Monday, April 20, 2020

Bukele imposed municipal lockdown on La Libertad (April 20, 2020)

El Salvador's government imposed an absolute lockdown on a the La Libertad municipality, near San Salvador, for 48 hours this weekend. The measure was announced last minute and prevented people from leaving their homes for any circumstances, including food and medical provisions. The military enforced sanitary cordon was apparently deployed in response to residents' alleged flouting of quarantine measures. There are no reported Covid-19 cases in the Puerto de la Libertad area, according to El Faro.

President Nayib Bukele said that the measure responds to the "community contagion" phase of the epidemic. He announced the move by Twitter, of course, and said that only health emergencies would be attended, with military escort. "The measure will be maintained until further notice." (El Diario de Hoy)

Bukele's general handling of the Covid-19 crisis confirms his previous authoritarian tendencies, writes Oscar Martínez in a New York Times Español op-ed. Since the quarantine measures began, Bukele's tweets serve as royal edicts, followed immediately by security forces on the ground, writes Martínez. 

On Friday, Human Rights Watch urged the OAS to take action after Bukele again publicly dismissed Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing quarantine regulations. (See last Thursday's post.)


Bolsonaro mingles -- literally -- with dictatorship defenders

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doubled down on his refusal to back social distancing measures, yet again. He joined a crowd of about 600 people yesterday, who were defending military rule and protesting against stay-at-home orders issued by state governors aimed at combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters yesterday called on the military to intervene in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and demanded the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress, reports Al Jazeera. Several signs called for "Military intervention with Bolsonaro."

The move incensed critics, including former presidents, newspaper editorial boards and politicians, reports the Guardian. Many, including former allies, noted the twin danger to public health and democracy. Even members of the military top brass were reportedly upset, with one senior official urging citizens to ignore Bolsonaro’s actions. “Let the president talk to the nutters on his lonesome,” they told the news magazine Veja.

Some suspect was a deliberate provocation designed to distract from the rising Covid-19 death toll. As of yesterday, Brazil had more than 38,000 confirmed cases, the highest number in Latin America -- more than 2,400 people have died as a result of the infection, reports the BBC. Brazil has begun digging large-scale graveyards ahead of an expected Covid-19 peak, reports EFE.

News Briefs

  • Bolsonaro forms part of what is now being called the "ostrich alliance" of strongmen leaders who refuse to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. Others include Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and, arguably, U.S. President Donald Trump, according to the Washington Post.
  • Lawmakers in Chile and Ecuador have moved to allow pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce patented drugs without the consent of the patent holders, a process known as compulsory licensing. Today's Latin America Advisor looks at the approach and whether it will become more widespread in the region.
  • A medical brigade of 20 Cuban doctors arrived in Honduras to support Covid-19 treatment efforts, accompanied by 53 Honduran medical students who had been studying in Cuba, reports Telesur.
  • No country in the region is ready to face Covid-19, but Haiti is particularly poorly equipped: the country has 60 ventilators for 11 million people, though the true number of working machines might be even lower, reports the BBC.
  • Americas Quarterly has its migration issue online today. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, pre-existing backlash against Venezuela migration in Latin America is increasing even more, writes Brian Winter in one piece. The coronavirus has unleashed recession and increased competition for public services, all of which has negative repercussions for migrants, notes the issue's editorial.
  • Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Sunday a total of 50 migrants deported by the United States to Guatemala have tested positive for coronavirus, most of whom arrived on a flight last Monday. Deportation flights from the U.S. to Guatemala have been a point of contention between the two countries. They were temporarily paused the week of Easter, but resumed last week. The U.S. did not comply with a Guatemalan request that flights be limited to 25 passengers in order to guarantee space between people. (Reuters, see last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • Peru's government is contemplating permission for foreign-trained doctors -- Venezuelans who migrated -- to practise, as the country's Covid-19 infection rate grows and increasingly affects Peruvian health workers, reports the Associated Press.
  • Peru reported over 15,000 cases of coronavirus yesterday, the second-highest tally in Latin America, reports Reuters.
  • The Trump administration isn’t looking to use military force to remove Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, even as it expands counternarcotics operations in the Caribbean, according to Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command. The recent decision to double anti-narcotics assets in Latin America was months in the making and not directly tied to Maduro’s indictment in New York on charges of leading a narcoterrorist conspiracy, he told the Associated Press.
  • The coronavirus pandemic will force many Caribbean countries to rethink their tourism-dependent economic models, writes Bert Hoffmann at the AULA blog. A key issue in specialized economies will be reviving local food production, he argues.
  • Outbreaks in Mexican hospitals have raised questions about lack of protective gear for health workers in the Social Security Institute, the country’s biggest public health network. (Washington Post)
  • Mexican criminal groups are moving to take advantage of the pandemic to exert further control in certain territories, wresting power away from the state, reports the Guardian. Cartels are handing out food and basic necessities and accumulating soft power at a moment of crisis.
  • Ten years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded 200 miles north of Mexican territory, Mexican fishermen and scientists say the environmental impact was marked, though BP has refused to compensate affected Mexican communities. (Guardian)
More Brazil
  • Indigenous tribes and advocates warn that Bolsonaro's development oriented policies for the Amazon may have "set in motion a new era of ethnocide for Indigenous communities," reports the New York Times. Among measures that have caused concern are a bill Bolsonaro presented to Congress in February that would essentially legalize illegal Amazon mining ventures, and authorize oil and gas exploration and hydropower plants on Indigenous territories.
  • Three of the largest groups of Argentine bondholders rejected a proposal to restructure tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt. The move today raises the likelihood that Argentina could enter default next month, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Coronavirus has spurred an increase in news use, according to a study by Oxford University and the Reuters Institute. Researchers found that people with low levels of formal education are far more likely to rely on social media and messaging applications for news and information about the pandemic, rather than news organizations. "While levels of trust in scientists and experts are consistently high, and levels of trust in ordinary people are consistently more limited, there are significant political differences in trust in news organisations and in the government."
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about Lada cars in Cuban social hierarchies (and then some) -- Guardian.

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