Thursday, March 4, 2021

Latin American students miss school (March 4, 2021)

More than 168 million schoolchildren globally missed out on learning in class, as schools in some 14 countries remained largely shut for almost an entire year due to coronavirus-related lockdowns, according to a new UNICEF report. Nine of the 14 countries, where schools remained mostly closed between March 2020 to February 2021, are in the Latin American and Caribbean region, affecting nearly 100 million students. Of these countries, Panama kept schools closed for the most days, followed by El Salvador, Bangladesh, and Bolivia. 

In all, almost 60% of children worldwide who have lost an entire year of school are in Latin America. On average, schools in the region have been fully closed for 158 days. “Children here have been out of the classroom longer than any other child in the world,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In many parts of the world, schools are the first to reopen and the last to close. But in Latin America and the Caribbean, schools are often the last to open and the first to close”. (Miami Herald)

UNICEF acknowledged the decision and efforts made by several governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to the reopening of schools. Countries like Uruguay, which had gradual reopenings last year, starting with rural schools and ending with schools in Montevideo, could set an example of proper procedure in the region, the U.N. said. UNICEF is calling on other governments in the region to prioritize reopening.

News Briefs

  • Epidemics can increase the likelihood of social unrest, in the medium-term, though they tend to suppress unrest, in the short-run, by dissuading social activities. A new IMF report predicts that as Covid-19 fades, unrest will reemerge in locations where it previously existed.
  • A series of vaccine scandals in Latin American countries -- in which government influence allowed people to jump ahead in the inoculation line -- have reinforced the "extended idea that access to the public function is not to serve but to serve oneself," writes Diego Fonseca in New York Times Español.
  • Two of Cuba's four nationally-developed vaccine candidates will begin their third and final trials this month, reports CNN. Soberana 2 will now be tested on 44,000 Cubans, as well as thousands of people in Iran and Venezuela. Mexico could potentially also take part, reports the Financial Times
  • Officials say Cuba will export its Covid-19 vaccines at cost price plus a small margin to support its free universal healthcare system. Patents may be licensed abroad for production and vaccines donated to the poorest countries. Cuban scientists say they expect their vaccines to be a game changer -- not just against the rising Covid numbers but also for the disastrous impacts of the pandemic on their economy. 
  • A music video which excoriates Cuba’s communist dictatorship and makes common cause with dissidents has rattled Cuba's government. "Patria y Vida" features famous reggaetoneros, rappers and hip-hop artists singing about Cuba’s food shortages, families unable to see their relatives abroad and Cuba’s weak peso. (The Economist). 
  • The song's popularity suggests Cubans are losing their fear of government security agents, writes Jorge Ramos in the New York Times Español. "Losing fear (or controlling it) is always the first step before an important change."
Regional Relations
  • Eighty U.S. House of Representatives Democrats urged President Joe Biden to repeal his predecessor's “cruel” sanctions on Cuba and renew engagement. It is an early sign of support in Congress for easing the clamp-down, reports Reuters.
  • Guyana said that two Venezuelan fighter jets entered its airspace, circling a community on the countries' shared border before returning to their own territory. The incident is the latest in a long-running border conflict that has heated up this year, reports Reuters.
  • A leaked Honduran indictment accuses President Juan Orlando Hernández's government of paying off journalists for favorable coverage, reports Vice News. The allegations outlined in the case involve some $5 million that were funneled from the office of the presidency through front companies to journalists and political elites.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden requested a report on climate change and its impact on migration in February, a timely focus as climate displacement becomes increasingly urgent in Central America, argue Kayly Ober and Rachel Schmidtke in the Hill. They analyze ‘dry corridor,’ which extends from Southern Mexico to Costa Rica, where extreme weather patterns have eroded livelihoods -- and potential responses from the Biden administration to help people suffering climate-related food insecurity in Central America.
  • "When it comes to hotly contested issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion, the Inter-American system is the wrong venue for change, argues Robert Carlson in Global Americans. "Instead, advocates should embrace a two-pronged approach, pushing the envelope at the domestic level while reinforcing well-established rights through international institutions."
Cayman Islands
  • The Cayman Islands' Human Rights Commission has raised objections to coronavirus quarantining voters missing out on casting their ballot during the 14 April general election. (Cayman Compass)

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

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