Wednesday, March 18, 2020

OAS election Friday (March 18, 2020)

The OAS will move forward with the secretary general election scheduled for Friday, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Assembly General will meet in Washington to choose a leader for the next five years. Incumbent, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, will face off against Ecuadorean María Fernanda Espinosa. Earlier this week Peru withdrew its candidate, ambassador Hugo de Zela, a move which analysts say favors Almagro's reelection.

News Briefs

  • The IMF rejected Venezuela's surprise request for an emergency $5 billion loan to fight coronavirus. The international lender said the request can’t be considered because there was no clarity over who is the country's legitimate leader. The request from Nicolás Maduro was surprising, coming from a leader who has long vilified the IMF, and shows Venezuela's state of emergency, reports the Associated Press.
  • There is strong reason to believe that Venezuela will be the Latin American country worst-hit by coronavirus, given the current woeful state of its health system. "If cases begin to overrun the country, at least 100,000 COVID-19 related deaths should be expected in Venezuela alone over the next year. Others will die due to the problems within the medical system that occur as the health system is overwhelmed. In terms of both the percentage of an already diminished population and the raw numbers, it will be a horrific loss of life," warns the Latin American Risk Report.
  • And the situation will be exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, reports the Globe Post.
  • Latin American governments will need to respond to coronavirus with massive short-term expenditures, that must eventually be balanced with "a structural reform agenda that is targeted towards strengthening the fiscal accounts in the near long term," argues former Colombian finance minister Leonie Rauls in Americas Quarterly.
  • In a region where a significant chunk of workers are informal, coronavirus isolation has an immediate and unsustainable economic impact. EFE looks at street vendors in Quito, who cannot afford to stay home.
  • And isolation is a chimera for people living in close quarters, like residents of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, reports EFE separately.
  • Colombia’s President Ivan Duque declared a state of emergency, yesterday. Measures include obligatory quarantine for people over the age of 70, and further details were set to be released today, reports Reuters.
  • Bolivia will close its borders to non-residents and suspend all international flights to combat the spread of coronavirus, the interim government announced yesterday. (Reuters)
  • A recent overhaul of Mexico's health system could complicate its response to the pandemic, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Mexican business owners should realize that most of them are middle class, not members of the country's economic elite, argues Viri Rios in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Mexico is on the brink of economic crisis -- and Covid-19 could push it over the edge, writes Mario Maldonado in the Post Opinión.
  • The U.S. migration agreements with Central American countries force asylum seekers to choose between unsafe third countries or returning home to the same threats they fled in the first place, reports the New York Times. Transfers of asylum seekers to Guatemala began last November -- so far only two percent of the 900 deportees have applied for sanctuary there. The vast majority have either chose to return to the dangers of home, or to try heading North again.
  • Temporary respite: because of coronavirus, Guatemala will stop receiving asylum seekers sent from the U.S., for the time being. (Al Jazeera)
  • Honduras' Supreme Court threw out fraud and embezzlement charges against former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo. The move undoes a landmark corruption conviction in Honduras, and demonstrates the uphill battle anti-graft crusaders face after the government dismantled the MACCIH, reports InSight Crime.
  • U.S. oil sanctions are affecting Cuba's food production. Scarcities have forced the government to focus resources on nutrition, but shortages of hygiene products could mix lethally with coronavirus, of which there are already a few cases on the island, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivia's MAS party challenged an electoral tribunal ruling that blocks former president Evo Morales' senatorial candidacy in the upcoming May elections. (TeleSur)
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández must follow through on his promise of judicial reform, argues Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed. Details of the plan remain scarce, but credible reform should go beyond the criminal courts and include the judicial control organism, he writes.
Baby critter corner
  • A wild tapir was born in Rio de Janeiro's Atlantic Forest -- the first in a century. Scientists say the birth proved the initial success of a re-introduction strategy for the threatened mammal, reports the Guardian.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.

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