Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Bukele's first year in office (June 2, 2020)

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • At least 17 people were killed in El Salvador by Tropical Storm Amanda, and 24,125 families have been affected by landslides and flooding. (Associated Press, Diario de Hoy)
  • President Nayib Bukele visited a community destroyed by the storm yesterday, and marked the anniversary of his first year in office with a tirade against the National Assembly and El Salvador's Supreme Court. Bukele threatened to not pay lawmaker's salaries, and predicted that they would soon lose their positions, a veiled reference to next year's legislative elections. (El Faro)
  • The speech caps a year in which Salvadorans' right have been rolled back. Even before the coronavirus lockdown, the Bukele administration was leaning more on security forces, violating prison inmates' rights, weakening protections for LGBT people, and undermining freedom of expression, according to El Diario de Hoy.
  • Nonetheless, the U.S. State Department certified that El Salvador's government has adequately guaranteed human rights and democratic institutions -- a requirement to obtain U.S. foreign aid -- though the report noted with concern Bukele's military takeover of the National Assembly chamber in February and efforts to silence critical journalists and media outlets. (El Faro)
  • Last week National Assembly lawmakers passed a law outlining a gradual economic reopening plan that would begin reopening El Salvador's economic activity on June 8. Bukele promised to veto the law -- the second attempt by the legislature to end the country's quarantine. (La Prensa Gráfica)
  • Four people deported to El Salvador in April from the U.S. tested positive for Covid-19 in a Salvadoran government quarantine facility. They said U.S. immigration authorities never tested them, reports El Faro. The United States has deported more than 1,700 Salvadorans during the pandemic, yet El Salvador’s immigration authorities have refused to divulge the number of Covid-19 cases among the deported population.
  • The U.S. promised to test people before deporting them, but the Department of Homeland Security is only testing a sample of the detainees it is removing from the United States, according to the Miami Herald. Furthermore it is using a potentially inaccurate 15-minute rapid test to determine if they have the coronavirus, raising the specter of false-negatives. Guatemala’s government has confirmed that some returning migrants are still testing positive for Covid-19, despite arriving with a clean bill of health from U.S. immigration authorities.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro urged supporters to put off their protests against the country’s Supreme Court next weekend after counter-demonstrations triggered violent clashes on Sunday, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Brazil registered 11,598 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 623 additional deaths in the last 24 hours, the nation’s Health Ministry said last night. (Reuters)
  • Mexico might be at its coronavirus peak -- Mexico City is facing an onslaught of cases with an understaffed and undersupplied hospital system, reports the Washington Post. There is concern that official figure of nearly 10,000 dead vastly underestimates the death toll, and that the chronic illnesses that afflict many Mexicans -- including obesity and diabetes -- will contribute significantly to mortality rates.
  • Mexico lifted its 70-day lockdown yesterday, but replaced it with a contradictory patchwork of federal and local measures, reports the Washington Post.
  • Venezuela raised gasoline prices yesterday, a historic policy shift in a country where gas has been essentially free for citizens for decades. There were long lines and payment problems, reports Bloomberg. The move is a gamble aimed at improving major fuel shortages, but removing subsidies could backfire, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Iran has said it will continue fuel shipments to Venezuela if Caracas requests more supplies, despite U.S. criticism. (Al Jazeera)
  • Mexico-based company Libre Abordo said on Sunday it was bankrupt and that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had terminated an oil-for-food agreement with the firm, reports Reuters.
  • Quarantine hasn't protected hundreds of families from an informal neighborhood in Bogotá from eviction, reports the Washington Post. Authorities say the houses in the Ciudad Bolivar shantytown were built unlawfully, reports the Guardian. Members of the Altos de la Estancia community show videos of heavily armored riot police firing tear gas and destroying houses. The government promised food and economic relief to 3 million impoverished families in early April, though residents in Ciudad Bolívar say little has been forthcoming.
  • The city of Soacha, near Bogotá has limited deaths with an extremely strict lockdown, but residents are chafing, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • At least 20 journalists have died from Covid-19 in Peru, many who carry out their work without adequate protective equipment, reports the Guardian.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concerns about the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among Amazon's Indigenous people in Ecuador. (Telesur)
  • Argentina extended its deadline to negotiate with its creditors to June 12, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Chile surpassed 100,000 cases of the coronavirus, yesterday, reports Reuters.
  • South American countries are relaxing coronavirus restrictions, even as contagions continue to rise in most of the region, reports the Associated Press. The executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, Mike Ryan, expressed concern over South America’s climbing contagion, telling reporters that the region had become an “intense zone of transmission for this virus,” which had not yet reached its peak.
  • Covid-19 will have a devastating effect on higher education in Latin America -- a survey by American University's Center for Latin American & Latino Studies found that online instruction is severely affected by socio-economic and territorial disparities; most respondents believe that on-site classes cannot resume for some time; and 84 percent of respondents predict a drop in undergraduate registration. "Our survey leaves little doubt that Latin American universities are facing their greatest crisis in decades. Continued expansion of higher education institutions – one-quarter of which have been created since the early 2000s – now appears implausible."
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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