THE ELECTION EVE CARAVAN

THE ELECTION EVE CARAVAN

With US elections less than two weeks away, another caravan of migrants is on the move from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras across Mexico toward the US. It’s the latest version of a story we’ve talked about before—the politics of migration at the southern US border.


President Trump says he’s unhappy with the Mexican government for allowing these migrants to pass through Mexico unobstructed. He has threatened to cut aid both to the Central American countries the migrants have abandoned as well as to Mexico for allowing them through. Trump claims some of the migrants are “unknown Middle Easterners” and has warned that once they reach the border, the US military will be there to keep them out.

As we did six months ago, let’s look at this story from three angles.

The Migrants: Once again, a determined group of desperate people is moving toward the US border where they hope to apply for asylum in the United States. Some want to escape an epidemic of criminal violence that forces children into gangs with threats of death for themselves and their families. Others are fleeing poverty. Many feel they have little to lose and a brighter future to gain.

Mexico: Mexican voters elected a new president in July, and though Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) won’t take office until December, the people now listen to his views on the migrant question. Outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto never settled on a clear response to previous caravans. Some migrants were deported; others were allowed to remain in Mexico.

AMLO risks the same muddled political message. He campaigned on promises to treat migrants with dignity and has pledged to offer more work visas to allow some Central American migrants to remain in Mexico. But he has also acknowledged that Mexico can’t simply welcome everyone that walks across its border illegally, and he knows he can’t ignore Trump’s economic threats.

Donald Trump: In less than two weeks, US voters head to the polls for midterm elections that will determine whether Donald Trump’s Republican Party can keep its congressional majorities. For him and his party, the migrant caravan is a political gift. Trump has no reason to expect votes for his party in 2018 or his re-election in 2020 from Democrats or political moderates. For Trump, as for Democrats, the key to victory is firing up loyal backers to ensure they actually vote. Immigration is an issue Republican voters care deeply about. On their TV channels and websites, Democrats see migrants depicted as desperate families with children making the hopeful journey toward a better life. Conservative media confronts Republican voters with images of riotous young men climbing fences and ignoring laws. Both sets of images simplify a complex reality.

In the final days before Americans vote, Democrats will try to focus voters on health care and other “pocketbook issues.” Trump, who continues to frame this vote as a straight-up referendum on his presidency, will continue to talk about the caravan at rallies, on TV, and on Twitter.

And the migrants will continue to make their way north.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

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