Friday, June 4, 2021

U.S. to start vaccine donations (June 4, 2021)

 U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will donate 25 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to other countries immediately, and another 55 million doses before the end of June. About 19 million doses — roughly 75 percent — through the global vaccine aid program COVAX. Of these, about 6 million doses will go to Latin America and the Caribbean.

The remaining 25 percent of the doses, 6 million, will be sent directly to specific countries including Mexico, Canada, Haiti, India, South Korea, Ukraine, Egypt, Gaza and West Bank, and Iraq.

It's not nearly enough. Humanitarian groups such as Doctors Without Borders said the White House plan was insufficient given the urgent global need. The doses represent a fraction of what low and middle income countries need, and have struggled to source on their own. About 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population against the coronavirus, reports the New York Times.

But policy experts credited the White House for trying to navigate competing priorities, reports the Washington Post

 The U.S. has a growing vaccine surplus, the gap between U.S. doses delivered and actually administered has risen to 70 million, reports Bloomberg. Officials nonetheless "spent months mired in intense debate about whether to send doses to the rest of the world and how to determine which countries needed them most," reports Politico. “We’ve got plenty of doses. Now we’re finally moving. But we didn’t need to take this long to do it,” according to one senior health official.

Biden announced in late April and mid-May that the U.S. would donate 80 million doses by the end of June, and his administration has faced growing pressure to start shipping out the doses. The donation will come from the U.S. stockpile of Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rather than the 60 million doses of U.S. produced AstraZeneca the Biden administration had originally planned to use for donations. But those doses are still in limbo pending the completion of a Food and Drug Administration safety review Biden's team expected to be finished weeks ago.

U.S. diplomats have been pushing for U.S. vaccine shipments abroad, in part to counter vaccine diplomacy from Russia and China. But U.S. officials have been slow, in part due to concerns about the U.S's flagging vaccination campaign. Biden has said he will not use U.S. vaccines as a diplomatic tool, after accusing China and Russia of leveraging doses of their vaccines for foreign policy gains.

Biden will attend a G-7 meeting next week, where the global vaccine supply is certain to be a topic of discussion.

More than half of Americans have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, according to The Washington Post’s tracker, compared to about 1 in 10 people globally. The picture in Latin America is particularly bleak: According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay are all awash in new cases; in Colombia, nearly 500 people a day have died of the coronavirus over the past several weeks.

More Vaccines
  • The massive vaccine disparities between advanced and developing economies may exacerbate what the IMF has dubbed “divergent recoveries” – with dire consequences for Latin America, reports Americas Quarterly.

Peruvian's vote in hyper-polarized election

Peruvians head for the polls on Sunday, in a presidential runoff election that pits hyper polarized views of the country against each other. Union leader Pedro Castillo and market liberal Keiko Fujimori come from opposite ends of whatever spectrum you look at -- except for concerns about how a government by either would impact the country's democratic institutions. Both sides have threatened not to accept the result if they lose, citing suspicions of electoral fraud. (Guardian, Reuters, EFE)

They are technically tied in polls. Fujimori, the daughter of dictator Alberto Fujimori who has been convicted of human rights violations, suffers from a high level of rejection. But she has been aided by establishment horror at Castillo's sudden rise, on a wave of Marxist discourse.

The sharp divide, which pits rural Peru against urban elites, means that whoever wins will have a government subject to more volatility. 

This year "pandemic anxieties have exacerbated years of mounting disgust with a corrupt political class, fueling extreme polarization," reports the Washington Post.

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele pledged not to let the political opposition back into power, in his state-of-the-nation speech this week. He led lawmakers in an oath, in which they swore "to defend our future conquests, and to never let those who made us suffer return to power," reports El Faro.
  • El Faro confirmed that both the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the High Command of the National Civil Police also stood for the oath and pledged their loyalty to the president.
  • The next battle will be against civil society, think tanks and media outlets, according to Bukele, who said they are the factic powers' ideological apparatus. (El Faro)
  • "Bukele’s anti-democratic behavior is actually business as usual in a country that never fully realized its precarious democracy," writes Mneesha Gellman in the Conversation.
Regional Relations
  • A group of ten civil society organizations, all with years of experience exposing corruption and defending the rule of law, have come together to form the Center to Combat Corruption and Impunity in Northern Central America (CCINOC in Spanish). White House Special Envoy Ricardo Zúñiga attended the launch of the new center, saying that the U.S. “will seek opportunities to cooperate” with its work. (Associated Press)
  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris heads to Mexico and Guatemala next week, and her trip "will be an important opportunity for the Biden Administration to reaffirm their intent to prioritize the anti-corruption and good-governance agenda by supporting efforts by independent civil society and journalism," write James Nealon, Eric Olson and Kurt Alan Ver Beek in Univisión.
  • Harris will be focusing on targeting the root causes of migration during her trip, but the approach is too narrow for the complicated realities on the ground and ignores year's of U.S. negative contributions to the Northern Triangle's problems, argues Jo-Marie Burt in a Background Briefing interview.
  • Several human rights organizations are worried that Harris's upcoming trip to Mexico and Guatemala risks focusing too much on immigration and not other issues such as rule of law and government corruption. The Washington Office on Latin America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Latin America Working Group, Due Process of Law Foundation and Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) released a joint statement Wednesday, raising concerns that the vice president's trip could bolster the worst instincts of leadership in the two Latin American countries, reports The Hill. (See Wednesday's post on the U.S. diplomatic challenge in Central America.)
  • "The Biden administration must be aware that we’ve trapped ourselves in this immigration time loop because we fail to listen to immigrants, and we refuse to think differently," James Fredrick in the Washington Post.
  • Bukele's speech, and the arrest in Nicaragua of opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro occurred the same week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Central America. “The brashness of two Central American governments during Secretary Blinken’s visit, one promising to prevent the opposition’s return to power and the other barring a presidential candidate from the race, confirms just how complex Joe Biden’s regional agenda will be,” wrote Laura Chinchilla, president of Costa Rica from 2010-14. (See yesterday's post on Chamorro, and Wednesday's post on the U.S. diplomatic challenge in Central America.)
  • The U.S. appointed Jean Manes as interim ambassador to El Salvador. The veteran diplomat led the embassy in El Salvador from 2016 to 2019, and had a good relationship with Bukele at the time. "But her rapport with Bukele will now likely be chillier ... she now feels personally troubled by Bukele’s authoritarian streak," reports El Faro.
  • The U.S. should dedicate the next Summit of the Americas to negotiating a hemispheric environmental treaty, argues the Wilson Center's Benjamin Gedan in Foreign Policy. "Environmental protection would be a broadly popular theme that would help rebuild U.S. relationships in Latin America, combat the impacts of deforestation and climate change and drive economic recovery through investments in rapidly expanding, clean industries, such as renewable energy production."
  • Spain's extreme right-wing VOX party is seeking to establish ties in Latin America, writes Pedro Brieger in Nodal.
  • It’s been over two months since clashes broke out between the Venezuelan armed forces and Colombian FARC dissident groups in Venezuela's southwestern Apure state. There has been little reporting on the conflict, due in part to unsafe conditions in the region, and to repression of those who attempt to question the official narrative on the situation -- WOLA has a new FAQ on the situation.
  • Hopes for a sustained democratic rebirth in the seven Andean nations have waned, again, writes Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. "Populism, authoritarianism, and military participation in politics remain in vogue."
  • Latin America's economic crisis proves "it is time, therefore, to re-evaluate the effects of market reforms, the results of which have been clearly disappointing," writes José Antonio Ocampo in Global Americans.
  • Latin American countries are battling Covid-19 surges, and also debt burdens that significantly increased during the pandemic, reports Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief. Regional debt-to-GDP ratio rose to an estimated 79.3 percent in 2020, "making it the most indebted region in the developing world."
  • The number of displaced people within Mexico has increased for the first time in three years, indicating that the country's powerful criminal groups have stepped up the type of public violence that harms citizen security, reports InSight Crime.
  • "Brazil is facing its biggest crisis since the return to democracy in 1985. Its challenges are daunting: economic stagnation, political polarisation, environmental ruin, social regress and a covid­19 nightmare," writes Sarah Maslin in the introduction to the Economist's special report on Brazil. "And it has had to endure a president who is undermining government itself." (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Brazil is full of new politicians with old ideas, according to one of the articles in the report, and next year's presidential election will be fought by traditional politicians. 
  • A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has authorized a criminal investigation into allegations that Environment Minister Ricardo Salles obstructed a police probe into illegal logging, reports Reuters. (See May 19's briefs.)
  • Brazilian federal police are investigating Salles and 10 officials under his command for alleged participation in a criminal logging syndicate, corruption, money laundering, and interfering in a police operation that resulted in the largest seizure of illegal timber in Brazilian history, among other crimes, reports The Intercept. (See May 19's briefs.)
  • Brazilian General Eduardo Pazuello, Bolsonaro’s former health minister, was acquitted by the military after participating in a political rally, which is forbidden for active members of the armed forces, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Rivers around Manaus, the biggest city in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, have swelled to record levels, straining a society that has grown weary of increasingly frequent flooding, reports the Associated Press.
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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