the fuels that drive climate change, and endangering communities across the country."
The Republican lawmakers in charge of the panels acknowledged the need to expand wind, solar, and other clean power technologies but made little effort to hide their essentially pro-fossil fuel and deregulatory agenda, repeatedly contrasting renewable energy and reliable energy in a bid to discredit the former while attacking bedrock safeguards such as the Clean Air Act.
"Rush-to-green energy policies—both state and federal—have curtailed reliable energy and infrastructure, resulting in everything from blackouts to spiking prices," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers (R-Wash.) claimed in her opening statement, reviving right-wing myths that renewable energy sources—not Texas' isolated, deregulated, and fossil fuel-dependent grid—were to blame for the state's deadly power outages in February 2021 and that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats' policies—not oil giants' profiteering from Russia's war on Ukraine—are to blame for skyrocketing gas prices.
"The committee's priority still appears to be cutting taxes on companies earning tens of billions in windfall profits and to weaken the nation's landmark environmental laws that protect Americans from their pollution."
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security, called for "restoring American energy dominance." Once again neglecting to mention Big Oil's ongoing price-gouging and stock buyback binge, Duncan blamed Biden for "making energy unaffordable and less reliable for American consumers" even though the current president has approved drilling permits on public lands and waters at a faster clip than his notoriously pro-fossil fuel predecessor.
Not to be outdone, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), chair of the Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials, slammed Biden's so-called "war on affordable and reliable energy" and advocated for "removing some of the red tape and delays that can prevent constructing new critical energy projects, keep capital on the sidelines, and kill innovation dead in its tracks."
Republican lawmakers have made it seem as if "oil, gas, and coal companies are actually the victims of government oppression and overreach," Boom noted. "The committee's priority still appears to be cutting taxes on companies earning tens of billions in windfall profits and to weaken the nation's landmark environmental laws that protect Americans from their pollution."
The reality, wrote Boom, is that "the United States is currently the number one producer of oil and gas in the world (also still the number one contributor to historical GHG emissions). The companies behind these fuels have enjoyed more than a century of government subsidies, are reaping record profits, and are fighting the transition toward clean energy that we need to strengthen America's economic and national security, create millions of new jobs, and prevent catastrophic climate change."
In contrast to her Republican colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) argued Tuesday that "to make America truly energy independent, we must break our addiction to oil by expanding the use of clean energy technologies that can lower emissions and energy costs."
\u201cLet\u2019s be clear: Increasing U.S. oil production will not break our dependence on the international oil market.\n\nTo make America truly energy independent, we must break our addiction to oil by expanding the use of clean-energy technologies that can lower emissions & energy costs.\u201d— Rep. Diana DeGette (@Rep. Diana DeGette) 1675788005
Among the GOP's proposals is a yet-to-be-unveiled resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the federal government should not impose any restrictions on the export of crude oil or other petroleum products."
During his opening remarks, Duncan asserted that such a measure "is necessary because President Biden and Democrats on this committee have advocated for reinstating the crude oil export ban" that was originally enacted in 1975 and repealed by congressional Republicans and then-President Barack Obama in 2015.
Last year, the Biden administration floated—but never followed through on—reimposing the federal ban on crude exports, a move that progressive advocacy groups urged the White House to make to reduce U.S. fuel prices.
While Duncan claimed that "lifting the export ban... has lowered prices," research shows that the exact opposite has happened.
Since 2015, oil and gas production in the Permian Basin has soared while domestic consumption has remained flat, precipitating a massive build-out of pipelines and other infrastructure that culminated in the U.S. becoming the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG)—intensifying greenhouse gas emissions, harming vulnerable Gulf Coast communities already overburdened by pollution, and worsening pain at the pump.
Another GOP proposal discussed Tuesday—H.R. 647, "Unlocking Our Domestic LNG Potential Act of 2023," which has been introduced by Johnson—would "repeal all restrictions on the import and export of natural gas."
As Tyson Slocum, director of the Energy Program at Public Citizen, explained: "The legislation eliminates the requirement that exports and imports be 'consistent with the public interest'―a standard that has been in place to protect consumers for 85 years. This legislation would remove all routine regulatory review to ensure that exports are not increasing prices for American families."
"This agenda is not rooted in reality and would start out by undermining public protections from dangerous pollution caused by energy development."
In addition, the so-called Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, legislation that has yet to be introduced, would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) "to approve any natural gas pipeline designed to import or export natural gas to or from Canada and Mexico within 30 days of receiving the complete application," Slocum warned. "This automatic approval eviscerates the Commission’s current public interest determination, and will encourage the construction of cross-border pipelines to Mexico designed to re-export U.S.-produced natural gas from LNG terminals in Mexico."
Slocum testified at Tuesday's hearing, telling lawmakers that the GOP's argument that deregulating the shipment of fracked gas would ease household energy spending couldn't be further from the truth because "U.S. LNG exports will chase whatever country is willing to pay the highest price."
"America's record natural gas exports have come with a tragic cost," Slocum added in a statement. "American households, power producers, and other consumers are now forced to directly compete with their counterparts in Berlin and Beijing, exposing Americans to higher prices and increased volatility."
"These high prices are creating significant economic hardship for tens of millions of our families," he said. "The bills these subcommittees debate today could increase prices for consumers, incentivize mismanagement of America's energy resources, and promote excessive price-gouging by companies looking to enrich their shareholders. Congress must do better to protect consumers from energy company profiteering."
In addition to the aforementioned bills aimed at gutting or eradicating regulatory oversight of fossil fuel exports, Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee advocated for legislation that would:
"That these bills are at the front of the line of the new majority's energy agenda is extremely concerning," Boom argued. "This agenda is not rooted in reality and would start out by undermining public protections from dangerous pollution caused by energy development, rather than trying to find a path where energy development, environmental protection, and community safety work together."