Thursday, 4 June 2009

In Colombia, U.S. Downturn Decreases Remittances

PEREIRA, Colombia -- For the past three years, Felipe Ruiz has made his living as a landscape gardener in Connecticut. Recently, though, he was laid off, prompting his return to his hometown of Pereira, in the heart of Colombia's coffee-growing region.

"I didn't expect to return home so soon," said the 32-year-old Ruiz. "It was the last resort. My savings had dried up."

Every month, Ruiz had typically sent home $400 from his wages. Over the years, the money had been a key source of income for the family of five, who relied on the remittances to make ends meet and to pay for groceries and rent.

Ruiz's story is a typical one in Latin America, where remittances -- of which 75 percent come from emigrants working in the U.S. -- maintain millions of families above the poverty line. Last year, Latin American and Caribbean emigrants sent $69 billion back to their homelands.

But according to a recent study published by the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank based in Washington, after almost a decade of growth, the amount of money sent home by Latin American and Caribbean emigrants is set to fall by up to 7 per cent this year -- due to job losses, lower earnings, decreased migration and continued deportations. Read more here

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