Friday, April 23, 2021

Vaccine diplomacy in a world of shortages (April 23, 2021)


  • The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating again in South America, including in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay -- many are convinced the apparently more contagious P1 variant linked to Brazil bears much of the blame, reports the Guardian.
  • Half the countries of Central America are facing a new Covid-19 wave with record numbers of people in intensive care units in Costa Rica and a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Guatemala and Honduras, at the same time that the entire isthmus is clamoring for equitable and faster access to vaccines, reports EFE.
  • U.S. officials criticize Chinese vaccine diplomacy in Latin America as "ham-fisted" and plan to deploy surplus vaccines more strategically in the future, but in the meantime, China is winning over hearts and minds in the region. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin considers Chinese "encroachment" in the region damaging, but observes that "Latin American countries will continue to seek Chinese trade and investment — and vaccines — as long as they are offered no good alternative." (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Latin America’s dispiriting regional anomie on Covid has had disastrous consequences, writes Andre Pagliarini in the Guardian, where he notes the deterioration of the cooperation that characterized the Pink-Tide governments.
  • Latin Americans -- those with means and visas, that is -- are flocking to the U.S. to get vaccinated, in light of the lack of jabs at home, reports the Associated Press. Inequality fuels vaccine tourism, said Ernesto Ortiz, senior manager of programs at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center.
  • One in four people in rich countries has been vaccinated, compared with one in every 500 in low-income nations, according to WHO estimates. (Al Jazeera)
  • The U.S., Canada and U.K. are among some of the high-income countries actively blocking a patent-waiver proposal backed by more than a hundred (mostly developing) countries. Members of the World Trade Organization started informal talks yesterday on whether to temporarily waive intellectual property and patent rights on Covid vaccines and treatments. The landmark proposal was submitted by South Africa and India in October, but has been opposed by the U.S. and Europe, home to major pharmaceutical companies. (CNBC, LatFem, see March 11's post.)
  • Three of the leading Covid vaccine manufacturers have paid out $26bn in dividends and stock buyouts to shareholders in the last year – enough to cover the cost of vaccinating the population of Africa, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance. (Guardian)
  • The Guatemalan attorney general's office that former president Jimmy Morales be stripped of immunity so that prosecutors can then decide if he committed an illegal act by ousting the director of an international anti-corruption commission while in office. Prosecutors said Morales violated constitutional norms in 2017 by announcing the removal of Iván Velásquez, the then-head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), reports InSight Crime.
  • Resistance to anti-corruption crusading judges in Guatemala is growing, and Congress' latest advances against the country's highest court -- including refusing to reconfirm Judge Gloria Porras -- will further weaken rule of law in Guatemala, strengthening a migration push factor, reports the Economist. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
  • The Biden administration is considering creating a task force of officials from the U.S. Justice and State Departments and other agencies to help local prosecutors fight corruption in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, said Ricardo Zuñiga, U.S. special envoy for the Northern Triangle. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. plan to deploy aid to help address the root causes of Central American migration -- namely, violence, crime, chronic unemployment and lack of basic services -- "is based on a sound analysis of Central America’s dismal socioeconomic conditions," writes former Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solis in The Conversation.
  • Title 42 allows US authorities to rapidly expel most migrants who arrive at the US border on the pretext of public health. But the policy exposes migrants and asylum seekers to serious danger, according to a new report by Al Otro Lado, Human Rights First and the Haitian Bridge Alliance. (Al Jazeera)
Regional Relations
  • Climate and migration, two of the U.S. Biden administration's major issues, overlap in Central America, where climate change impacts are a push factor for migration to the U.S. "Making climate change a central theme of a renewed US focus on the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to address its border dilemma while simultaneously advancing its climate-related foreign policy goals," according to The Dialogue.
  • The Biden's administration plan to work with Mexico and Colombia on counter-drug policies, among other partners, presents challenges for the government's new reformist strategy for illicit drugs, warns Vanda Felbab-Brown at the Brookings Institution.
    • The World Food Program announced an agreement with Venezuela's Maduro government, after over a year of negotiations, to supply food to young children in need. Human Rights Watch lauded the agreement as "a huge step toward mitigating Venezuela’s spiraling humanitarian emergency, a crisis that predates the Covid-19 pandemic and for which Venezuelan authorities are largely to blame."
    • Former Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega, who defied President Nicolás Maduro by siding with his opponents, has been implicated in a major corruption case involving a Venezuelan businessman who this week pleaded guilty to paying $1 million in bribes, reports the Associated Press.
    •  About 19 million Brazilians have gone hungry over the past year — nearly twice the 10 million who did so in 2018. For the New York Times, scenes of people begging for food are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed.

  • Brazil's Supreme Court upheld last month's ruling by one of its chambers that former judge Sergio Moro was "biased" in convicting ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of corruption in 2017, reports AFP.
  • Peru
    • Peruvian presidential front-runner Pedro Castillo has proposed nationalizing mining and redrafting the country’s Constitution, raising risks to mining investment that could put upward pressure on copper prices, reports Reuters.
    French Guiana
    • In the four years since demonstrations and protests brought French Guiana to a standstill, there have been marginal improvements, but many of the French territory’s structural problems persist, according to Scott MacDonald at Global Americans.

    Happy Friday Y'all (and apologies for the late sending today)


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