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Tico Times: Letters to the Editor (Dec. 21, 2018)

December 21, 2018

The Tico Times is proud to be an independent, English-language news source in Costa Rica. Our readers regularly submit editorials and responses to our articles; we appreciate your opinions and feedback.

Below is a selection of editorials we have received recently.

Immigration is a human right

By Carolina Díaz; University of Costa Rica English Teaching major

Dear Tico Times:

The Crisis in Latin America, especially in Honduras and Guatemala, leads its citizens to abandon their country due to several factors such as: Poverty, violence, criminality, and issues with democracy. The news report published on October 16, 2018 titled Trump warns Honduran president to stop migrants in route to U.S., lacks reference to the article since it is not mentioned from the beginning that the former president of the United States warned the Honduran president that if the migration emergency continues, the money transferred from U.S.A. would be reversed. The current situation of migration viewed through the article implies that our world runs if money is involved. The article gives the impression that Trump will cease all economic support to Honduras and Guatemala if more migrants decide to leave their native country and avoid these to cross the border, which is restricting human rights.

However, this article lacks context and information because it is not explained adequately why migrants from the countries mentioned above are leaving behind families, properties, etc.  Honduras is a country that has suffered economic crisis, high of violence rates, criminality and poverty. For this reason, many of its citizens have decided to migrate themselves to other countries, especially United States, where life expectation seems better for raising kids and finding a job were the pay will allow them to have a decent life because their own country does not provide the basic tools to live. Nevertheless, Honduras’s government needs to modify the way they operate their country economically and socially since in the month of October around 2000 migrants have routed themselves to the U.S. to seek a better life.

On the other hand, the United States government continues to sanction human rights against migrants. Back in July 2018, Donald Trump and his administration decided that in order to stop more immigrants to coming to his nation, he came up with “the brilliant” idea of separating families in the borders by splitting children from their parents. The so-called “zero tolerance” policy has been one of the most shocking situations our world has seen this 2018. Many may wonder, didn´t the world learn nothing from what happened in the cold war, where a huge wall was built to divide a country.  Berlin´s wall was built around 50 years ago. Currently, Donald Trump has the idea of building one on the border to stop these migrants from crossing to U.S. Hopefully, a lot has changed during those 50 years; human rights policies and documents are major keys in this crisis because migrants do have programs and institutions that guide them throughout their journey.

In the opinion of informed readers of “America Civil Liberties Union” “Immigrants workers are often abused, exploited, and have become scapegoats and victims of racism and stereotyping”. The situation goes beyond money; many may say that most people going to U.S. are criminals, which is a generalization. When the true is that most of them are looking for asylum.

Finally, this news story should have informed readers with complete information and context. The current situation of migrants trying to cross the border does not seem to end. Brian Blanco, the writer of the article, has to investigate and give a more profound news where all details have to be explained and show the audience of the newspaper the crisis itself. As an important means of communication in Costa Rica, you should contribute to educate adults and youngsters and inform that in terms of the immigrant’s situation, the U.S. former president is willing to break all human rights policies to stop migrants to crossing the border.

***

Understanding a secular state

By Jeilyn Bustos Alvarado; University of Costa Rica English Teaching major

Why to march for a secular state,” published on January 19th of this year by Zulay Martínez, is an interesting article that calls for the separation of religion and the state by briefly explaining some of the reasons that Costa Rica should make such changes; however, it is important to correct and extend this information as well as the evidence to defend it.

The confessional nature of the Costa Rican state has distorted people’s perception of human rights, and religion is the main doctrine that manipulates various regulations and even the economy of the country by providing money to churches, money that can be used in other areas such as education or health. The article needs data from experts who can confirm that secularism does not affect a country’s well-being. The Costa Rican government should definitely be secular, and citizens should understand all the benefits related to a secular state and fight for it. First, people need to have a clarified concept of what a secular state is in order to avoid misunderstandings and imprecise assertions. Many conservative people have assumed that secularism is the same as atheism, but the truth is that this is not accurate. Actually, according to the file “La urgencia del Estado laico” published by La Nación, secularism is simply a form of government that proposes neutralism of religion (2012). Moreover, it is necessary to emphasize that secularism calls for an universal position of respect and equality of citizens regardless of their position on religious issues, and this is an essential part of equality in legal terms, as was explained by Mora Pérez in the article “La necesidad de un Estado Laico”. In addition, in order to follow up on Martínez’s article, it would be relevant to deepen the benefits that would come with this reform. Other important points to highlight is that the religious holidays would not be prohibited, catholic educational institutions would continue to function as usual, and religion would not be part of the education system as a subject, which has been actually changed since 2012, as Cascante mentioned in the article “Seis puntos para entender el proyecto de Estado laico en Costa Rica”. In other words, Costa Rica would continue to be the same country that we know, but more inclusive in terms of general beliefs and rights, and Martínez should have included this in her article.

Apart from this, all citizens, without any exclusion, would have equal rights in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity, and use of medical treatments such as fertilization or therapeutic abortion. Indeed, the LGBTIQ community is discriminated and excluded in many nations due to religious and conservative ideologies that diminish people because of their differences, and this affects the reputation of the country in many areas such as tourism. In Costa Rica, tourism income is definitely important, but religious and conservative ideologies could have repercussions on how international tourists see our country, and this directly affects the economy. According to German sociologist Max Weber has argued that changes in religion drive economic productivity because of the relation to tolerance and respect of the individual rights. Article 75 of the Constitution says that the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion are the religions of the state, which contributes to its maintenance, without prohibiting the free practice forms of worship in the republic that do not oppose universal morality or traditions (Recio, 2018), but many catholic leaders take time during their pilgrimage speeches to spread “anti-gay” practices such as marriage between same-sex couples, which are in fact laws necessary to guarantee equal rights in our society. Costa Rica has been penalized in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for not applying the recognition of same-sex unions as a law.

Moreover, to support the article with evidence and data, it is relevant to have evidence; for this reason, the interesting article “Secular Societies Fare Better Than Religious Societies” (Zuckerman, 2014) could be mentioned. The author explains how conservative religious ideologies impact nations. It is interesting to see the connection between religion and the well-being of certain countries in which the hypothesis that religion would keep the society together failed. For instance, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands are nations that have more positive indicators (social, economic, political aspects) over religious nations such as El Salvador, Yemen, and Pakistan.

It is important to analyze the article to correct ungrammatical aspects because readers can judge the seriousness and reliability of the article by the writing and mechanics on it, starting by the title. Another relevant aspect is to provide clarified and extended arguments to defend the secular state, so the readers who are new with the topic can understand it as a whole.

***

Seeing the whole picture

By David Ward; Worcester, Mass. 

If Costa Ricans think their president and government aren’t doing a good job, they should not think that raising taxes on goods is a sign of selfishness, greed or incompetence.  Compare this to what is happening in the United States.  When the US Government needs money for any reason, it merely asks the Treasury Department to sell bonds to raise money.  The taxes that are collected each year on April 15 have already been spent before they ever get to the treasury.  You may have noticed that the US Treasury recently sold about $1.3 Trillion in treasuries (Treasury bonds) just to keep the government running.  That’s only for one year!!  As you read this, the US Government has a debt of over $21 Trillion.  These US government bonds are sold to banks, governments, corporations, people and just about anyone who will buy them.  You want to buy a US Treasury bond?  No problem.  China owns over 1 Trillion of them, and Japan almost as much.  The only thing is, who pays the interest on these bonds?  The US Treasury department does.  And where does it get the money to pay three percent interest on $21 Trillion in bonds?  It makes up more bonds and sells them, to pay the interest on bonds already sold.

How did it ever come to this?  When did this seemingly irresponsible practice start?  It started in 1968, when Lyndon Johnson signed legislation to get rid of the gold standard in the United States.  The dollar had been pegged to gold at $35/ounce, but Johnson needed money to finance the Vietnam War and his “Great Society.”  After Johnson, in the seventies, the dollar went into hyperinflation because of all this bond selling and global currencies, whose strength had been determined by exchange rates to the dollar, went into fiscal chaos.  You have the right to ask, how does the dollar, then, maintain its status as the world’s reserve currency?  Well it isn’t because of its frugality and austerity, that’s for sure.  On paper the US dollar should be very weak.  It’s the reputation of the United States that keeps the dollar strong.  In the minds of people around the world, the United States is a great country, therefore its currency must be great also.  However, countries around the world, especially Japan, are also in similar precarious situations with respect to fiscal matters.  China has ramped up bond selling for years and its economy exists almost solely on debt.  All those empty cities, its markets and just about everything has been created out of Bank of China debt.  China’s Debt/GDP is about 50%.  Most central banks around the world are in a similar situation, (especially Japan, with a Debt/GDP of 250%).  Russia, surprisingly, has a Debt/GDP ratio of only 12%.  However, don’t be surprised to see a massive global currency collapse at some point in the future.

Compare this to what is happening in Costa Rica.  The government debt of Costa Rica is only about $25 billion, which is about 65% of its gross domestic product.  This debt is probably held mostly by the Costa Rican central bank.  Compare that with the US debt of $21 Trillion, which is 107% of its GDP.  In other words, the economy can’t keep up with the debt in the United States.  The thing is, Americans are fat and happy, since there are no tax increases, completely unaware and oblivious of the situation.  You think ignorance is bliss?  This is why Costa Ricans should think before denouncing higher taxes.  The government may be falta in the minds of Ticos, but it looks like it is trying to keep debt down.  The question is:  which do you want: lower prices, or lower sovereign debt? 

To share editorial ideas, comments or news tips, please email Katherine Stanley Obando, Editor, kstanley@ticotimes.net

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