Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Chileans protest despite lockdown (May 20, 2020)

Chilean police clashed with protesters in one of Santiago's poorest neighborhoods, where municipal authorities say residents are increasingly going hungry. Santiago entered a total lockdown last Friday, amid growing coronavirus contagion. Yesterday Chile recorded 3,520 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase, for a total of almost 50,000 infections. It also reported its largest number of single-day deaths with 31, bringing the total to more than 500.

Images showed police spraying tear gas and water cannons to disperse the growing crowd. Rioting continued overnight Monday and there were pot banging protests in some neighborhoods of Santiago. Soldiers were deployed to back up police in Santiago yesterday, reports AFP.

President Sebastián Piñera said in a televised address Monday that his government would deliver 2.5 million baskets of food and cleaning supplies directly to homes by late this week or early next, reports Reuters. But critics, including Claudia Pizarro, the mayor of the Santiago suburb of La Pintana, said the government has failed to follow through on previous promises of aid.

In April Piñera announced a family allowance worth $317 for 4.5 million of the most vulnerable Chileans, but that has yet to be put into action, according to AFP. In the meantime, food prices have been increasing and inequality concerns that fueled massive protests last year have been largely unaddressed, notes Bloomberg.

There are reports that Santiago's hospitals are full, with long wait periods for suspected Covid-19 cases. (Nodal)


Brazil pushes hydroxychloroquine treatment

Brazilian health authorities recommended using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat even mild cases of COVID-19, today. The benefits of hydroxychlorquine as a remedy have been questioned and the side effects can be significant, but the drug has become a political symbol. In fact, President Jair Bolsonaro said that those who take it belong to the political right-wing. He also said he keeps a box of the drug on hand should his 93-year-old mother need it. Promotion of the remedy has been a flashpoint that pushed two health ministers to resign over the past month. The president has ordered the military to ramp up production of the drug. (AFP, Bloomberg)

Brazil's daily death toll from the new coronavirus jumped to a record 1,179, yesterday.

Shared ideology with U.S. President Donald Trump -- another fan of hydroxychloroquine, to the point where he claims to be taking it preventively -- does not seem likely to shield Brazil from knock-on effects of the pandemic. Trump said yesterday that he is considering a ban on travel from Brazil. "Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it," he said. (Reuters)

News Briefs

  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned that coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the tri-border area of the Amazon between Brazil, Colombia and Peru and threatens to infect remote rainforest indigenous communities. (Al Jazeera)
  • Traditional food markets may have undermined efforts to contain the novel coronavirus in Latin America, reports the Guardian. Peru has been particularly affected, despite a strict two month lockdown, and researchers believe that fresh food markets played a key role in Covid-19 infection rates. Authorities are loathe to close down markets which play a key role in supplying food in the region.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele decreed an extension of the country's strict coronavirus lockdown yesterday, again without legislative backing. The move comes after lawmakers passed a separate measure regulating social distancing on Monday, which Bukele promised to veto, reports El Diario de Hoy. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Thirty-three people in Salvadoran quarantine centers presented their cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, noting that they have been detained for over a month, despite a prohibition on the practice by El Salvador's Constitutional Court and 11 habeas corpus ordering the release of specific detainees. The complaint notes that the detainees have had no information about their health nor when they will be permitted to return home, reports El Faro.
  • Nicaragua shut down its border with Costa Rica, a move President Daniel Ortega blamed on Costa Rica's policy of testing truck drivers before they cross. (Associated Press
  • The coronavirus has stopped searches for Mexico's thousands of desaparecidos, frustrating desperate relatives, reports the Guardian.
  • A registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests there were 4,577 cases where doctors mentioned coronavirus or Covid-19 as a possible or probable cause of death, more than three times the official Covid-19 death toll in the city, reports the Associated Press.
  • Costa Rica's tourism sector has been hard hit by pandemic, driving up the need for food banks, reports the Guardian. A government subsidy pays out to workers who aren't earning income, but leaves out people from the informal economy.
  • Ecuador is restarting some mining operations, despite concerns from local communities that the activity could spread coronavirus. (Reuters)
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno said he will reduce government salaries, shut down some embassies and sell off several state-owned enterprises in order to save $4 billion in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Associated Press)
  • Snake oil: Haiti might procure an herbal concoction Madagascar is touting as a Covid-19 cure, though there is no evidence that it actually works. (Miami Herald)
  • The Argentine city of Cordoba has rolled back on the easing of lockdown measures following a sharp spike in coronavirus infections, yesterday. (AFP)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque extended the country's mandatory quarantine for another week, until May 31, yesterday. A health state of emergency will be extended until Aug. 31. (Reuters)
  • Coca eradication efforts have continued despite the lockdown,  a move that recklessly endangers  vulnerable communities, according to InSight Crime.
  • A new presidential decree in Colombia allows individual members of criminal groups to turn themselves in, a shift from efforts to get entire groups like the FARC to lay down arms, reports InSight Crime.
I hope you're all staying safe and as 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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