Wednesday, April 7, 2021

New record daily Covid death toll in Brazil (April 7, 2021)

 Brazil's daily Covid-19 death toll hit a new grim milestone this week: at least 4,195 people were reported to have lost their lives yesterday. Experts fear a record 100,000 Brazilians could lose their lives this month alone if nothing is done, reports the Guardian.

The federal government continues to resist calls for lockdown measures, and local authorities are reopening many activities they had restricted due to the pandemic. In many cases efforts to shut-down activity have been taken to court, and over the weekend, supreme court justices started a tug of war about the reopening of religious buildings, which were closed by many local authorities despite a federal government decision to label them as essential services.

More Brazil
  • A group of 200 Brazilian organizations of civil society sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, asking the U.S. not to reach a closed-door climate agreement with the Brazilian Bolsonaro administration. President Jair Bolsonaro anti-environmental policies -- which include dismantling control agencies, weakening conservation legislation and encouraging invasion of protected lands -- make him an illegitimate interlocutor for this topic, they argue. Instead, they urge U.S. leadership to engage with Brazilian organizations, local governments, universities, lawmakers, and directly affected populations. (Folha de S. Paulo)
  • Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles wants $1 billion in foreign aid to help reduce deforestation in the Amazon between 30 and 40 percent, according to an interview published on Saturday in newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo. A third of the money would be used to fund actions to combat deforestation directly, Salles said, while the remaining two thirds would be used for economic development, to give people who have benefited from the rainforest alternative opportunities. Salles' plan would leave the military in charge of protecting the rainforest, a task at which they have, so far, failed since 2019. (Reuters)
  • A growing campaign by environmental activists and legal scholars to make ecocide the fifth crime before the International Criminal Court in The Hague cites Amazon destruction as an example of the kinds of far-reaching environmental damage that are driving mass extinction, ecological collapse and climate change. (Inside Climate News)
  • Oliver Stuenkel delves into the details of Bolsonaro's cabinet reshuffle last week, particularly implications for democratic institutions moving forward: Too weak to pull off a self-coup, Bolsonaro may very well be preparing for his own version of the Capitol riot in Washington. "While Bolsonaro may not have the army’s solid support, even reluctant neutrality on the day of a Jan. 6-like riot in Brazil may suffice," he argues in World Politics Review. (See last Thursday's, last Wednesday's, and last Tuesday's posts.)
  • Bolsonaro's failure to ensure friendlier leadership in the military top brass, is evidence of the president's growing political frailty, argues Gaspard Estrada in a New York Times Español op-ed. "What we do not know is what he will do from now on to maintain himself in power, if he will do so by vote or by force."
  • Brazil's government resumed monthly subsidy payments aimed at alleviating Covid-19 economic damage among the country's poorest, although the aid is now being distributed to fewer people and in smaller amounts, reports EFE.
News Briefs

  • The U.S. Biden administration is looking to create legal ways for Central American migrants to reach the United States, according to the president's special envoy Ricardo Zuñiga. “We are here to also talk about the need and the efforts of the White House to create legal means for migration so that people do not have to use irregular and dangerous routes,” Zuñiga said in a press conference in Guatemala, where he is meeting with government officials on policies to address "root causes" of migration. (Reuters)
  • The majority of families and unaccompanied children intercepted at the U.S. border are coming from Honduras and Guatemala, which were devastated by Hurricanes Eta and Iota last November. The destruction adds to years of gang violence and government corruption that push people to face the dangers of migration, reports the New York Times.
  • The former U.S. Trump administration's termination of temporary protected status for thousands of migrants means deportation of 402,000 people could begin in October. Because they are the parents of some 273,000 U.S. citizens — most of them under the age of 21 — it could also turn into the largest family-separation operation in U.S. history, reports the New York Times.
  • The case of Pascal, a 9-year-old Guatemalan boy who migrated without his parents to Florida, illustrates how hundreds of families are torn apart in U.S. courtrooms every year, reports the Washington Post.
  • Around the world 800 million children are still not fully back in school due to coronavirus closures -- and Unicef is warning that prolonged disruptions mean many children will never go back. (Guardian) The mass closing of schools led to large masses of what the Institute for 21 Century Questions dubbed "third bucket kids," children who are neither in physical classes nor virtual school.
  • Total and partial school closures in Latin America and the Caribbean currently leave about 114 million students without face-to-face schooling according to UNICEF’s latest estimates. But national policies often elide disparities within countries, both in access to in-person learning, and remote options.
  • The COVID-19 – Global Education Recovery Tracker, a collaborative effort of Johns Hopkins University, the World Bank, and UNICEF, tracks school reopening and recovery planning efforts in more than 200 countries and territories.
  • The IMF predicts rapid economic growth around the world this year, though recovery will be less robust in many emerging-market and developing economies hit hard by slumps in tourism and commodity exports and often lacking the financial resources needed to cushion their economies. GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean is projected to expand 4.6%, up from a previous forecast of 4.1%. (Wall Street Journal)
  • ECLAC head Alicia Bárcena welcomed a recent call by the U.S. for a new issue of International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and the re-allocation of excess SDRs to low-income countries (LICs), such as those in the Caribbean. (Caribbean Media Corporation)
  • Taiwan obtained Indian Covid-19 vaccines to help its diplomatic ally Paraguay, after Chinese officials sought to pressure Paraguay's government to shift alliance to Beijing in exchange for jabs, reports Reuters. India has already shipped 100,000 doses to Paraguay and there will be another 100,000. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Mexico’s foreign minister is planning visits to Russia, China, India and the United States as part of the government’s efforts to make sure that its supply agreements for vaccines against Covid-19 are honored, reports Reuters.
  • Covid-19 infections are surging in Latin America, and health officials worry that a new wave of the pandemic is gaining momentum from contagious new variants and government reluctance to impose restrictions, reports CNN.
  • Chilean lawmakers approved postponing elections for Constituent Assembly representatives by five weeks, due to a coronavirus surge that has hospitals at 95 percent capacity, reports EFE. The election to choose constituents who will rewrite the constitution will now take place on May 15 or 16. Campaigning would be suspended until April 28, reports AFP.
  • The trial of David Castillo, a businessman accused of being the "intellectual author" of the 2016 murder of Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres, began yesterday in Tegucigalpa. (AFP)
  • Recent drug charges against a little-known but powerful Venezuelan businessman come as a surprise given that he allegedly operated with impunity for decades on the country’s northern coast. Emilio Enrique Martínez, alias “Chiche Smith,” is the most powerful and politically connected of the independent players that make up the Paraguaná Cartel, meaning his absence in the region will be felt, reports InSight Crime.
  • U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela managed to ship more crude in March directly to China, its main export destination, even as overall shipments dipped modestly last month, reports Reuters.
  • A Paraguayan judge put several young activists in preventive detention in relation to their alleged participation in arson during anti-government protests. Family and friends of the three university students, who include Vivian Genes, General Secretary of the Paraguayan Association of Student Representatives, say authorities are criminalizing protesters and that the detention is arbitrary. (ABC, LatFem, and this Nacla piece, for context)
  • Protest movements in Cuba are increasingly resembling recent waves of Latin American protests, particularly those in South America, argues Boz in the Latin America Risk Report. "There isn’t just one protest movement or leader at the moment. Instead, several groups of protesters are operating independently and with different strategies." While it might not actually occur, he writes, "Cuba’s population is primed for a big spark to escalate the protests from their current levels."

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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