Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Covid-19's drastic impact in LAC (July 15, 2020)

The impact of Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean will be profound and lasting, according to a new United Nations policy brief. The pandemic will "result in the worst recession in the region in a century, causing a 9.1% contraction in regional GDP in 2020. This could push the number of poor up by 45 million (to a total of 230 million) and the number of extremely poor by 28 million (to 96 million in total), putting them at risk of undernutrition. In a region which experienced a significant number of political crises and protests in 2019, increasing inequalities, exclusion and discrimination in the context of COVID-19 affect adversely the enjoyment of human rights and democratic developments, potentially even leading to civil unrest, if left unaddressed."

The impacts will not be equally distributed either. “Covid-19 will not be color- or race-blind in Latin America,” the World Bank said in a report last month.  "Preliminary evidence shows that Covid-19 disproportionately affects the 150 million African descendants in Latin America, or 30 percent of the region’s population. Reports from state and municipal governments indicate that Afro-descendants may have coronavirus mortality or incidence rates three to eight times higher than the population as a whole," said Judith Morrison, senior advisor for social development in the Gender and Diversity Division at the Inter-American Development Bank in today's Latin America Advisor.

News Briefs

  • Thousands of demonstrators marched in Bolivia's capital, La Paz, yesterday, in protest against interim-president Jeanine Áñez. They defied quarantine restrictions to march yesterday, and demands focused on health and education policies, as well as layoffs related to Covid-19. (AFP)

More Regional
  • Coronavirus is hitting Latin American leaders hard -- three heads of state recently tested positive, as have government officials and political leaders. The situation is particularly acute in Bolivia, where Foreign Minister Karen Longaric became the ninth high ranking official to test positive for Covid-19 this week, a list that includes interim-president Jeanine Áñez, reports CNN.
  • Covid-19 a real occupational hazard for heads of state, even for those who take the virus seriously, argues James Bosworth in the Latin America Risk Report. The pandemic could very well reshape political landscapes where political legitimacy is already tenuous, like Bolivia
  • The number of deaths from the coronavirus in Latin America has exceeded the figure for North America for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to a Reuters count from Monday.
  • The reason most presidents are somewhat at risk of contagion is that they have to appear, notes Bosworth in the Latin American Risk Report. The exception is, of course, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, who has a habit of disappearing for long periods of time. He has currently broken his own record of not appearing for 35 days -- even as Covid-19 deaths increase in the country, reports Confidencial.
  • Nicaragua's presidential election will be held in November of next year, announced the country’s Supreme Electoral Council, yesterday. Parties will have until June 7, 2021 — five months before the vote — to complete the legal registration process. Nicaragua’s two main opposition groups announced the earlier this year they will form a coalition to compete in the 2021 race, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazil hasn't had a health minister for two months -- and interim-minister General Eduardo Pazuello, has filled key ministry posts with military officials, reports El País. The ministry is increasingly sidelined in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, after the two last ministers quit their posts due to differences with President Jair Bolsonaro. (See yesterday's briefs on Bolsonaro's increasingy militarized government.)
  • Brazilian meat factories are a Covid-19 contagion factor, and have contributed to spreading the virus in at least three different parts of the country, reports the Guardian. Meat plants have stayed open during the pandemic, and staff work closely together, often in refrigerated areas -- excellent Covid-19 breeding centers. Other countries, including the US, Canada, Ireland and Germany, have also seen clusters around slaughterhouses.
  • Guayana has hit another judicial roadblock in its drawn out electoral process. A new legal challenge filed yesterday attempts to block Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) retired Justice Claudette Singh to from declaring the winner of March 2's vote using the results of the national recount process, reports Stabroek News. The new challenge goes against a Caribbean Court of Justice ruling from last week that Guyana should abide by the results of a recount of the March 2 general election, a victory for the opposition candidate Irfaan Ali. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela’s crude output fell in June to the lowest level in nearly eight decades, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico's struggles with increasing violence (see yesterday's post) illustrate the country's broken justice system, and point to some smart reforms that could have a major impact, according to María Novoa in Americas Quarterly. "A shift in focus is needed. Dismantling organized crime requires coordinated action between federal and local authorities.Without it, cartels will prevail because they have both the economic means and the manpower to keep their basic operating structures in place."
  • The Ayotzinapa case casts light on the divide between old judicial paradigms and newer ones in Mexico, argues Ricardo Raphael in the Post Opinión.
  • Animal Político reports on Mexico City residents made homeless by Covid-19's economic impact.
  • The body of Marvin Damian Castro, a member of a network of environmental defense groups in Honduras' south, was found yesterday. The environmentalist had recently expressed fears for his life to the National Protection System, a government body set up to protect human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers, reports AFP.
  • Gangs in San Pedro Sula are innovating: an MS13 cell wired several neighborhoods in the city's outskirts with surveillance cameras. The move is a "sign that the gang is becoming more sophisticated in even its most basic function: territorial control," reports InSight Crime.
  • Colombian authorities are concerned that Venezuelan gangs are creeping over the border and establishing themselves locally, reports InSight Crime.
  • Venezuelan migrants everywhere in the region have been hard hit by Covid-19 and lockdowns. In Peru the lack of support networks in their host country and their precarious legal status further limited migrants’ ability to respect the lockdown, placing them and their families at risk of catching and transmitting the virus, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • A new study by The Lancet predicts an earlier than expected "peak" world population -- experts say migration policies will play a key role in countries' economic success. (New York Times)
Bright Side
  • Potential long term positive effects of the pandemic in the region could be: greater financial inclusion, greater investment in hospitals, and greater use of information and communication technology -- Americas Quarterly


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