Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mexico's health care system strained (May 28, 2020)

Mexico's broken health system is killing people, on top of the lives taken by coronavirus, reports the New York Times. Years of neglect had already hobbled the country's health care system, leaving it short of qualified workers and equipment. "Now, the pandemic is making matters much worse, sickening more than 11,000 Mexican health workers — one of the highest rates in the world — and depleting the already thin ranks in hospitals."

Casualty numbers among medical personnel — they account for more than 1 in 5 of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country — are at the core of a controversy about whether Mexico is doing enough to protect front-line caregivers facing great risks of exposure, reports the Los Angeles Times. In Mexico, there is a disconnect between healthcare workers’ persistent complaints about a lack of safety equipment and government assurances that all is well, notes the piece.

With Mexico's health-care system under intense strain, small community hospitals in Southern California have been flooded with Americans who have fallen ill and crossed the border, reports the Washington Post. They are retirees and dual citizens, Americans working in Mexico or visiting family there.

News Briefs

More Mexico
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is increasingly reliant on the country's military for everything from public works, fighting coronavirus and confronting drug cartels. Critics say the move is risky because it gives the armed forces too much power and money, while delaying deeper changes to strengthen Mexico’s civilian institutions, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The UN World Food Programme warned yesterday that 14 million people could go hungry in Latin America because of the pandemic as the crisis crippled economies. “We are entering a very complicated stage,” said Miguel Barreto, the WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It is what we are calling a hunger pandemic.” (Guardian)
  • Reports of pandemic related corruption are proliferating across the region, reports the Associated Press. This week Transparency International asked the OAS to step up anti-corruption actions in the pandemic context, noting the increase in opaque spending and direct contracts in the current health crisis. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian police carried out dozens of raids yesterday as part of an investigation into a fake news network that might be be linked to the president’s son. The operation’s targets were an eclectic and influential cast of hardcore online supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, reports the Guardian. One of Bolsonaro's sons, Carlos, has been allegedly linked to a “criminal fake news racket” engaged in threatening and defaming Brazilian authorities. Opposition politicians hailed the raids as a major blow to the alleged Bolsonarian fake news machine. (See also Bloomberg.)
  • Bolsonaro lashed out against the investigation -- authorized by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes -- yesterday, calling it a grave strike against freedom of expression and democracy. (Globo)
  • The Brazilian edition of "Sleeping Giants" -- an internet watchdog movement that calls out big companies whose advertising appears on sites that publish fake news or contribute to misinformation campaigns -- has had rapid success. In about a week the Twitter account created by an anonymous student garnered 300,000 followers and pushed 40 companies, including multinationals like McDonald's and Philips to revise their Google ad policies. Bolsonaro supporters, including his sons, have expressed irritation with the campaign, reports El País.
  • Two new studies give troubling information about increased deforestation in Brazil. They add to concerns amid evidence that the government has sought to undermine environmental regulations at a time when public attention is consumed by coronavirus. (Guardian)
  • Venezuela's Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) declared the legality of the National Assembly directorate led by Luis Párra and prohibited parallel meetings of the Guaidó-led National Assembly. The ruling further reduces the possibility of fair legislative elections this year, because it undermines an agreement from earlier this year that could have led to a consensus National Electoral Council (CNE) write David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas in the Venezuela Weekly
  • Regardless, the electoral year is shaping up with a now-classic dilemma for Venezuela's opposition politicians, over whether to participate or abstain from unfair elections. The Maduro administration has successfully divided the opposition since 2017 with this political strategy, reports the Venezuela Weekly. "It has done this by artfully constructing elections so that conditions are obnoxiously-biased enough to generate abstention, at the same time that they are attractive enough that some opposition candidates will participate and even win ... Dividing the opposition between abstainers and participators allows the Chavista coalition to win elections despite its unpopularity, and present itself as democratic." (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • The International Donors Conference organized by the European Union together with the government of Spain, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) managed to raised $2.79 billion in direct donations, loans and governmental assistance. (Venezuela Weekly)
  • U.S. authorities have threatened tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela with sanctions, aiming to thwart the economic alliance between the two countries, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • The United States funded rock groups in Venezuela to record songs promoting democracy – and undermine the rule of Hugo Chávez – according to documents released after a Freedom of Information Act request by a U.S. sociologist. (Guardian)
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele joined the ranks of leaders touting hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against coronavirus, despite a lack of scientific consensus and concerns over serious side-effects. "I use it as a prophylaxis. President Trump uses it as a prophylaxis. Most of the world's leaders use it as a prophylaxis," said Bukele during a press conference. (CNN)
  • Suriname's main opposition party, the Progressive Reform Party (VHP), was set to win parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results presented yesterday. If confirmed, this would end the longtime rule of President Desi Bouterse, who was convicted of murder last year. The VHP was set to win 20 seats in the 51-member parliament which elects the president, reports Al Jazeera. Bouterse was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a military court for ordering executions of 15 political opponents during his first period in power, in 1982.
  • Coronavirus has already taken root in Haiti's densely overcrowded penitentiary system, and hundreds of inmates are at risk of dying, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Nicaragua reported a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, but observers say the government is still hiding the true extent of the virus's spread in the country. (AFP)
  • Families in Ecuador are still desperately searching for the bodies of loved ones who died of coronavirus in March, reports the New York Times.
  • Colombia will begin easing restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus starting from June, President Ivan Duque said yesterday, though he asked the public to continue isolating at home and keep using measures to contain the disease. (Reuters)
  • The FARC political party will ask the IACHR to take precautionary measures to stop " the systematic extermination" of those involved in the 2016 Colombian peace accords, reports Telesur.
  • Colombia’s top prosecutor says that Madrid-based businessman Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo is “Memo Fantasma," which confirms InSight Crime's investigation into the identity of the elusive drug lord and paramilitary commander published earlier this year.
  • The recount of votes from Guyana's March 2 general election is crawling forward at a snails pace, however it seems unlikely that authorities will meet their 25-day deadline (which ends in three days) at the current rate. (Stabroek News)
  • The Panama government said on Tuesday that in June it will start to relax some measures imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, permitting sectors such as construction, nonmetallic mining and pharmaceuticals to resume operations. (Reuters)
  • The complete lockdown of one of Argentina's poorest slums, in the Buenos Aires province, has prompted critical talk of ghettoization. Authorities have defended the move after testing indicated a surge of coronavirus positives in Villa Azul, and particularly seek to prevent contagion in an even larger neighboring shantytown. The enforced isolation has left Villa Azul's  population entirely dependent on deliveries of essential items by the army. (Guardian)
  • Argentina's abortion activists have taken their campaign online, given Covid-19 restrictions that prevent physical rallies. (Guardian)
  • Cocaine traffickers have adapted to coronavirus restrictions better than many legitimate businesses, reports the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (via InSight Crime). "What is clear is that cocaine continues to flow from South America to Europe and North America. Closed trafficking routes have been replaced with new ones, and street deals have been substituted with door-to-door deliveries."
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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