Latin America catches Covid panic (March 12, 2020)
The cases of Corona virus in the region are rising -- slowly -- but governments are under tremendous pressure to respond forcefully, and Covid panic could -- justified, or not -- provide cover for a host of politically charged measures. Budgetary concerns, in a region with a poor economic outlook this year, will also play an important role, moving forward. Americas Quarterly notes "the unexpected healthcare shock in a context of precarious sanitation and structural inequalities," as well as the "economic pain of the coronavirus – the disruption of supply chains, the markets’ reaction and other developments undermining global growth – even before the virus begins to spread at higher rates in the region."
According to AFP, the region still has only around 150 registered cases and two deaths.
Note, this summary is definitely not for the hypochondriacs out there.
El Salvador doesn't have any cases of Covid-19, but, yesterday, President Nayib Bukele prohibited entry for non-resident and non-diplomat foreigners for 21 days. According to the new regulations, Salvadorans arriving from countries where coronavirus has been declared will have to be quarantined for 30 days. The president also announced the suspension of school and university classes for 21 days, as well as the prohibition of gatherings of more than 500 people. (AFP)
Honduras confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus yesterday, and the government announced a $25 million allocation for the crisis. (Reuters, Proceso) Honduras' government declared a health emergency over Covid-19 and dengue on Feb. 10, with a $4 million budget. (Criterio) Critics, such as Honduras Solidarity, question whether the funding will be used as intended. Daniel Langmeir's Honduras update looks at a lot of other ramifications for the country, like how the National Police in Choluteca used coronavirus fears to block access to courts. (ConexiHon)
Panama has one death, and authorities shut down schools throughout the country yesterday, effective until March 20, for now. (Panamá América, AFP)
Costa Rica's testing facilities are overwhelmed -- there are 165 suspected cases, but labs can't keep up. With 22 confirmed cases, the country leads the Latin America affected country's list. In the meantime, the public health system will offer free treatment to those presenting with Covid-19 symptoms, regardless of immigration status. (Tico Times)
Cuba announced three cases, affecting Italian travelers who were quarantined a day after entering the country. (BBC)
Guyana confirmed its first case of coronavirus infection, a woman who had traveled to the U.S. and died yesterday. (Reuters)
The Caribbean isn't affected yet, but cruise-ship tourism has decreased drastically on some islands, with economic impact, reports the Washington Post.
In Bolivia, one of two people confirmed to have the coronavirus is being sheltered in a government office after local residents and medical staff blocked her entry to up to four hospitals in Santa Cruz, reports Reuters.
Argentina, Colombia and Peru announced obligatory isolation measures for travelers from the worst-affected countries. In Argentina, which has 19 cases, authorities say the quarantine will be enforced with a prison penalty for violators, and are considering banning travel to Italy altogether. (AFP)
Guatemala will ban the entry of citizens of European countries, Iran, China, South Korea and North Korea in a bid to prevent the virus' spread. (Reuters)
Ecuador's government referenced Covid-19 when it announced a new packet of austerity measures and spending cuts that could prompt a new wave of social unrest. President Lenin Moreno also announced a health emergency in the entire country. (El Comercio, El Universo, Telesur, El Ciudadano)
In Mexico, the low rate of confirmed coronavirus cases has raised concerns over whether testing is accurate, reports Bloomberg. As of yesterday evening, 12 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed since the first was reported Feb. 28. By comparison, Brazil, where the first case was confirmed two days before Mexico’s, confirmed 37 cases.
Critics of the U.S. Trump administration's migration policies say the implications of a coronavirus outbreak along the border with Mexico could be devastating. Thousands of migrants awaiting asylum claim adjudication in the U.S. are in makeshift camps in Mexico, where infrastructure is lacking and containment efforts would be complicated. In many cases, migrants might be at risk from catching the virus from U.S. volunteers, notes Vox.
The Honduran government suspended deportation flights from Mexico on Tuesday -- Honduran officials said they do not have a designated area to quarantine people who may be infected arriving at the airport. Bus deportations, through which a far greater number of deportees from Mexico return, were not affected, reports Reuters.
And Haiti has no cases yet, but doctors say the health system is drastically unprepared to deal with coronavirus, though government authorities claim otherwise. (Voice of America)
Earlier this week, Brian Winter analyzed several very negative potential impacts of coronavirus in Latin America, beyond public health issues, in Americas Quarterly. He analyzes the potential for increased protests against inequality, economic impact, an increased receptivity to militarization, and increased discrimination against migrants.
El amor en los tiempos del coronavirus: In a final note, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is being monitored and tested for coronavirus. Bolsonaro visited with U.S. President Donald Trump this weekend. Bolsonaro has also been skeptical of the real danger of Covid-19. (Reuters and Reuters)
Guayana's Supreme Court head, Judge Roxane George, ordered a partial recount of votes in last week's disputed general election. She also ruled the electoral body should not declare a winner before the recount is finished. The decisions are a major victory for the political opposition, which has accused electoral authorities of fraud in favor of incumbent President David Granger, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs, Tuesday's and Sunday's.)
A Salvadoran judge ruled that a criminal case against three police officers charged with aggravated homicide of Camila Díaz Córdova, can proceed to trial. However, the charges of unlawful deprivation of liberty, as well as the classification of the murder as a hate crime based on gender identity under a hate crimes law that went into effect in 2015, will not go forward, a disappointment for human rights activists who hoped the case could draw attention to anti-trans violence in El Salvador, reports Human Rights Watch. Díaz Córdova's case also demonstrates the negative effects of the U.S.'s hostile asylum system, notes HRW. She was killed after being deported from the U.S., where she sought asylum after fleeing anti-trans violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to maintain a program that has forced about 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their requests are heard, yesterday. (New York Times) The brief and unsigned decision stays an appeals court block to the program while challenges to the policy wend their way through the court system. The Trump administration had warned the justices of a dire situation without their intervention, reports the Washington Post. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
The new U.S. State Department human rights report adds to a growing body of evidence on why the Trump administration's agreements to deport asylum seekers to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are illegal, according to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. (Twitter thread, see Tuesday's briefs.)
Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez has rejected a defense motion seeking his removal from the Maya Ixil genocide case, reports the International Justice Monitor. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
Chilean students clashed with police in Santiago protests, yesterday, marking the second year of President Sebastián Piñera's mandate. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse stone-throwing students, who were joined by more protesters, outside the landmark National Institute school, reports AFP.
Argentina will need "substantial relief" as it restructures nearly $70 billion in debt with international bondholders, the country's economy minister Martin Guzmán told Reuters
A planned television series about assassinated black politician Marielle Franco's life has raised controversy, due to its all-white leadership, reports the Guardian.
A report released today by Amazon Watch shows how five American and British financial institutions are actively contributing to climate change by providing debt and equity financing for crude oil extraction projects in the Amazon.
Cayman Compass reports on how tourism industries in diverse countries in the Caribbean are dealing with climate issues.
Park rangers in Colombia’s protected areas of the Amazon rainforest have abandoned their posts due to continuous threats from criminal groups, leaving these territories to fall under the control of gangs, reports InSight Crime.
The U.S. Justice Department is aggressively targeting Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. DEA officials in the U.S. arrested more than 250 people and seized almost 600 kilograms of drugs and more than $1.7 million in money and assets, reports the Washington Post.
Mexico's president doesn't seem to have heard women's angry cries, but Animal Político talks with one group of men who are struggling to confront their role within the machista culture that promotes gender violence.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
Latin America Daily Briefing