Cuba's coronavirus battles (March 24, 2020)
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Cuba -- 40 confirmed as of yesterday, and doctors were monitoring more than 37,000 people, reports the Miami Herald. Last night, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced the closing of schools and universities. Starting today, Cubans living abroad and foreigners will not be able to travel to the island and and Cubans returning to the country will be isolated for 14 days. (Reuters as well)
These are all measure that have become somewhat standard procedure in the region. What is notable is Cuba's international assistance stance towards coronavirus, in keeping with the island's long tradition of medical cooperation. The island's government sent 53 doctors and nurses over the weekend to northern Italy, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in that country. Another 140 Cuban doctors, nurses, and therapists arrived in Jamaica on Saturday. And Cuba has also sent doctors to Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Suriname. (Al Jazeera)
Last week, Cuba allowed a British cruise ship, to dock on its shores despite having at least five confirmed coronavirus cases on board and another 52 passengers displaying symptoms -- what the Independent termed a "sign of global solidarity" after the U.S. refused to help.
Colombian death squads are taking advantage of coronavirus quarantines to assassinate social leaders, reports the Guardian. Three rural activists were killed last week, in the midst of local lockdowns, and organizations of civil society warn that a national quarantine that starts tomorrow could be deadly.
Venezuelan police detained journalist Darvinson Rojas this weekend, apparently in retaliation for his Covid-19 coverage. He was detained after reporting on social media about coronavirus patients unrecognized by the government, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Rights groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International called for his immediate release.
"This emergency demands union." Political unity is the only hope for Venezuela, which is facing the coronavirus pandemic after a 10 year political crisis, in the midst of crushing food insecurity, and a derelict health system, argues Venezuelan doctor Franz de Armas in a New York Times Español op-ed. The stakes for political cooperation -- which, he admits, there is no sign of -- are regional as well as national, notes Armas.
Indeed, Venezuela's rejected emergency appeal to the IMF for funding to react to the coronavirus shows the pitfalls of the country's ongoing political crisis, in which there are two presidents who claim legitimacy, each on differently shaky ground, writes Luz Mely Reyes in a the Post Opinión. She too argues that political cooperation, a requirement for international financing, will be key in the country's ability to respond to the pandemic.
Coronavirus has pushed Spain's efficient health system to the brink of collapse, and tests the credibility of its democratic institutions. What hope, then, is there for Venezuela, writes a Astrid Cantor, a Venezuelan doctor working in Spain. "Already before the pandemic, it was fairly usual that we would have to attend patients in chairs or the floor." (New York Times Español)
As elsewhere in the region, women's rights activists are concerned about the impact of quarantines on gender violence. (Efecto Cocuyo)
El Espectador and Mutante are creating Covid-19 informative brigades to combat coronavirus misinformation in Colombia.
In Mexico, VerifiCovid cuts through the fake-news.
Wherever polling is available, Latin Americans support tough measures against coronavirus, despite the marked economic cost, according to the Latin America Risk Report, which looks at several different national cases.
Displaced people are, of course, particularly vulnerable to coronavirus around the world. (Washington Post)
Coronavirus lessons for climate change: Jonathan Watts argues that Covid-19 is like global warming "but in close-up and fast-forward." (Guardian)
Pablo Escobar's "cocaine hippos" show how introduced species can restore a lost world, reports the Guardian.
Newsday has a map of how coronavirus has spread in the Caribbean, so far.
Mexicali residents rejected a U.S.-owned brewery construction in a plebiscite this weekend: "an improbable victory for a collective of farmers and activists over a deep-pocketed company backed by state and local officials," reports the Guardian. Around 76 percent of those who voted rejected the project developed by Constellation, reports the Wall Street Journal. Turnout was less than 5 percent of eligible voters.
Lockdowns in the region -- many countries suspended international flights -- have tourists trapped. In Ecuador some Australians are asking their government for a repatriation flight. (Guardian)
Argentine adventurer Martín Echegaray Davies has been forced to stop his trek on foot from the southernmost tip of South America to Alaska, due to coronavirus. (Guardian)
The ECLAC estimates a coronavirus-spurred GDP contraction of -1.8 percent in Latin America, which could lead to an increase of up to 10 percent in unemployment. (Telesur)
The coronavirus cost to tourism-dependent countries in Central America and the Caribbean is likely to be severe, reports the Guardian.
In these days when everything has become digital due to lockdowns, why not cacerolazos too?
Argentines commemorate the March 24 anniversary of the 1976 military coup with annual demonstrations in support of human rights, led by the Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. This year, the national coronavirus lockdown has forced people to stay home. Instead supporters have hung white triangles -- symbolizing the iconic handkerchiefs worn by the Madres -- on their balconies, and are sharing pictures online with #PanuelosConMemoria (Página 12)
Thank you all for your kind messages and updates yesterday -- much appreciated. Readers are still invited to send me brief (Twitter style) descriptions of how coronavirus is impacting life where they are (our focus is Latin America, but I won't be strict) -- issues to focus on could be: government measures, vulnerable populations, how populations are reacting to measures (or lack of measures in some countries). I'll send out a supplement with these perspectives every couple of days, or so.