Friday, May 29, 2020

Latin America 40 percent coronavirus deaths (May 29, 2020)

Latin America represents nearly 40 percent of daily coronavirus deaths globally now -- though it has just 8 percent of the world's population, reports Bloomberg. Latin American countries reported more than 1,900 deaths on yesterday, a record, accounting for 37 percent worldwide.

Earlier this week the Pan-American Health Organization said Latin America had become the world's coronavirus epicenter. 

Brazil currently has more cases than any country except the U.S. Mexico had its largest single increase in both cases and deaths this week. And Peru, Chile and Colombia have all set daily records in the past week. There is concern that Haiti could be headed for a Covid-19 humanitarian crisis.

Even as caseloads continue to explode, some normal activity is resuming across the region, warns Bloomberg. "Without more government aid and security forces, many countries may not be able to sustain quarantines until the worst of the storm has passed."

A study this week by the United Nations World Food Programme found the coronavirus pandemic has put nearly 14 million people in the Caribbean and Latin America at risk of missing meals. (NPR) The UN agency estimated that 10 million additional people could join the 3.4 million across the region who were already unable to meet their basic food needs. The WFP projections cover Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and small island developing states in the Caribbean.

News Briefs

  • Suriname's main opposition party seems poised to win last Monday's legislative elections, but the ruling National Democratic Party has already called for a recount. At stake is the continuity of President Desi Bouterse, who has governed the country through dictatorship and democracy and was recently convicted of murder by a military court. He called for a nationally televised recount after preliminary results gave victory to the opposition Progressive Reform Party. (Deutsche Welle)
  • Chilean doctors said they are being forced to make tough decisions as hospital beds in Santiago run short, reports Reuters. The count of new cases in Chile has quadrupled since early May to about 4,000 daily, with total cases topping 80,000 on Wednesday. Critical care wards in Santiago now report 97% occupancy levels, according to a Tuesday poll by Chile´s Society of Intensive Care Medicine.
  • Some 15 percent of Chileans who have tested positive for COVID-19 are still going to work, according to a new study that also found that people presenting “suspicious” symptoms who have not been tested, the proportion of those still on the job rose to 43.6 percent. (EFE)
  • Brazil entered the pandemic with strengths that include a federal system and a relatively strong public health system. But "Covid-19 exploits Brazil's weaknesses," reports the Economist. The virus has rooted into poor neighborhoods where density is high and most people have jobs without contracts or benefits -- making social distancing hard. Even more harmful is President Jair Bolsonaro's attitude. 
  • Sao Paulo, will begin reopening after two months of a loose quarantine, despite a record number of new coronavirus cases reported in Brazil. (Bloomberg)
  • Venezuela’s Crisis, Outside Powers, Politics, and the Search for a Solution -- David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey unpack what's going on in Venezuela with Covid-19, what it would take to reach a political solution, and the role of outside powers in the latest WOLA podcast.
  • The Venezuelan navy said it escorted a fourth fuel tanker from Iran through its waters, yesterday. The U.S. called the shipments to the gasoline-starved country a distraction from problems facing President Nicolas Maduro, reports Reuters.
  • A British court said it must decide which of Venezuela's political factions legitimately represent the country before ruling on president Nicolas Maduro’s request for the Bank of England to hand over gold the country has in its vaults. The gold would be used to fund Venezuela’s coronavirus response, and the Maduro administration said the money would be administered by the UN Development Program to administer the funds. But the Bank of England has refused to transfer the funds to Maduro’s government, which Britain does not recognize, since 2018. (Reuters)
  • Venezuela's National Assembly ratified opposition leader Juan Guaido as legislative speaker, yesterday, defying a Supreme Court ruling that recognized a Maduro-friendly lawmaker as the head of the assembly, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Coronavirus economic pain has been intense in Venezuela, which was already suffering from hyperinflation, high levels of unemployment and a seven-year recession. Re-opening certain sectors of the economy will be critical "to ensure that the quarantine doesn’t cost more lives than the coronavirus itself," but "will need to be carefully planned, and come alongside an agile public policy response," writes Asdrúbal Oliveros in Americas Quarterly.
  • "As governments consider how to respond to COVID-19, one potential solution has been flying under the radar: subnational development banks," argue Sergio Suchodolski and Adauto Modesto Junior in Americas Quarterly.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador has secured $250 million in emergency financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fund Covid-19 efforts. (Latin Finance)
  • Cristosal notes a worrisome trend of Covid-19 cases among Salvadoran security forces, and reports that they are obliged to continue working, despite the diagnosis. The National Civil Police denied the allegation.
  • The group also denounced the collapse of health centers, lack of protective gear for health workers, and attempts to censor workers.
  • Coronavirus has deepened inequality in Ecuador's Guayaquil, reports Al Jazeera.
  • The Center for International Environmental Law denounced that ExxonMobil has flared gas offshore in Guyana, far exceeding permitted levels. "The magnitude and duration of the flaring suggests more than a one-time, technical glitch. According to Guyana’s environmental agency, Exxon has flared an estimated 9 billion cubic feet of gas—not the 2 billion the company first claimed. That puts Guyana among the top ten gas flaring countries in the world—even though the first oil was lifted from Guyana’s waters just six months ago."
  • Colombian Duque administration "achievements include absorbing 1.8m Venezuelan migrants, a law to get broadband to rural areas and, so far, coping with covid-19. But with more than half [of President Iván Duque's] four-year term still to go, they risk being wiped out by recession and, with it, a probable rebound in crime," warns the Economist.
  • Bolivia is a tough case to pigeonhole -- this post by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky Former UN Independent Expert on debt and human rights analyzes some aspects of its heterodox development model under President Evo Morales.
  • Argentina published a new debt offer that shortens its payment moratorium to two years and delays principal payments for half a decade -- Bloomberg.
  • Art can make visible the forgotten political violence victims that Colombia has tried to erase, writes Doris Salcedo, part of a New York Times "Big Ideas" series.
  • Also in the series, which focuses on "Why Does Art Matter," Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio writes about how representation of indigenous women in the film Roma helped create momentum for a groundbreaking new law that granted two million Mexican domestic workers basic rights.
Lockdown lifestyle
  • To meet rising demand for animal companions in lockdown, Public Animal Shelter in Rio de Janeiro lets people choose a pet online and delivers it to their homes. (Guardian)
  • Waste not want not: Montevideo's closed down international airport is doubling as a drive-in movie theater for Uruguayans who miss entertainment venues. (Guardian)



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