Thursday, April 16, 2020

El Salvador's top court limits executive quarantine power (April 16, 2020)

El Salvador's top court sought to limit the government's ability to enforce a national lockdown with arrests. The five magistrates of El Salvador's Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that President Nayib Bukele and the country's security forces must abstain from infringing on human rights in the name of coronavirus quarantines. The judges said Bukele was not authorized to deprive people of liberty nor send them to confinement centers unless Congress approves a formal law empowering the measure. (Reuters, El Faro

El Salvador’s police have arbitrarily arrested hundreds of people in the name of enforcing restrictions to prevent the transmission of Covid-19, denounced Human Rights Watch. The organization specifically points to Bukele's comments, through Twitter and nationwide broadcasted speeches, which "have encouraged excessive use of force and the draconian enforcement of measures imposed by his government."

True to form, Bukele responded to the court last night in a string of tweets in which he rejected the court's rulings and said he would continue to care for Salvadorans' public health via executive decree. The latest quarantine related decree, from this week, permits health ministry officials to enter private homes, and El Faro reports several instances where security force groups entered private homes without health officials.

Since March 21, hundreds of people have been detained for violating quarantine, on the criteria of security forces, and taken to containment centers where rights organizations say they were actually at more risk for contagion due to lack of isolation. The magistrates ruled, yesterday, that detentions must follow set rules, to be dictated by the National Assembly.

As of April 13, 4,236 people were being held in 87 containment centers, including some detained for violating the mandatory home quarantine and others after returning from abroad, noted Human Rights Watch yesterday. The Ombudsperson’s Office reported that the containment centers were initially created to isolate potentially infected people returning from abroad for 30 days, but they soon became overcrowded.

News Briefs

  • Migrants awaiting U.S. asylum hearings in Matamorros, Mexico, are on the brink of becoming a humanitarian disaster case, warn Christopher Lee and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio in a New York Times op-ed.
  • Venezuelan migrants returning to their country after after losing their jobs in Colombia's coronavirus lockdown find themselves trapped in forced quarantines in border camps in squalid conditions, reports the Guardian.
  • The United States government should recognize the increased risk COVID-19 poses in Venezuela and urgently designate Venezuelans in the US for temporary protection, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
  • And the international community must step up to support Venezuelan migrants, with measures such as including them in health care and social support policies in the midst of the pandemic, argues David Smolansky in Americas Quarterly.
Regional Relations
  • "Geography, economics and migration patterns dictate that Colombia and Venezuela, which severed diplomatic ties in 2019, will confront the coronavirus pandemic together. The two countries should temporarily mend their relations, and the Venezuelan factions should pause their duel, to allow for a coordinated humanitarian response." -- a new Crisis Group report.
  • Policy responses to Covid-19 in Latin America have been disparate at a time when countries cannot afford to stumble, warn a group of former Latin American presidents, former officials and distinguished scholars in Americas Quarterly.
  • Latin America's left has spotted a potential comeback opportunity in the coronacrises, according to the Financial Times.
  • Gas shortages in Venezuela present a significant challenge to Nicolás Maduro's leadership, reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazil's congress gave President Jair Bolsonaro an ultimatum to release the results of his coronavirus test within a month. There has been widespread speculation that he has been infected with Covid-19, since several members of a delegation that accompanied him to the United States last month tested positive. (Guardian)
  • Rumors are circulating again that Bolsonaro is seeking to fire his health minister, Luiz Mandetta. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega appeared in a live broadcast on national television, yesterday, after a month of absence from the public eye led to speculation that the 74-year-old leader was ill or dead. He defended Nicaragua's lack of coronavirus shutdown, saying it was economically necessary to continue life as normal. “We have not stopped working, because if the people do not work, they die." (Reuters)
  • Bogotá is the latest place to try gender-based rules about who can leave the house on what day, an attempt to limit traffic in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns. Perú rolled back a similar measure after criticism that it would lead to discrimination of transgender people. In Panama, which also instituted a gender-separation policy, Human Rights Watch said police detained and fined a transgender woman who left the house on the day assigned women. Bogotá mayor Claudia López said transgender people can follow the gender with which they identify. (New York Times)
  • Haiti has overcome the coronavirus challenge, according to Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe, who said yesterday the country will be reopening textile factories next week. (Miami Herald)
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said some coronavirus restrictions will be lifted starting next month, reports Bloomberg.
  • Early and strict shutdowns have helped shield Paraguayans from the coronavirus pandemic, according to health authorities. (Reuters)
Dominican Republic
  • The Dominican Republic postponed May 17's general elections to July 5, due to coronavirus concerns. (Diario Libre, Bloomberg)
  • Remember all those protests? What happens to the citizen outrage in Latin America, now, literally, pent up at home? But demands aren't going away, and the Latin America Risk Report predicts that people will be out on the streets with renewed force and new demands added to their previous ones in the mist of coronavirus-recession later this year. However, in some cases the protests might reduce in countries where new leadership and issues emerge from the pandemic, notes James Bosworth.
  • The push for gender neutral Spanish has become high profile in Argentina, where the use of "e," instead of "a" and "o" which denote gender, is increasingly used by academics, government officials, and politicians. Most recently, President Alberto Fernández urged "Argentines," rather than "Argentinos" or "Argentinas" to stay home in the midst of coronavirus. But, like everything else in the country, it's controversial, reports the New York Times.
  • A genealogy project is recording indigenous oral traditions and histories in an attempt to preserve cultures under threat -- Guardian.
  • The New York Times offers a virtual trek through Ciudad Perdia, a Colombian archeological site.
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.

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