Suriname to vote despite pandemic restrictions (May 21, 2020)
Suriname heads to the polls next week -- general elections that are going forward despite the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Daily Herald. Critics say social distancing measures unfairly favor the governing party, led by President Desi Bouterse.
The pandemic is a potential lifeline for the former military dictator who has ruled the country for 40 years and is linked to significant crimes, including a recent mass murder conviction. The Covid-19 pandemic has stalled the opposition’s momentum, particularly by cutting off more sparsely populated inland regions, reports the Guardian. Opposition parties point to prohibitions on gatherings of more than 10 people, and suggested that some policies be relaxed ahead of the May 25 vote. (See last Friday's briefs, and March 27's briefs.)
Covid-19 infections continue to rise in Latin America, and hospitals in Brazil, Chile and Peru are starting to buckle under the strain, reports the Guardian. Authorities in both Chile and Peru might try to alleviate pressure on their capitals' hospitals by transferring patients to smaller regional hospitals, but are also concerned about spreading the coronavirus. São Paulo, said it expected its overstretched health system to collapse within three weeks. (See below.)
Pan American Health Organization officials have expressed concerns over the virus’s spread in the triple-border region between Brazil, Peru and Colombia. (Guardian)
One of the stranger trends of the pandemic in South America is that Brazil and Peru, which took opposite approaches to lockdowns, are the hardest hit countries. In Peru the numbers, in part, reflect broader testing. But also point to failures to comply with the country's rigorous and early quarantine measures, implemented more than two months ago, reports the Guardian. Experts also point to years of underinvestment in public health and education as exacerbating factors.
São Paulo is emerging as the coronavirus pandemic’s latest global hot spot. Confirmed cases in the city have soared 34 percent and at least 510 people have died in the past week, reports the Washington Post. Ninety percent of the city's ICU beds are occupied. The city called a state of emergency and issued stay-at.home orders in March, but adherence is failing, particularly as workers evaluate the costs of lost wages.
Health care workers say misinformation is another major factor hindering efforts to reduce contagion, reports the BBC.
Military police killed a teenager in Rio de Janeiro's Cidade de Deus favela yesterday. The shootout occurred while social groups were distributing food aid and witnesses deny the victim was involved in illicit activity as the police claimed. (Globo)
Brazil is already one of the most dangerous countries in the world for transgender people -- the pandemic is only making it worst, reports the Guardian.
U.S. authorities have swiftly deported hundreds of migrant children and teenagers amid the coronavirus pandemic, without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice, reports the New York Times.
A construction firm favored by U.S. President Donald Trump has secured the largest border wall contract ever awarded, $1.3 billion deal to build 42 miles of fencing in Arizona -- and yes, it will be painted black, reports the Washington Post.
Colombia's government appointed the son of a notorious death squad leader to run the country's programs for victims of the country’s long civil war. The move has provoked outrage and fury among survivors and families of victims, who say it is egregiously insensitive, reports the Guardian. Jorge Tovar defended his appointment and said he could not be blamed for his father's crimes. Nonetheless, the move has provoked divisions in Colombia: victims of paramilitary groups view it as a revictimization, while others believe there is a double standard for judging crimes by FARC guerrillas and paramilitaries, reports Semana.
Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant is back on track to be deported from the U.S. to Haiti, after a brief reprieve earlier this month, reports the Miami Herald.
El Salvador will begin to reopen its economy on June 6, though tensions between President Nayib Bukele, the National Assembly, and the Constitutional Court remain high, reports El Faro. In fact, the country's lockdown measures are now in a sort of legal limbo after Bukele extended an emergency decree on Saturday, which was then suspended by the Constitutional Court. Bukele agreed to abide by the ruling, but then extended the quarantine again with a new executive decree on Tuesday. Lawmakers passed a law that would gradually reopen the economy, on Monday, but Bukele promised to veto it. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Yesterday Bukele threatened to sue the Constitutional Court and the National Assembly before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for blocking his emergency decree. Legal experts agree the claim has no basis. (El Diario de Hoy)
El Salvador is one of the countries with the worst access to public information during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study by Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información. (El Mundo)
Operation Gideon is unsurprising in light of the Venezuelan opposition's ongoing failure to effectively challenge Nicolás Maduro's government. The most damaging aspect has been opposition leader "Juan Guaidó’s failure to assume responsibility and clearly pivot to trace out a new strategy," David Smilde argues in the Latin America Advisor. "This has produced a malaise within Venezuela and cast a shadow on his leadership among international allies. The opposition is hopelessly divided between those who think a strategy based on political mobilization and negotiation is the way forward and those who think that is naïve and just postpones foreign military intervention."
A fleet of five Iranian oil tankers with at least $45 million worth of gasoline and other fuels is heading towards Venezuela in an effort to address the country's ongoing gasoline shortage -- and could result in escalation between Iran and the U.S., encouraged by Guaidó officials. (Venezuela Weekly)
Good information is key to organizing Mexico's reopening -- instead the López Obrador administration lacks a clear strategy for the "new normal" and risks prolonging the coronavirus crisis, argue Antonio Lazcano Araujo and José Ramón Cossío Díaz in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Economic crises are pretty much Argentina's signature brand, but the current iteration has the added ingredient of pandemic. And the government must face not only the coronavirus, but also debt negotiations with foreign creditors that could lead to the country's ninth sovereign debt default. Health and economy are not separate goals, but complimentary issues, argues Estefanía Pozzo in the Post Opinión.
Latin American jails, overcrowded and with deplorable health conditions, were a minefield before -- but Covid-19 has turned them into ticking time bombs, argue Jan Jarab and Paulo Abrao in the Post Opinión. The situation is made worst by the region's extensive use of preventive detentions, which account for 40 percent of inmates in Latin American and Caribbean jails -- up to 60 percent in Paraguay, Bolivia, Haiti, Uruguay and Venezuela.