The recent unveiling of the RAISE Act, an attempt to reform America’s immigration system to make it skill-based and reduce legal immigration to half, created much brouhaha and media frenzy. The Left went ballistic and called the Act racist, xenophobic, anti-American, and anti-immigrant. The Right praised the Act in that it makes America’s immigration process less counterproductive to American economic interests.
While the Act hasn’t been signed into law yet, I was surprised that it didn’t address two key issues. The RAISE Act does very little, if any, to rein in the H1B visa program, used extensively by tech companies to hire cheap overseas labor and replace American workers. Not only do these imported workers end up renewing their visas several times, their employers, over time, sponsor them for green cards, an upgrade that is not a part of the H1B scheme. The foreign hires aren’t especially high-skilled and don’t necessarily assimilate in the work environment, but they end up undertaking the journey to American citizenship. Cheap overseas labor also puts a downward pressure on wages in the tech industry. The upshot of all this is that the H1B scheme countervails the central objective of the RAISE Act. Further explanation on this can be found here and here.
The other issue is that of a subliminal sort; one that can’t be easily measured or monitored and the effects of which take a long time to manifest. A country is a sum total of its cultural values and principles that it holds dear. Other attributes like quality of life, standard of living, wealth, opportunities, political stability, and economic growth all flow from culture.
Immigration affects not only the economy, but also the culture. The degree of and type of effect depends upon the extent of assimilation, which in turn boils down to the native culture of the immigrants. Immigrants entering European or North American nations find it easier to assimilate if they are from similar cultures. This is evidenced by an article assessing assimilation into American culture during the Age of Mass Migration, where immigrants were predominantly from Europe.
It is very plain that people sharing common cultural threads like social mores, dietary practices, religion, folklore, and heritage will find it easy to socialize with one another and enter the melting pot. Asian, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants on the whole, have radically different cultures, histories and heritage, dietary practices, and religious affiliations – all of which raises deep concerns about assimilation. And the concerns escalate, when the West has been besieged by the ideology of multiculturalism, where in, immigrants are encouraged not to assimilate and where all cultures and societies are considered equal.
The past few decades have seen the mushrooming of ethnic enclaves across European and North American nations, where immigrants, older and recent arrivals, huddle together to create societies that resemble the ones they left behind. The UK is a great example of ‘enclavi-fication,’ where Muslims immigrants, predominantly, from Pakistan and Bangladesh have turned, what used to be quaint English towns, into mini-South Asia.
These self-styled Islamic settlements that dot the landscape of many western countries, are not only cosmetically abstracted from the host norms, but they also function differently from host societies. Many of these culturally insular settlements, popularized as ‘no-go zones,’ enforce Sharia law. Some of the extreme elements organize Sharia patrol, in which members of the groups go around policing people on matters of propriety.
Honor killings, not an exclusive hallmark of Muslim societies, have started cropping up in Europe and North America. In Germany, honor killings seem to be prevalent among the Turkish community, while in the UK, they cluster around the South Asian diaspora. While the US is better at assimilating immigrants, it too has been grappling with honor killings with an estimated 23 – 27 occurrences per year, 91% of which are due the victim becoming ‘too westernized.’ Stephanie Baric, who served as executive director for AHA Foundation in 2015, attested that the rising incidence in honor killings is due to a massive influx from South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, where this practice is the norm. AHA Foundation was founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an FGM survivor and women’s rights activist, to shed light on honor violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages.
Some immigrants and second-generation native-born individuals from these radically different cultures seem unfit to live in western societies, where values like free speech, religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and equality are the norm. The Charlie-Hebdo attacks and the Copenhagen café shootings are evidence of intolerance to the free speech clause – a corner stone of western civilization. 2016 was an especially bloody year for Europe, with several terror attacks committed either by immigrants and asylum seekers from the MENA region or by second- and subsequent generation native-born members of middle-eastern origin. The motives for the attacks are a testament of incompatible values, lack of tolerance to criticism and differences over opinions, and an unquenchable thirst for martyrdom.
Britain has its own strain of homegrown terrorism in the form of Anjem Choudary, a native-born, well-educated, British, Islamic hate preacher. He has a growing support of not just people of Middle-Eastern, North African, and South-Asian ancestry, but also some white British converts, who clamor for the replacement of the British common law system with Sharia and converting Britain into an Islamic state.
In 2016, Mr. Choudary and one of his accomplices were sentenced to prison for supporting ISIS and encouraging their followers to be in lockstep with the militant group and its ideology, if they are ‘true’ Muslims.
Self-segregation and lack of assimilation can also affect economic opportunities, employment, upward social mobility, and prosperity – some of the reasons why so many third-worlders want to make western countries their home. Unemployment data from the UK between July 2013 and June 2017 reports higher total unemployment rates (roughly twice or thrice) for peoples of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black/African/Caribbean descent as compared to whites. One may impute this to racial or ethnic discrimination, but this argument is made feeble by the fact that people of Indian descent report an unemployment rate that trails the white unemployment rate by just a few percentage points.
While it’s difficult to obtain similar data broken down by ethnicity and religion for the EU, a 2010 discussion article provides some insights. It presents data (table 1.4) highlighting labor market situation in France broken down by ethnicity. The unemployment rates for 1st, 2nd, and 1.5 generation immigrants are significantly higher as compared to the French natives. The only data fields, where the unemployment rates plummet and come close to those of the French natives, are ‘Southeast Asians’ and ‘2nd generation mixed populations.’ France is notorious for its ethnically segregated enclaves and it’s escapades with multiculturalism.
Interestingly, Hungary that took a hard line on multiculturalism shows a completely different picture of unemployment data (table 1.5), with the Arab minority population recording some of the lowest rates. The Chinese minority performs incredibly well with a rate of just 0.68%.
Another set of data (table 1.6) that points the needle of blame to self-segregation than to discrimination is on the unemployment rate of the Roma minorities of Romania and Hungary. The national governments’ effort to assimilate the self-segregated Gypsy settlements having gone to vain, this population has experienced skyrocketing unemployment.
2016 unemployment data from the US bureau of labor statistics broken down by race for foreign-born individuals reveals that foreign-born Asians experience the lowest rate of unemployment followed by whites and Hispanics. Foreign-born Blacks are the worst hit with an unemployment rate of 6.1%. The economic correlation between segregation and unemployment is further fleshed out by findings of a report from the Lewis Mumford Center that suggests that Asians are far less likely to self-segregate than are Hispanics and Blacks.
Another piece of information making the economic case against ‘enclavi-fication’ is a scientific journal article measuring effects of ethnic-owned and run workplaces on the earnings of the ethnic workers they hire. The findings reveal that, on average, an immigrant gets paid lesser in a self-segregated, co-ethnic business enclave than an immigrant working in the mainstream economy.
Clustering together in ethnic enclaves – residential or business – cuts off immigrants from the mainstream culture and the experiential learning that socializing with natives over time leads to. The resultant exchanges not only acquaint and gently break the immigrant into accepting his or her new cultural identity, but they also unearth a wealth of economic opportunities, thus, staving off the need to get on welfare.
A lack of assimilation and allegiance to the new culture can lead to resentment in the minds of the natives. This in turn can lead to a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, which on the backdrop of a schismatic society seems justified. The downside of this turn of events is the portrayal of immigrants as a monolith and the commandeering of the sentiment by fringe groups to push through a hateful and divisive narrative.
Immigration is a very decisive and game changing tool in the culture, politics, and economy of a country. A prudent immigration policy will make sure that the host country benefits economically from immigration, without undermining its cultural and social values and norms. A need to integrate and assimilate should not be a preferable outcome, but an imperative of the immigration process.
Following are some recommendations in designing an immigration system that puts weight on cultural assimilation.
- Immigrants should not only be able to support themselves and their dependents, they should also show willingness and capability to assimilate culturally.
- A review of immigrant’s native culture and societal values should be brought into the vetting process while assessing ability to assimilate.
- Mass immigration and chain immigration should be summarily discontinued forever.
- A careful review for cultural compatibility of different societies from around the world should be carried out and immigration from incompatible countries should be banned all together. However, immigrants from these countries, who wish to immigrate, should be able to demonstrate themselves as outliers from the mainstream culture of their countries.
As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them
Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*
In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.
Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.
New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming
To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.
Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.
We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.
How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?
Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.
As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.
Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.
Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.
Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.
Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.
Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.
Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.
Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.
Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.
Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success
This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy.
The indictment of businessman Thomas J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration.
It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years.
A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600,000 in election campaign contributions — one of the largest, if not the largest expenditure by a single state on Washington lobbying and influence peddling.
The indictment further raises the question of why the Biden administration was willing to allow legal proceedings to put at risk its relationship with one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, one that last year opened the door to recognition of Israel by Arab and Muslim-majority states.
The UAE lobbying effort sought to position the Emirates, and at its behest, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed’s counterpart, Mohammed bin Salman, at the heart of US policy, ensure that Emirati and Saudi interests were protected, and shield the two autocrats from criticism of various of their policies and abuse of human rights.
Interestingly, UAE lobbying in the United States, in contrast to France and Austria, failed to persuade the Trump administration to embrace one of the Emirates’ core policy objectives: a US crackdown on political Islam with a focus on the Muslim Brotherhood. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed views political Islam and the Brotherhood that embraces the principle of elections as an existential threat to the survival of his regime.
In one instance cited in the indictment, Mr. Barrack’s two co-defendants, a UAE national resident in the United States, Rashid Al-Malik, and Matthew Grimes, a Barrack employee, discussed days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration the possibility of persuading the new administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a designated foreign terrorist organization. “This will be a huge win. If we can list them. And they deserved to be,” Mr. Al-Malik texted Mr. Grimes on 23 January 2017.
The unsuccessful push for designating the Brotherhood came three months after Mr. Barrack identified the two Prince Mohammeds in an op-ed in Fortune magazine as members of a new generation of “brilliant young leaders.” The billionaire argued that “American foreign policy must persuade these bold visionaries to lean West rather than East… By supporting their anti-terrorism platforms abroad, America enhances its anti-terrorism policies at home.”
Mr. Barrack further sought to persuade America’s new policymakers, in line with Emirati thinking, that the threat posed by political Islam emanated not only from Iran’s clerical regime and its asymmetric defence and security policies but also from the Brotherhood and Tukey’s Islamist government. He echoed Emirati promotion of Saudi Arabia after the rise of Mohammed bin Salman as the most effective bulwark against political Islam.
“It is impossible for the US to move against any hostile Islamic group anywhere in the world without Saudi support…. The confused notion that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with radical Islam is falsely based on the Western notion that ‘one size fits all,’ Mr. Barrack asserted.
The Trump administration’s refusal to exempt the Brotherhood from its embrace of Emirati policy was the likely result of differences within both the US government and the Muslim world. Analysts suggest that some in the administration feared that designating the Brotherhood would empower the more rabidly Islamophobic elements in Mr. Trump’s support base.
Administration officials also recognized that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt constituted a minority, albeit a powerful minority, in the Muslim world that was on the warpath against the Brotherhood.
Elsewhere, Brotherhood affiliates were part of the political structure by either participating in government or constituting part of the legal opposition in countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Indonesia.
The affiliates have at times supported US policies or worked closely with US allies like in the case of Yemen’s Al Islah that is aligned with Saudi-backed forces.
In contrast to UAE efforts to ensure that the Brotherhood is crushed at the risk of fueling Islamophobia, Nahdlatul Ulama, one of, if not the world’s largest Muslim organization which shares the Emirates’ rejection of political Islam and the Brotherhood, has opted to fight the Brotherhood’s local Indonesian affiliate politically within a democratic framework rather than by resorting to coercive tactics.
Nahdlatul Ulama prides itself on having significantly diminished the prospects of Indonesia’s Brotherhood affiliate, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), since the 2009 presidential election. The group at the time successfully drove a wedge between then-President Susilo Yudhoyono, and the PKS, his coalition partner since the 2004 election that brought him to power. In doing so, it persuaded Mr. Yudhoyono to reject a PKS candidate as vice president in the second term of his presidency.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s manoeuvring included the publication of a book asserting that the PKS had not shed its links to militancy. The party has since failed to win even half of its peak 38 seats in parliament garnered in the 2004 election.
“Publication of ‘The Illusion of an Islamic State: The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia’ had a considerable impact on domestic policy. It primarily contributed to neutralizing one candidate’s bid for vice president in the 2009 national election campaign, who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said militancy expert Magnus Ranstorp.
Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy
In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his political goals and, at the same time, reducing political and economic costs. The coordination of restrictive measures with allies is also seen as an important task. Biden is cautiously but consistently abandoning the sanctions paradigm that emerged during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The US sanctions policy under Trump was characterised by several elements. First, Washington applied them quite harshly. In all key areas (China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), the United States used economic and financial restrictions without hesitation, and sometimes in unprecedented volumes. Of course, the Trump administration acted rationally and rigidity was not an end in itself. In a number of episodes, the American authorities acted prudently (for example, regarding sanctions on Russian sovereign debt in 2019). The Trump-led executives stifled excess Congressional enthusiasm for “draconian sanctions” against Russia and even some initiatives against China. However, the harshness of other measures sometimes shocked allies and opponents alike. These include the 6 April 2014 sanctions against a group of Russian businessmen and their assets, or bans on some Chinese telecommunications services in the United States, or sanctions blocking the International Criminal Court.
Second, Trump clearly ignored the views of US allies. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 forced European businesses to leave Iran, resulting in losses. Even some of the nation’s closest allies were annoyed. Another irritant was the tenacity with which Trump (with Congressional backing) threw a wrench in the wheels of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Despite the complicated relations between Moscow and the European Union, the latter defended the right to independently determine what was in its interests and what was not.
Third, concerns about sanctions have emerged among American business as well. Fears have grown in financial circles that the excessive use of sanctions will provoke the unnecessary politicisation of the global financial system. In the short term, a radical decline in the global role of the dollar is hardly possible. But political risks are forcing many governments to seriously consider it. Both rivals (Moscow and Beijing) and allies (Brussels) have begun to implement corresponding plans. Trade sanctions against China have affected a number of US companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sectors.
Finally, on some issues, the Trump administration has been inconsistent or simply made mistakes. For example, Trump enthusiastically criticised China for human rights violations, supporting relevant legislative initiatives. But at the same time, it almost closed its eyes to the events in Belarus in 2020. Congress was also extremely unhappy with the delay in the reaction on the “Navalny case” in Russia. As for mistakes, the past administration missed the moment for humanitarian exemptions for sanctions regimes in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Even cosmetic indulgences could have won points for US “soft power”. Instead, the US Treasury has published a list of pre-existing exceptions.
The preconditions for a revision of the sanctions policy arose even before Joe Biden came to power. First of all, a lot of analytical work was done by American think tanks—nongovernmental research centers. They provided a completely sober and unbiased analysis of bothха! achievements and mistakes. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office has done serious work; in 2019 it prepared two reports for Congress on the institutions of the American sanctions policy. However, Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election significantly accelerated the revision of the sanctions instruments. Both the ideological preferences of the Democrats (for example, the emphasis on human rights) and the political experience of Biden himself played a role.
The new guidelines for the US sanctions policy can be summarised as follows. First, the development of targeted sanctions and a more serious analysis of their economic costs for American business, as well as business from allied and partner countries. Second, closer coordination with allies. Here, Biden has already sent a number of encouraging signals by introducing temporary sanctions exemptions on Nord Stream 2. Although a number of Russian organisations and ships were included in the US sanctions lists, Nord Stream 2 itself and its leadership were not affected. Third, we are talking about closer attention to the subject of human rights. Biden has already reacted with sanctions both to the “Navalny case” and to the situation in Belarus. Human rights will be an irritant in relations with China. Fourth, the administration is working towards overturning Trump’s most controversial decisions. The 2020 decrees on Chinese telecoms were cancelled, the decree on sanctions against the International Criminal Court was cancelled, the decree on Chinese military-industrial companies was modified; negotiations are also underway with Iran.
The US Treasury, one of the key US sanctions agencies, will also undergo personnel updates. Elisabeth Rosenberg, a prominent sanctions expert who previously worked at the Center for a New American Security, may take the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary. She will oversee the subject of sanctions. Thus, the principle of “revolving doors”, which is familiar to Americans, is being implemented, when the civil service is replenished with personnel from the expert community and business, and then “returns” them back.
At the same time, the revision of the sanctions policy by the new administration cannot be called a revolution. The institutional arrangement will remain unchanged. It is a combination of the functions of various departments—the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Justice, the State Department, etc. The experience of their interagency coordination has accumulated over the years. The system worked flawlessly both under Trump and under his predecessors. Rather, it will be about changing the political directives.
For Russia, the revision is unlikely to bring radical changes. A withdrawal from the carpet bombing of Russian business, such as the incident on 6 April 2018 hint that good news can be considered a possibility. However, the legal mechanisms of sanctions against Russia will continue to operate. The emphasis on human rights will lead to an increase in sanctions against government structures. Against this background, regular political crises are possible in relations between the two countries.
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Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich* In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala,...
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