Monday, March 8, 2021

Women's Day in the Pandemic (March 8, 2021)

 Today is International Women's Day, a date Latin American feminists have turned into a strike day in recent years to draw attention to gender violence -- physical, social and economic -- in the region. Argentina's Ni Una Menos movement started the trend in 2016, and around Latin America the date has shifted from saccharine celebrations of "womanhood" to massive protests against femicides and in favor of abortion. The Nation notes that it's really a return to the history of March 8, which has been associated with working women's rights since female garment workers left work to rally for better working conditions in New York City in 1857.

This year protests in the region are marked by the coronavirus pandemic that hit Latin America a year ago. Violence against women has increased significantly during lockdowns, and women have been disproprotionately affected by restrictions that simultaneously increased care work demands, and hit "female" industries.

Feminist muscle is increasingly important in Latin America and the Caribean. In Argentina activists succeeded in pushing through abortion legalization legislation in December. (See Jan. 4's post.) In Chile half of the members of the new Constituent Assembly will be women, and several feminist candidates' proposals have gained attention, such as a new constitutional right to individual autonomy over the body. (See Friday's briefs.) And in Mexico women are increasingly leading opposition to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has been dismissive of their demands for government policy against femicides. (Guardian, see also last Tuesday's briefs.) 

Even as feminist activists have brought the issue of gender violence into mainstream discourse, emblematic cases of femicides continue to add up from Argentina, to Mexico, passing through Honduras. In Argentina Ni Una Menos has focused new demands on the judiciary to effectively implement policies to protect women, after several assassinations this year in which women had previously denounced harassment from their eventual murderers. Argentina's feminists will be marching against a "patriarchal justice system" today. (Página 12)

More Women's Rights
  • At-will abortion is finally legal in Argentina, but that doesn't mean it's easy to obtain. In many provinces doctors are taking advantage of a conscientious objection provision in the recent legalization law, at the urging of abortion opponents who are regrouping after their legislative loss last December, reports the New York Times. The law faces widespread opposition among doctors in rural areas, particularly in northern provinces where Catholic and evangelical churches have considerable influence.
  • The pandemic made access to legal abortions in Brazil even more restricted, as hospitals reduced the service. This in addition to the Bolsonaro government's attacks on women's right to terminate pregnacy, which is legal in Brazil only in cases of rape, risk to the mother, and fetal anencephaly, reports Folha de S. Paulo.

Paraguayan protesters call for Abdo Benítez to resign

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez asked his entire cabinet to resign this weekend, following violent clashes between protesters and security forces on Friday. The protests in Asunción broke out amid growing outrage as coronavirus infections hit record levels and hospitals verged on collapse throughout the country, reports Reuters. Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who had gathered around the Congress building. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Saturday expressed concerns over reports that police used excessive force against people during the protests, while calling on the authorities to investigate complaints of human rights violations.

Abdo Benítez is facing pressure from citizens and the political opposition to step down himself. For now, the president appears to have enough support in Congress to avoid impeachment. But protesters across the country have said that they intend to continue holding demonstrations until his government falls, reports the New York Times.

Protesters and opposition lawmakers said that the country’s health crisis had been exacerbated by pervasive corruption at all levels of public procurement and spending. The government recently said there is a shortage of drugs to treat Covid-19 and that most hospital critical care beds are full. Paraguay has received just a few thousand doses of Covid-19 vaccine, so far. (Al Jazeera)

More Covid-19 protests
  • Police in Argentina's Formosa province fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators protesting against coronavirus restrictions. The regional U.N. human rights office and the resident coordinator for the U.N. in Argentina said in a statement they were concerned police had employed “indiscriminate violence that resulted in people being injured and detained." (Al Jazeera)
News Briefs

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented increase in poverty in what was already the world’s most unequal region, according to ECLAC. (EFE)
  • In the midst of soaring Covid-19 deaths, and critical hospital bed shortages, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro insists that lockdowns are unnecessary. This week he hailed a "miracle" drug from Israel to treat coronavirus patients, though it has only undergone preliminary tests and is not being used in routine patient care anywhere, reports the New York Times.
  • Scientists and healthcare professionals believe one factor behind Brazil's overwhelming second-wave of Covid-19 is the more contagious P.1 strain, which may be able to evade the natural immunity developed by people who have already contracted the virus. Experts also point to lack of national preventive measures and issues in the rollout of immunisations, reports the Financial Times.
  • A small study indicates the CoronaVac vaccine being used in Brazil against the coronavirus might not be effective against the P.1 strain, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • "Brazilian democracy remains alive and resilient despite the political climate, which has worsened considerably since President Jair Bolsonaro’s election," writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. "While the president has openly sought to erode Brazil’s democracy, he has so far failed to inflict irreversible damage. It is interesting to consider why."
  • Colombia's transitional justice court, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, was designed to reveal the facts of a conflict that defined the country for generations. Success could help change the trajectory of a nation that has been at war for much of its history, while failure could lead to repetition of the vicious cycle, reports the New York Times.
  • The U.S. Biden administration's response to a fast-growing migration surge along the Mexico border is largely logistical -- accommodating the increase, rather than seeking to contain it or change the upward trend, according to the Washington Post.
  • The trial of alleged Honduran drug trafficker, Geovanny Fuentes, begins today in the U.S. and implicates the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who is an unindicted co-conspirator. The trial is likely to also provide greater insight into the spider’s web of political corruption in Honduras, including the involvement of the Honduran military and police in drug trafficking, as well as the Mexican cartels operating in Central America, reports Univisión.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's traditional parties -- the FMLN and Arena -- have been relegated to irrelevance by President Nayib Bukele's landslide victory in last week's legislative elections. Bukele's political success is built on polarization against "enemies." Without a relevant political opposition, he is likely to turn on the press and independent journalists as the next useful enemy, warns Óscar Martínez in a New York Times Español op-ed
  • El Salvador's Supreme Court admitted a protection order request from the digital newspaper El Faro, against the country's Treasury. The judges ordered the government to cease an audit of El Faro that demanded information about subscribers, which the judges considered opened the possibility the government could pressure the media outlet's supporters. (Deutsche Welle
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández's decision to investigate the legality of the preceding administration's loan agreement with the IMF is not a judicialization of economic policy, but a response several administrative irregularities in relation to the record-breaking credit with the multilateral organization that left the current government with a mountain of debt in the midst of an economic crisis, argues Alfredo Zaiat in Página 12.
  • Other economists see the move as a quid-pro-quo for a case against former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her economic team, and warn of the danger of taking economic policy to court. (La Política Online)
  • Environmental groups and indigenous activists from the Amazon region filed a lawsuit last week in a French court alleging that France-based supermarket chain Groupe Casino is violating human rights and environment rules by selling beef linked to deforestation and land grabs, reports the Associated Press.
  • Reductions in global travel over the past pandemic year have brought improvements on some environmental measures -- like emissions and sound contamination -- and regressions in others, like increases in poaching of protected animals and financing of conservation. -- New York Times

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

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