Monday, March 29, 2021

Chile to postpone constitutional assembly elections (March 29, 2021)

 Chilean President Sebastián Piñera proposed postponing constitutional assembly elections scheduled for next month, due to a surge in coronavirus cases. Chile implemented strict new coronavirus lockdowns last week in the midst of a deadly second wave of cases that has 95 percent of the country's intensive care capacity occupied. 

More than 80% of the country’s 19 million inhabitants weren't able to leave their homes at all over the weekend. During the week, each person is allowed two short-term permits to leave the house to buy essentials and can exercise outdoors between 7am and 8.30am.

This despite the fact that Chile has mounted the world's fastest per-capita Covid-19 vaccination campaign, reports the Guardian. Nearly half of the country’s population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Piñera's proposal to move elections from April to May would need Congressional approval, reports AFP. The vote is to elect not only members of the Constituent Assembly, in charge of writing a fresh constitution, but governors and mayors as well. Congressional and presidential elections scheduled for November of this year would not be affected, reports Reuters.

News Briefs

  • The U.S. government is weighing whether to temporarily lift intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. (CNBC) The U.S. has, until now, resisted pressure from developing nations that a small group of wealthy countries hold the right to a disproportionate amount of the global supply. (See March 11's post.)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque called on the U.S. to help Western Hemisphere countries obtain Covid-19 vaccines, reports Reuters.“The distribution of vaccines has been pretty much unequal and we have countries that have bought vaccines but they haven’t been able to receive not even one (dose),” Duque said during a virtual event hosted by the Atlantic Council.
  • Cuba has five vaccine candidates in development; two in late-stage trials with the goal of a broader rollout by May. Success could be a game changer for other developing nations, as the jabs would be cheap and easy to store. They could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the “Axis of Evil” and “Troika of Tyranny," reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazil unveiled its first two domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates for human trials on Friday. (Reuters)
  • Brazil is now reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country in the world. Intensive care units around the country are full, and contagion continues to increase -- the situation is "dire," reports the New York Times. "The breakdown is a stark failure for a country that, in past decades, was a model for other developing nations."
  • Brazil’s more than 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 amount to the “biggest genocide” in the Latin American country’s history, according to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Al Jazeera)
  • Mexico's government revised its Covid-19 toll to include excess deaths. The official number of Covid-19 deaths is now above 321,000, almost 60 percent more than the official test-confirmed number. The higher toll would exceed that of Brazil, which has the world’s second-highest number of deaths after the US., though Mexico’s population of 126 million is far smaller than those of either of those countries, notes the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's election agency withdrew the ballot registration of Félix Salgado, who was running for Guerrero State governor, on technical grounds. Salgado's candidacy has been controversial, as he was nominated by the ruling Morena party despite accusations of rape against him. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's continued defense of Salgado has pitted AMLO against Mexican women's rights groups. However, election authorities' struck his candidacy on technical grounds, not because of the allegations. (Guardian)
  • Four police officers in the Mexican city of Tulum have been charged with femicide after a Salvadoran woman died while being restrained. Social media videos of the Saturday night incident appear to show a female officer kneeling on Victoria Salazar’s back while she was being arrested. An autopsy concluded that Salazar’s neck was broken. “The police restraint technique was applied with a disproportionate and excessive force,” according to the attorney general of Quintana Roo state. (Guardian)
Regional Relations
  • The presidents of Mexico and Bolivia signed a joint statement warning Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro to stay away from their countries' domestic matters. (Mercopress)
  • The U.S. blocked Venezuela from proceeding with its dispute over Washington’s sanctions at the World Trade Organization, on Friday. (Reuters)
  • Facebook froze Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s page for 30 days for violating its policies against spreading misinformation about Covid-19. Venezuela’s government accused Facebook Inc of "digital totalitarianism," reports Reuters.
  • Paraguay's political system has been dominated by the Partido Colorado for decades. Recent citizen protests against the government, fueled by the pandemic and reports of corruption, have the potential to create change, but require astute leadership from civil society and a united opposition alliance, writes Sylvia Colombo in New York Times Español.
  • Armed groups in Colombia are recruiting children, a return to a common feature of the country's decades long civil war with guerrillas. Young people — "trapped between an often absent state, the aggressive recruitment of armed groups and the firepower of the military" — are the most vulnerable targets in Colombia's renewed armed conflict, reports the New York Times.
  • A 9-year-old migrant girl drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas with her family. It is the first reported death of a child in a new surge of migration along the U.S. southwestern border, reports the New York Times.
El Salvador
  • FOCOS TV, an independent television program in El Salvador, announced the end of its run with Canal 33, which formally said it will be focusing on educational programming. The announcement came as a surprise to the project's leadership, but which promised to continue on digital platforms. (El Diario de Hoy)
  • Journalist Saúl Alfaro, FOCOS founder, wrote that independent journalism is more important than ever in El Salvador, and that "without criteria, audiences are manipulable by the propaganda of the government in turn." (El Diario de Hoy)
  • A Brazilian court has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to pay compensation to journalist Patricia Campos Mello after he made degrading comments about her, reports the BBC.
  • The story of a Brazilian pilot who survived a plane crash and a month in the Amazon rainforest has heartened a country besieged by bad news, but the case "also put a spotlight on Brazil’s illegal mining industry, which has flourished in recent decades in Indigenous territories and other parts of the Amazon that are supposed to be sanctuaries," reports the New York Times in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.
  • Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would exempt about 1.3 million citizens from paying income taxes, a move aimed at boosting the country's economic recovery from the pandemic, reports Bloomberg.
  • Argentina's lower chamber of congress also passed a bill that would create a national environmental education plan. (Página 12)
  • Colombian singer Karol G is challenging outdated views of women in Latin pop – but her naive racial politics have sparked controversy, reports the Guardian.
  • Inclusive language doesn't resolve exclusion, but it highlights the need for effective policies of inclusion, writes Jorge Carrión in the New York Times Español. "I don't think it matters if you are in favor or against the increasingly common use of neutral words. What matters is that nobody forgets that inclusion is still pending."

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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