Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lat Am short on tests, supplies (April 9, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Test scarcity in Latin America means governments are essentially operating in the dark, reports Bloomberg.
  • Calls for more testing are universal -- but governments in Africa and Latin America are finding it difficult to obtain testing kits, and have been told by manufacturers that almost everything they produce is going to the U.S. or Europe, reports the New York Times. Obtaining medical supplies, such as masks, is similarly complicated and many developing countries have asked UNICEF for help.
  • Latin America's health systems are in better shape than they were a decade ago, but the region's safety net has shortcomings that Covid-19 will expose, reports the Economist. "Every government in the region is learning a hard lesson about the value of investing in public health. The problem is, Covid-19 is destroying the prosperity that would help make it happen."
  • Covid-19 could be a death sentence for incarcerated women in Latin America, according to a new WOLA report that notes that many of them are in pre-trial detention or sentenced for low level offenses.
  • The region is also susceptible to a wave of cybercrime that is flourishing in the midst of the epidemic, reports InSight Crime. Online scams, ransomware attacks and phishing email schemes have proliferated in this time.
  • The coronavirus pandemic could provoke a worldwide food shortage as major food producers, such as Argentina, find it difficult to export, warned the United Nations. (AFP)
  • It's not clear why Ecuador has one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the region, so far, but the Guayaquil horror show of bodies piling up on the streets "offers an ominous look at how officials’ ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America can be dangerously hamstrung by the inequality, weak public services and fragile economies that mark much of the region," reports the New York Times.
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno called for an investigation into how Guayaquil authorities handled the corpses of coronavirus victims, after reports of long lag times in picking up bodies and misidentification proliferated. (Reuters)
  • Ecuador has lessons to learn from the grave violations by security forces and serious violence by some demonstrators during protests last October, according to a new Human Rights Watch report that warns that the issue is particularly pertinent in light of coronavirus induced economic difficulties.
  • Indeed, in Guayaquil, as elsewhere in the region, strict quarantine measures are bumping up against economic necessity. "In a province with so much inequality, the government’s orders to stay at home present a good part of the population with a terrifying dilemma: taking the risk of catching the virus or not having anything to eat," writes María Sol Borja in the Washington Post. "It’s clear the Ecuadoran authorities have not seriously considered all of these factors."
  • The United Nations delivered 90 tons of humanitarian aid supplies in Venezuela yesterday, to help the country with it's Covid-19 response. (AFP)
  • Petrol shortages in Venezuela are worsening after United States officials told foreign firms to refrain from supplying fuel to the country, reports Al Jazeera.
  • The U.S.'s Venezuela policies during the coronavirus epidemic "reflect Washington’s favoring of ends over means, with little concern for corollary damage," write Fulton Armstrong and Eric Hershberg at the AULA blog.
  • The U.S. refuses to work with Venezuela's legitimacy-challenged President Nicolás Maduro, but China has no such qualms and has sent supplies and is in talks about providing financial relief to Venezuela, reports Axios.
  • Public health experts are warning that Nicaragua's recalcitrant approach to the coronavirus epidemic -- best call it denial -- puts all of Central America at greater risk, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Nicaraguan experts, such as epidemiologist Leonel Argüello, fear the country could eventually have as many as 500,000 COVID‑19 infections, implying thousands of deaths. Citizens are angry at the government, and many are self-isolating, writes Kenneth Coleman at the AULA Blog. It is not clear how the epidemic will affect the country's long-standing political crisis, he notes.
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been missing from the public eye for much of the coronavirus crisis -- fueling a "Schrodinger's Dictator" situation, as the Latin America Risk Report put it. But Ortega has pulled vanishing acts before, as part of political strategy, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Guatemala will begin receiving deportation flights from the U.S. again next week, but will receive deported migrants in temporary receiving centers on a military base, reports the Associated Press.
  • Cuba's international medical aid brigade is sought after in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, but beware its dark side, warns the Economist.
  • A teenager from Brazil’s Yanomami people tested positive for Covid-19, augmenting fears that the novel coronavirus could have a devastating impact on Amazon indigenous tribes, reports the Guardian. The teen is one of seven indigenous Brazilians to test positive for the coronavirus in three Amazon states: Pará, Amazonas and Roraima.
  • The Bolivian interim government's quarantine decree includes an overly broad provision that authorities could use to prosecute those who criticize government policies, according to Human Rights Watch.  
  • The novel coronavirus has cost Mexico nearly 350,000 jobs, according to the government. (Fox News)
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández is walking a foreign-policy tightrope between Bolivia, Venezuela, and the United States -- with particular relevance for debt relief possibilities, writes Benjamin Gedan in Foreign Policy.
  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Peru responsible for the rape and arbitrary detention of an LGBT person -- the court's first ruling on a complaint of torture against the LGBT community, reports the BBC.
  • Colombian environmental group WebConserva is leading a project that helps farmers convert from coca plantations to coffee, which create protective borders that protect forests. (Reuters)
  • "Surviving the coronavirus will be meaningless if Chileans do not simultaneously address the underlying causes of injustice and inequality," writes Ariel Dorfman in The Nation.
  • Cougars in Santiago is the latest wildlife in quarantine piece. (BBC)
Memo Fantasma
  • "Drug traffickers today realize that their best protection is not a private army but anonymity." A gripping InSight Crime investigation into a shadowy top drug trafficker in Colombia -- Memo Fantasma -- reads like the script of an addictive Netflix series. "InSight Crime has long believed that behind every famous drug trafficker, there have been many “invisibles.” Rather than dressing in alligator boots, sporting gold chains and gold-plated pistols, these drug traffickers have shunned ostentation and the limelight. They act like legitimate businessmen. Because the drug trade needs protectors, with high profits and untrustworthy participants, every invisible needs a “visible” to ensure that agreements are respected and debts are paid."

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