Special Reports

Money flows home to poor countries

Maria Asuncion Otzin, the mother of a Postville, Iowa, worker who remains in Iowa, thinks birds in her yard were poisoned by neighbor who wants some of the money her daughter is sending. She was keeping them in a cage to nurse them back to health.  2009  KEITH MYERS/The Kansas City Star
Maria Asuncion Otzin, the mother of a Postville, Iowa, worker who remains in Iowa, thinks birds in her yard were poisoned by neighbor who wants some of the money her daughter is sending. She was keeping them in a cage to nurse them back to health. 2009 KEITH MYERS/The Kansas City Star KEITH MYERS/Kansas City Star

SAN MIGUEL DUENAS, Guatemala | Maria Asuncion Otzin, called “Mama Chon,” nurtures her sick birds. She believes her neighbors poisoned them because they wanted some of the money her daughter sent home from her job in America.

Otzin’s daughter, who entered the United States illegally, sends money to supplement her parents’ income from selling firewood and chocolate- covered fruits. But because Otzin wouldn’t share it with neighbors, she says, they killed her pig and some of her chickens and poisoned her pet birds.

In poor countries such as Guatemala, such “remittances” from expatriates — often working illegally or as human trafficking victims — make up a huge part of the national income.

Even in the depths of the global recession, remittances to families in Guatemala, most from the United States, exceeded $4.5 billion last year, according to the World Bank.

They typically come in small payments of $100, $200 or $300 at a time.

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