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Human rights in the times of coronavirus (March 19, 2020)
As pandemic and restrictive measures spread around the globe, Human Rights Watch called on governments to respond by prioritizing the right to health for all and respect for human rights. "Governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty, rely upon voluntary social distancing, and move toward mandatory restrictions only when scientifically warranted and necessary and when systems to support those affected can be ensured. When quarantines or lockdowns are imposed, governments are obligated to ensure access to food, water, health care, and care-giving support. They should address the special concerns of people in prisons, jails, and migrant detention centers, older people, and people with disabilities in institutions."
“The best way to combat COVID-19 is to be scrupulously honest with the public, restrict movement only as needed to limit transmission, and address those most at risk,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The coronavirus knows no borders and has shown that our own health is only strong as that of the person standing next to us. Its rapid spread reminds us of our global connectedness and shared responsibility.”
News Briefs (mostly, but not all, coronavirus)
It's extremely hard to judge the economic impact of lock-down measures around the region, in countries where money was already a big issue for governments. Informal sectors will be particularly hard hit, notes Eduardo Levy Yeyati in Americas Quarterly. He discusses possible stimulus tools, including "helicopter money" and supplements to conditional cash transfers, targeted to informal workers and the unemployed. Some countries, like Argentina, have already announced measures in this vein.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera declared a 90-day state of catastrophe yesterday, in the midst of mounting cases of Covid-19 infection. A state of catastrophe legally puts the armed forces in charge of public order and security and enables military control of the movement of people and goods, reports Al Jazeera. More restrictive measures could be implemented progressively, reports Reuters. Piñera said there were 238 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Chile but no deaths. (Infobae)
Protest movements in Chile have taken a step back, reports Al Jazeera, but many activists point out that the crisis underscores the importance of their demand for free, universal healthcare.
A tight curfew in Peru has a large number of foreigners stuck -- in lockdowns that don't even permit travel between cities. Several countries, including Mexico and Israel, chartered flights to repatriate citizens. (Guardian)
Tourism is a primary vector for contagion in Peru, and indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable. They are also particularly uncovered by public health services, writes Ojo Público's Nelly Luna Amancio in the Post Opinión.
In El Salvador the state of emergency (technically the lightly-named "Law of Temporary Restriction of Concrete Constitutional Rights in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic") passed last weekend hasn't deterred many people from going about their daily lives, including the beach. El Faro photo-essay.
El Salvador suspended deportation flights of its nationals from the United States and Mexico until further notice, yesterday, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, reports Reuters. Guatemala announced the same move earlier this week.
Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, President Jair Bolsonaro's son, enraged Chinese diplomats by blaming the Chinese Communist Party for coronavirus. Yang Wanming, Beijing’s top diplomat in Brazil, demanded an immediate retraction and apology for the “evil insult”, reports the Guardian.
Millions of protesters banged pots and pans in Brazilian cities yesterday and Tuesday evenings, in repudiation of the Brazilian government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, reports the BBC.
The coming days will be politically critical for the Bolsonaro administration, argues Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly.
Brazil's health system will undergo 60-90 days of stress due to the coronavirus outbreak, with peaks in April and May, before the crisis wanes in September or October, warned the country's health minister earlier this week. (Reuters)
Thirteen OAS member states protested the organization's decision to maintain tomorrow's vote for secretary general in Washington, despite the potential for coronavirus contagion, reports Telesur. (See yesterday's post.)
A group of economists called on the U.S. to lift economic sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba, among other countries, arguing that they hamper governments' ability to respond to coronavirus. (Common Dreams)
Venezuelan and Colombian officials held their first bilateral meeting in a year --- albeit virtually -- this week, to exchange information about Covid-19 along the border, under the auspices of the Pan-American Health Organization. (EFE)
The Economist looks at how the U.S. pours money into drug eradication in Colombia, while largely ignoring the Venezuelan refugee crisis that Colombia is confronting simultaneously. Colombia didn't create either crisis, but faces "the consequences: swathes of ungovernable territory in one part of the country, overstretched public services in another." Money quote: "But so long as people want to snort cocaine, it will be hard to stop people from growing coca."
Panama had registered 109 cases of coronavirus infection in total, yesterday, up from 86 one day earlier. (Reuters)
Guayaquil city authorities, in Ecuador, blocked the airstrip of the airport to prevent the arrival of a plane from Spain on the suspicion that it was carrying passengers infected with COVID-19 -- Telesur.
Exxon Mobil has found itself entangled in Guyana's ongoing political crisis, reports the New York Times. Many citizens are concerned whether a deal struck between the oil giant and the current government is fair, and how oil proceeds will be distributed within a deeply polarized society.
Mexico asked Interpol to issue a red notice calling for the arrest of Tomás Zerón, the former official who led the controversial investigation into the 2014 disappearance and suspected murder of 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa, reports Reuters.
Even Mexican drug cartels are feeling the coronavirus pinch, reports InSight Crime.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador might be leading the competition for "worst coronavirus approach, ever": after urging Mexicans to continue about their daily lives, and glad-handing supporters at an event this weekend, AMLO proudly presented the media with his lucky charms, amulets that protect him. (Milenio) Yesterday he resisted widespread shutdown measures that would affect the economy, arguing that the government must protect the country's poorest, reports the Wall Street Journal.
"Why López Obrador has chosen to disregard even the most basic social distancing recommendations — why he has chosen to be the driver on the wrong side of the road — is a mystery," writes León Krauze in the Washington Post. "There is no political advantage to be gained from such theatrics."
I hope you're all staying safe and 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.