Thursday, April 8, 2021

Covid-19 exacerbated systemic inequality -- Amnesty (April 8, 2021)

News Briefs

  • Covid-19 has laid bare and exacerbated the systemic inequality, widespread repression and destructive policies that contributed to the Americas becoming the region worst affected by the pandemic, Amnesty International said in its latest annual report. Recovery efforts in the region should “prioritize the needs of those left behind by decades of abandonment and divisive policies and guarantee their access to COVID-19 vaccines," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
  • Across the region, COVID-19 confinement measures led to a marked increase in violence against women, including domestic violence and killings. Almost everywhere, measures to protect women and girls were inadequate, notes Amnesty's report.
  • Indigenous Peoples in the Americas were heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because of inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, health services and social benefits, as well as a lack of culturally appropriate mechanisms to protect their rights to health and livelihoods. This was particularly acute in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. (Amnesty International Annual Report)
  • Initiatives to tax rich people are gaining support throughout Latin America, the world’s most unequal region, as it struggles to recover from its worst recession in two centuries, reports Bloomberg.
  • Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest rose by 17% last year, reports Reuters. Wildfires, beef production and logging caused forested areas roughly the size of El Salvador to disappear, according to new data published by Amazon Conservation.
  • The loss of primary forest - the clearing of old-growth, intact forest for the first time - hit its third-highest annual total on record since 2000, reaching 5.6 million acres in the nine countries spanned by the Amazon. In Brazil, deforestation was largely driven by forest being converted into pasture for cattle, the report said.
  • U.S. efforts to reach an environmental protection agreement with Brazil are misguided, and risk strengthening a government that has systematically undermined efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest, say Brazilian activists. A coalition of 198 Brazilian civil society organizations, including environmental and indigenous advocates are particularly concerned about the closed-door nature of negotiations between the two governments, reports CNN. In an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden the groups described Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as the Amazon's "worst enemy" and said he should fulfill his existing obligations to stem deforestation first. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Two bills currently making their way through Brazil’s Congress could maintain, or even propel, a land grabbing trend that has devastated the Amazon, reports Brenda Brito in Americas Quarterly. If passed, the bills would ease criteria for privatizing public lands that have been illegally deforested, granting, in other words, legal titles to the areas land grabbers occupy. "The incentive for would-be land grabbers is clear as day," Brito argues.
  • Bolsonaro continues to resist calls for a national lockdown, after the nation saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours earlier this week, reports Al Jazeera. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The trial of an alleged mastermind in the killing of Honduran environmental and Indigenous rights defender Berta Cáceres, was suspended yesterday, a day after it started, as David Castillo's defense team attempted to change the judge, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors accuse Castillo of paying the hitmen who killed Cáceres in 2016, giving logistical support and providing resources to those already convicted. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Ricardo Zúñiga, the U.S. special envoy for the Northern Triangle countries, arrived in El Salvador yesterday for talks on immigration, amid a surge of child migrants on the U.S. border. He is scheduled to meet with President Nayib Bukele. El Salvadoran officials said they were ready to cooperate, but that more development aid was needed to prevent families with children from migrating, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) will convene its Eighth Congress on April 16‑19 to choose new leadership and assess policies intended to address long standing economic and political challenges – with no indication of bold new departures, writes William Leogrande at AULA blog. In the midst of popular discontent over a desperate economic situation, the focus will be on how the party can navigate Cuba’s internal challenges and “update” its economic model of socialism through reforms that it nominally embraced years ago but has failed to fully carry out. 
  • Raúl Castro, who is 89, will step down as PCC First Secretary, in favor of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. But that doesn't ensure generational turnover or change: Castro has not publicly ruled out remaining a member of the Political Bureau, and neither have the four other Cuban Revolution veterans on the 17-member body – including two reputed conservatives. (AULA blog)
  • "Haiti has never truly been able to achieve the institutionalization of state powers prescribed by its 1987 Constitution.  All the avenues of access to power have been attempted — elections, uprisings, coups d’état and dictates of the international community, negotiations, agreements, compromises, and expedients — without bringing us to a state of democratic normalization, let alone a political stabilization of the country," writes Haitian constitutional scholar Claude Moïse in an article in Le Nouvelliste and translated to English in Law and History Review
  • "There has never been a satisfying political solution nor an adequate institutional response to the country’s recurring political crisis. ... The country’s exposure to institutional instability and flagrantly unconstitutional rule is such that Haiti is now toppling on the precipice of arbitrary dictatorship and anarchy," he writes.
  • Women and young people could play a decisive role in determining the outcome of Ecuador’s runoff elections this Sunday. Both socially conservative candidates are seeking to expand their support by broadening their agendas to include LGBTQ+ rights, race and gender, reports the Guardian.
  • Ecuadorean presidential candidate Andrés Arauz wants to renegotiate a $6.5 billion debt with the International Monetary Fund, if he wins Sunday's vote. Other plans include alter anti-narcotics agreements with the United States, and even hold President Lenin Moreno legally responsible for his handling of the hard-hit country's coronavirus response, reports AFP.
  • Mining will be a key issue for the next president, report Nacla. Though both candidates see mining as a source of strengthening the country's economy, anti-mining activists' voices are increasingly strong. In February a referendum in the city of Cuenca approved a ban on large-scale mining in watershed areas.
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández  announced a three-week nighttime curfew after a second consecutive day of record coronavirus infections. (AFP)
  • Argentina's Union of Land Workers is working for a sea change in the country's food production, reports Nacla. The group is organizing small-scale farmers to produce fruits and vegetables without pesticides and within a fair-trade framework. The union formed 10 years ago, and now sells produce at more than 200 locations in cities around the country.
  • Mexico's artisanal piñata makers are suffering after a year of restricted social gatherings -- 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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