Migrants' Remittances and Hurricanes

Migrants' Remittances and Hurricanes

By Gustavo Castro Soto

Never before in history have there been more than 21 major hurricanes a year. The destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma during the months of September and October 2005 is already a manifestation of climate change caused by global warming.

Never before in history have there been more than 21 major hurricanes a year. Now start counting them with the Greek alphabet. Hurricane Wilma has been the most powerful since 1850, the decade in which the meteor record began and which began the momentum of capitalist production that began with the industrial revolution decades earlier. The destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma during the months of September and October 2005 is already a manifestation of climate change caused by global warming from pollution, industrialization, deforestation, damming of rivers, Between other reasons. These hurricanes also herald the agony already underway of the unsustainable capitalist system. Villages and communities have been devastated in Mexico and Guatemala. Mexican ejidatarios now see how the river changed its course and their lands, and how their houses and belongings remained on the Guatemalan side. The Soconusco region in Chiapas, one of the richest in the country in terms of agricultural production, has been totally destroyed. The mud and poverty have not distinguished race, color, political party, nationality, religion, much less social organization.

But ocean heat and hurricane displacement go hand in hand with population displacement. The destruction is being so devastating that indigenous, peasant and rural peoples accelerate the trend of migrant displacement towards urban areas and towards northern countries. Migrants are also taking advantage of the confusion and lack of controls in Mexico to find a way to pass to the United States. The immigration authorities in Guatemala have redoubled their efforts to hunt down migrants from Honduras and El Salvador; and the civil servants and policemen on foot taking advantage of the moment to collect their cuts from the migrants who stop by the different roads that lead to the border with Chiapas. If, since the 1990s, it was estimated that more than 120 million immigrants moved from Latin America, Asia and Africa to the northern countries, [1] This new wave of destruction will increase a new wave of migrant population.

Ironically, it is the same transnational capital from the north that will continue to benefit from this production system that it promotes, and collects the benefits from the poor that it causes. Migrants' remittances is now the next feast of capital. On the other hand, while the poor countries of Latin America pay 40 billion dollars (billion dollars) in interest annually and 250 billion dollars all the countries of the South, [2] contracted with the International Financial Institutions (IFI's), or other millions of dollars are destined for the rescue of banks, highways, sugar mills and other privatizations that have failed due to foreign direct investment or local private initiative, the Inter-American Development Bank ( IDB) announces a "donation" of 200 thousand dollars to Mexico to alleviate the poverty of more than 500 municipalities in the country of the states of Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla and Veracruz, which would be equivalent to a few cents of the dollar per victim. Meanwhile, actor Mel Gibson donates a million dollars for reconstruction in Mexico. But who will donate something for the political disasters of the presidential campaigns that are more embarrassing than the hurricane disasters? Despite any help that is greatly appreciated, it will not stop the migratory flow. Let us analyze the evolution of remittances to imagine the trends and the scheme that the Mexican government has in place to capture the benefit of the migration of the poor from Mexico.

Evolution of Remittances

According to the National Population Council (CONAPO), the migration of Mexicans to the US increased between 1980 and 2003, where the number of people who reside there, born in Mexico, increased from 2.2 million to 9.9 million. This equates to an increase of almost 500%. CONAPO points out that the Mexican-US migratory flow. it is the largest of any other flow between two nations. Currently the population of Mexican origin in that country, including those born there, is approximately 27 million. For María Elena Zúñiga, General Secretary of CONAPO, more than 1,100 Mexicans emigrate daily to the United States, of which more than 75% do so illegally. It reports that more than 400 municipalities in the country (16.3% of the 2,442) are staying with the elderly, women and children. The more than 400 thousand migrants a year invest more in Mexico with their remittances than the federal government with its budgets to combat poverty in branches 28 and 33. The Council indicates that remittances represent 57% of current monetary income in rural households. The economic dependence for the survival of Mexicans is such that 20% of the households that receive remittances represent the only monetary income.

In 2000, remittances were equivalent to 40% of oil sales and 1.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For 2004 it reached 70.5% and 2.4% respectively. Then, in 2004, remittances were $ 16.4 billion, according to Banxico. If you compare them only with the export of hydrocarbons, it would be equivalent to 70% of said export. But if it is compared with the net amount of oil exports, it was around 13,439 million dollars, remittances occupied the first place of entry of foreign currency Mexico [3] thus displacing foreign direct investment and tourism now devastated by the destruction of Cancun. In this way, according to Condusef, Mexico is the first recipient of remittances worldwide, with Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco and the State of Mexico receiving more than 1,000 million dollars in remittances. Only Michoacán receives 13.8% of the total.

It is estimated that 80% of those who send remittances to Mexico do so regularly, on average 10 times a year and with an average amount per shipment that ranges between 320 and 350 dollars. According to Banxico, at least two-thirds of those who send dollars earn between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars a month. For the National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services, [4] from 1995 to 2004 the flow of family remittances to Mexico has increased by 338.80%.

Family Remittances
YEARFamily Remittances (Millions of current dollars)Growth compared to previous yearFamily Remittances (Millions of Pesos) *Growth compared to previous yearEXCHANGE RATE (Average Daily Quotes)
Source: Table and graph prepared by CONDUSEF with data obtained from Banco de México, Balance of Payments, Current Account. * Result of multiplying the annual average of the Exchange Rate at the window by the millions of Dollars. ** Figures January-May 2005.
Source: Condusef; ** Figures January-May 2005.

Source: Bank of Mexico. Elaboration: Condusef.

The Remittance Channels to Mexico

Before 1989, family remittances in the balance of payments only registered those sent by wire transfers. As of that year, the Bank of Mexico (BdeM) considered the shipments made via money orders and personal checks received in banking institutions and exchange houses in Mexico and, since 1994, incorporated electronic transfers and an estimate of cash transfers and species. Therefore, the estimate of remittances almost doubled. On October 29, 2002, the BdeM issued rules on the service of transfers from abroad, both for credit institutions and companies.

The "Money Orders" are documents purchased in different types of financial and non-financial institutions in the US, which are then sent by regular or certified mail at a cost no more than $ 3. Although some exchange houses do not charge a commission at the time of payment, they give an exchange rate lower than that of the market. The "Electronic Transfer" is one of the fastest electronic means and with less requirements. To carry out these procedures, Mexican migrants use the residence or neighborhood identification card without any migratory value but to extract profit from the migrants (Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citibank, among others, accept this card to send remittances and open accounts banking), or for flights back to Mexico. This document is issued by the Mexican Consulate called "Consular Registration Certificate" and issued by the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Mexican Foreign Service.

Income from Family Remittances
(Figures expressed in%)
Average costs199419951996199719981999200020012002200320042005**
Money Orders46.6039.7036.0035.6034.8024.9021.809.036.9912.2411.339.89
Wire transfers43.7051.5052.6054.2056.2067.1070.6087.5089.6485.6087.2688.94
Cash and kind8.208.109.608.607.907.207.403.353.271.921.411.17
Other media1.400.701.801.601.100.900.
Source: Table prepared by CONDUSEF with data obtained from Banco de México, Balance of Payments, Income from Remittances. ** Figures January-May 2005.

According to the Condusef, among the main complaints of migrants about sending their remittances refer to the high commissions that companies charge; the low exchange rate or that the criteria to determine it are not detailed; that furniture and electrical appliance stores are induced to purchase merchandise as a form of payment or payment is not delivered due to lack of cash at that time; and because the cost of commissions constantly varies. In this context, the enrichment of Televisión Azteca by businessman Salinas Pliego and his Elektra and Banco Azteca stores is explained, which, in alliance with Western Union, has increased its capital at the expense of migrants.

Although in rural areas many businesses still operate as exchange houses such as sundries, shops, pharmacies, etc., which are beyond official control, and due to anomalies in sending remittances, the regulatory framework for operations carried out by Financial institutions (Banks and Exchange Houses) is regulated by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), CONDUSEF, and the BdeM. In the case of Non-Financial Institutions (dispersed transmitters, businesses, Mexican Postal Services) the regulatory framework is regulated by the Federal Attorney for the Defense of the Consumer (PROFECO) but only through consumer complaints.

Bansefi After the Benefits of Remittances.

The main sending cities for family remittances are Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston, Dallas and Miami. As a way to capture the benefit of remittances, the Mexican government created the Banco del Ahorro Nacional y Servicios Financieros S.N.C. (BANSEFI) [5] "With more than 500 branches throughout the Republic and to date more than a million accounts that grow monthly in around 10,000 new customers." [6] With it, not only remittances are channeled, but also the resources of other multilateral IFIs such as the resources of the World Bank (WB) or the IDB for the supposed fight against poverty: "Temporarily coordinate the support that the Federal Government is assigning to the sector to facilitate its transformation and position it as a strategic component of the financial system. These support are being financed by multilateral organizations, particularly the World Bank and the Multilateral Investment Fund administered by the IDB, and are being directed to the following tasks. "

The Bansefi offers savings account services; fixed-term investments; home loans based on the amount saved; “Children's Savings Account” to educate children to give their money to the bank; "Bonsar" to capture savings from people who do not have a salary and promise to return it later as a retirement fund; mortgage loans for savers who cannot prove all or part of income; prize payments for sweepstakes, raffles, promotions or contests; to pay for the WB or IDB programs implemented by the federal government as “Oportunidades” or “Procampo” under the name of “La Red de la Gente” which consists of a partnership between BANSEFI and some Popular Savings and Credit Entities ( 22 members), which are generally located in rural areas and encompass 790 branches in 513 localities, and it is expected that by early 2005, with the incorporation of 39 more intermediaries, there will be 1000 service points. Also to channel the resources of the Popular Health Insurance Program, Housing Programs and Education Support designed by the IFIs; “Microfinance Companies” for Receiving payments to the credits granted by the microfinance companies through the Bansefi branch network in addition to Trust Services. And of course, Bansefi offers the service of transferring remittances sent in cash or by deposit to a savings account in Bansefi in less than an hour. The sender can choose the one they prefer. Bansefi has agreements with MoneyGram, Banco de América (US Bank), Vigo, Giromex, Order Express, Moneyda, Viamericas, El Camino, Dolex and Enramex. Thus, for Bansefi “The transformation tasks of more than 600 organizations and their more than two and a half million partners is a challenge (…) The potential is enormous, more than 20 million Mexicans”.

The millions of dollars that the money of poor migrants in the US represents is taking more and more interest. For this reason, on November 10, 2004, the Senate of the Republic held the seminar "Remittances from Mexicans Abroad", in which the Ministry of Foreign Relations (SER), PROFECO, Ministry of Social Development (Sedesol) participated. , CONAPO, CONDUSEF, financial institutions such as Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal and BANSEFI, private sector companies such as CONSTRUMEX, the World Bank, the IDB and the US Department of the Treasury, among other institutions to analyze the regulation and market of the remittances from migrants.

The competition to capture the money of migrants is such that as of October 2005, Mexican migrants in the US will be able to send money to their relatives without paying a penny of commission. According to Luis Peña Kegel, general director of the still Mexican bank Banorte that participates in this agreement, "Every year, Mexican migrants in the US register a loss of between 750 million and one billion dollars for the payment of commissions when making the remittances to their relatives ”. The average cost charged by a remittance transfer company is up to $ 15 per operation. The average amount of a remittance to Mexico, according to the central bank, is $ 339. With the product announced yesterday, Mexican migrants will be able to send up to $ 1,500 in remittances through Bank of America and no more than $ 3,000 per month.

For his part, Orlando Loera, Bank of America director in Mexico, announced that that bank eliminated the charges for sending money to Mexico, through a program called SafeSend (secure shipping) when opening a personal checking account at that institution, for which they do not need to have legal residence. "We accept the consular registration number as identification," Loera said. [7] Thus, being a Bank of America customer, the migrant can send their remittances to Mexico to be collected in the country at Santander banks (the Spanish bank that has sold its shares in the Spanish electricity company Unión Fenosa and has bought an English bank), Banorte, Bansefi and the government offices of Telecom Telégrafos. The agreement stipulates that remittances will be paid in cash, without any charge to the people who receive them, at a better exchange rate than that offered by companies dedicated to transferring remittances, and without the recipient being a customer of these institutions. [8]

But the banks win either way. "It is more important to have a long-term relationship than to collect short-term commissions," said Javier Gavito, Bansefi's CEO, at the press conference where the announcement was made. In the case of Banorte, explained Luis Peña Kegel, the families of the migrants will be able to receive the money through an account at the institution or in cash at any branch window. In the case of Banorte, an account can be opened at no cost to receive remittances at any branch and does not require a minimum balance.

The alternatives

While it is true that the best option is not to leave home or land, have a job or fair prices for farm products, or have self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, it is also true that this is not true and that the phenomenon of migration is becoming more acute. Especially when the worst hurricanes, earthquakes, neoliberal policies and political catastrophes are suffered from time to time. And the misery of the migrant is still used by large capitals to continue accumulating and centralizing wealth, which accelerates the capitalist logic and its soon end.

But it is possible that migrants organize themselves in order to manage their own resources, their own banks or their own foundations from which they could channel their millions of dollars. Or send their remittances by channeling this money to established foundations that in turn channel them to their families in the form of scholarships, Microcredits, projects or other mechanisms without charging them millions of dollars in commissions. Big capital has advanced but it is possible to dream that migrants can have both economic and political power that they shake an entire nation.

* Gustavo Castro Soto

[1] Alianza de los Pueblos del Sur Creditors of Ecological Debt, “From Debtors Club to the Alliance of Creditors”, Position Paper, II South South Summit-South Jubilee-South North Consultation, Havana, Cuba, September 25-30, 2005, mimeo.
[2] Ibid.
[3] The net amount is calculated with the total of exports minus imports.
[4] Data on remittances are taken from CONDUSEF:
[5] For the development of the Popular Savings and Credit Sector, in April 2001 the Congress of the Union approved the Popular Savings and Credit Law and the Organic Law that transforms the National Savings Board (PAHNAL) into the National Savings and Services Bank. Financial SNC (BANSEFI).
[6] /
[7] La Jornada, Thursday, October 6, 2005.
[8] Eduardo Vergara, vice president of international remittances at Bank of America.

Video: The Mediterranean and Central American Migration Crises Examined (May 2021).