Friday, April 2, 2021

Paraguay stuck in vaccine diplomacy war (April 2, 2021)

 News Briefs

  • Paraguay's historic alliance with Taiwan means the government can't directly buy vaccines from Chinese producers: Paraguay, which has a population of 7 million, has only been able to obtain 163,000 doses. The U.S. has urged Paraguay against switching allegiance to Beijing. This week Paraguay's foreign minister spoke bluntly on television, saying U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told President Mario Abdo Benítez that Taiwan and the U.S. are Paraguay's allies. "But we ask these strategic allies for proof of their love. Before holding hands, you have to at least take us to the movies," said Foreign Minister Euclides Acevedo. China has provided access to millions of doses of vaccines in the region, a display of soft power that contrasts with the U.S. and European Union approach, notes Bloomberg.
  • Well over three-quarters of the more than half billion vaccine doses that have been administered so far have been used by the world’s richest countries, reports the New York Times. Only 0.1 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. The reason lies in how — and when — deals for doses were struck. With much of the supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines captured by wealthier countries, China, India and Russia have become important suppliers of vaccines to lower-income countries.
  • The rapid growth in Covid-19 cases in Chile is cause for concern (and frustration), but the fact that Chile’s mortality rate has remained relatively low can likely be credited to its broadly successful vaccine campaign, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
Regional Relations
  • Conflict between Venezuela's armed forces and armed groups has amplified a renewed wave of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Concern is also rising about mounting tensions between the Venezuelan and Colombian governments, which are blaming each other for the uptick in violence in Venezuela’s western Apure state, reports the Washington Post. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
  • A group of over 60 Colombian and Venezuelan NGOs—and over 300 individual advocates from both countries— urged U.N. Secretary General António Guterres to designate a special envoy to the Colombia-Venezuela border crisis -- Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's dramatic cabinet reshuffle this week put a cop at the head of the justice ministry, a move that reflects the president's affinity for the uniformed rank-and-file, reports Reuters. It's also a calculation to ensure allegiance from Brazil’s large police forces as insurance against unrest. Critics fear that Bolsonaro's support of state police forces, who answer to state governors, could pose democratic risks and make rival-run states politically ungovernable.
  • A dozen police officers have been accused of killing 19 people in January in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state. Thirteen of the victims were Guatemalan migrants. Nacla documents how many Mexican state security forces' weapons are exported from the U.S. -- and play a role in human rights atrocities.
  • The “root cause” of Central American migration is failed U.S. policies. "While often discussed as if emerging from a vacuum, the state of weakness, corruption, inequality, and domination of organized crime that so often forms the basis of asylum seekers’ claims has been created and fomented at every turn by U.S. policymaking," writes Felipe De La Hoz in The New Republic. And while U.S. aid could alleviate suffering in Central America, "we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that this is a path to avoiding asylum flows at all."
  • Haitian asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for a chance to apply for protection in the U.S .are often discriminated against by Central American migrants, reports KPBS.
  • Mapuche Indigenous people communities filed a complaint against Chilean President Sebastián Piñera for genocide crimes. The complaint alleges that Piñera established a "low-intensity war" by declaring the Mapuche people as an "internal enemy." The lawsuit denounced the militarization of Mapuche territories and human rights violations, reports Telesur.
Central America
  • The advent of democracy and the spread of organised crime have undermined the power of Central America's traditional oligarchs, reports the Economist, which optimistically argues that "as the big families lose political influence, they may start to see more clearly the benefits of cleaner governance."
  • It might take an old political dynasty, the Chamorros, to oust the current Ortega family rule in Nicaragua, reports the Economist.
  • Peruvian presidential candidate Rafael Lopez Aliaga, a conservative frontrunner for the April 11 election, denied press reports that he allegedly owes millions in back taxes and is under investigation for money laundering. (Bloomberg)
  • Argentina needs to renegotiate its debt repayment deal with the IMF, but it's in no rush to reach an agreement before October's midterm elections, reports the Economist.
  • Cuba is touting its Covid-19 "technological sovereignty," production of medical gear such as ventilators and CT scanners for coronavirus treatment that officials say enabled them to save money and keep the Covid mortality rate low. (Reuters)
  • "It’s a perverse paradox of development that something as horrific as an oil spill and the death of a river could temporarily benefit a town," writes Joseph Zárate, a Peruvian journalist, in “Wars of the Interior”. Each of his chapters investigates how a commodity extracted from the rainforest—wood, gold, oil—has changed the lives of the locals, mostly for the worse. -- Economist review by Sarah Maslin.

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