WASHINGTON – Remittances to Latin America climbed 8 percent last year to reach $70 billion, a Washington think-tank said on Friday.
Inter-American Dialogue issues an annual report on remittances.
Last year’s increase “is related not only to the causes of immigration, but also to changes in the technology of money transfer,” Manuel Orozco, director of the institution’s Migration, Remittances and Development Program, said at the presentation of the report.
In percentage terms, the largest gains went to Paraguay, 21.8 percent; Guatemala, 13.9 percent; and Ecuador, 10.1 percent.
But the bulk of the money went to Mexico, $26.96 billion; and the seven nations of Central America, who received $33.8 billion in all.
A total of 23 million Latin American households benefit from money wired by family members living and working abroad, overwhelmingly in the United States.
New services allowing people to transfer money using their cellphones account for a growing proportion of remittances, according to the report.
Rampant crime and violence is driving an increase in the number of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans coming to the United States, Orozco said, describing the magnitude of the Central American exodus as second only to that of refugees from Syria.
Remittances to Mexico expanded in 2016 even though the number of Mexican migrants in the US held steady, indicating growth in the percentage of expats sending money home and in the amounts sent, which the report suggests could be a sign that the flow of remittances has peaked and is beginning to decline.
Money sent home by emigrants constitutes Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign exchange, after oil exports.
President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and deport undocumented immigrants pose a potential threat to what has become an economic lifeline for poor Mexican households.