Covid-19 spreads in Nicaragua -- despite official denial (May 13, 2020)
Accounts of overflowing hospitals and express burials contradict the Nicaraguan government's ongoing claims that the coronavirus pandemic has passed over the country. Health workers say that hospitals are packed with patients suffering respiratory problems, reports Reuters. And official express burials -- within hours of a suspected Covid-19 patient's death -- indicate that the Ortega administration has gone from denying the seriousness of the coronavirus to covering up it's toll, reports the Associated Press.
As of yesterday, the government said Nicaragua has 25 confirmed cases and eight deaths related to the virus. But the Citizen Observatory, made up of health workers and activists, said it had identified the non-profit Observatorio Ciudadano, which reported having detected 1,033 coronavirus suspicious cases and the unusually high number of 188 deaths attributed recently to pneumonia, reports the Miami Herald.
The Pan American Health Organization reiterated concern over lack of official information in relation to the coronavirus, and lack of social distancing measures, reports El Confidencial. A PAHO official yesterday pointed to the unofficial reports of broader Covid-19 infection and the atypical pneumonia deaths.
Five former Nicaraguan health ministers also expressed their concerns over the weekend in a letter to the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization in which they claimed that “Nicaraguan citizens are at extreme risk” given that the Ortega administration has done almost nothing to prevent the spread of the virus.
At least 23 political prisoners, and an undetermined amount of other prison inmates, have Covid-19 compatible symptoms, reports El Confidencial separately.
Authorities handed over the body of a Salvadoran man to his family for quick burial, with instructions not to open the coffin because he had died of Covid-19. But friends of Luis Iván Mejía Beltrán, who was arrested in relation to a homicide last month, found his body was handcuffed and showed signs of torture, reports Univisión. The attorney general's office has ordered an exhumation, reports La Prensa Gráfica.
Five Salvadoran organizations of civil society quit a committee created in March to audit emergency spending the National Assembly granted the government in the Covid-19 context, saying the administration has not granted them access to information that would allow them to carry out their task, reports El Diario de Hoy. The government has handled the funds opaquely, and the organizations cannot guarantee a technical and transparent management of the funds, said the organizations. (El Faro)
Latin American cities have suffered coronavirus outbreaks rivaling those of Europe and the United States, according to a New York Times analysis of mortality data. As predicted, the pandemic's effects were worsened in the region by weaker health and social security systems, and already struggling economies.
The pandemic is exacerbating existing fragilities in Latin American societies, and threatens to reverse advances in gender equity, reports El País.
In this extraordinary context, fiscal concerns must take a backseat to counter-cyclical measures and long overdue economic reforms, argues Luis Mejía in Americas Quarterly.
Crime has been differently affected by coronavirus in Latin America -- lockdowns have pushed down stats around the region, but also opened up windows for enterprising criminals, reports InSight Crime. And trafficking has continued.
Brazil reported a record 881 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours, yesterday. Brazilian state and city governments are contemplating mandatory lockdowns against President Jair Bolsonaro's will -- most localities have avoided them until now. Bolsonaro issued a decree declaring beauty salons, gyms and barbers “essential services” that could open. Brazil had more than 177,000 confirmed cases as of yesterday, but the true number is believed to be much higher, as testing is limited. (Guardian and Associated Press)
Bolsonaro allegedly accused Rio de Janeiro's federal police of persecuting his family in a cabinet meeting recently. A two-hour video of the cabinet meeting was aired privately Brasília, yesterday as part of a Supreme Court investigation into claims from Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, Sergio Moro, that Bolsonaro improperly meddled in police business by attempting to replace its director with a friendly face, reports the Guardian.
Bolsonaro has continued to push a conservative legislative agenda aimed at his evangelical, rural, gun-supporting base, reports El País.
Brazil deployed thousands of soldiers to protect the Amazon rainforest this week, an operation carried out alongside environmental officials, police and other government agencies, reports Reuters. Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon surged 55 percent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period of 2019, according to government data released last week.
Deforestation in Brazil mean it's one of the few places – if not the only one – where emissions are increasing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Land invasions by miners and loggers continue to grow, with the rising price of gold in the international market and domestic unemployment as contributing factors. The military alone will not be enough, writes Natalie Unterstell in Americas Quarterly, noting a provisional measure (MP 910/2019) allowing invaders of public lands to legalize property occupied irregularly is set for a vote in Congress.
Yesterday was also Mexico's deadliest coronavirus day yet: 353 deaths and 1,997 new cases of coronavirus. (Guardian)
Mexico's General Health Council said yesterday it has issued guidelines that would allow for the re-opening of construction, mining, and car and truck manufacturing, reports the Associated Press. Mexico has been under pressure from U.S. officials to reopen auto plants, because without them, integrated supply chains would make it hard for plants in the U.S. and Canada to reopen. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is set to announce a plan for the “gradual” resumption of economic activities.
Draconian lockdowns in Venezuela's prisons, aimed at containing coronavirus outbreaks, have cut prisoners off from food supplies from their relatives, "an unbearable ingredient to an already explosive mix," reports InSight Crime.
Colombian authorities must pay especial attention to guaranteeing the rights of displaced people during the Covid-19 crisis, warns Human Rights Watch.
Chile is set to face the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in the coming weeks, President Sebastián Piñera said yesterday. (AFP)
Uruguay's government allowed the crew of a coronavirus-hit cruise ship to disembark, after two months at sea. Of the more than 60 crew members, 36 tested positive for the virus. (BBC)
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.