Coronavirus Cases Rise Across South America Despite Vaccination Advances

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA SOUTHERN CONE: Cases of COVID-19 are rising across the region despite the advance of vaccination programs. On March 24, Brazil became the second country to […] The post Coronavirus Cases Rise Across South America Despite Vaccination Advances appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Coronavirus Cases Rise Across South America Despite Vaccination Advances

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

SOUTHERN CONE: Cases of COVID-19 are rising across the region despite the advance of vaccination programs. On March 24, Brazil became the second country to surpass more than 300,000 deaths from COVID-19, after a record-breaking 3,251 deaths in one day on Tuesday. Brazil has become the global epicenter of the pandemic, with a virulent new strain, overwhelmed hospital system and a president who refuses to take serious action and attacks other politicians for enforcing lockdowns.

In Chile, a second wave is pushing officials to impose the strictest lockdown measures so far in the pandemic. On Friday, the country recorded almost 8,000 new cases, the highest daily number of new cases so far. Meanwhile, the healthcare system is under strain as intensive care unit beds are at 95% occupancy; only 169 beds are available in the entire country. On Saturday, authorities announced a total lockdown in most of the country for the rest of the weekend which prohibits residents from leaving their homes even to buy food or go to the pharmacy. Restrictive measures will continue through the week.

On Sunday, President Sebastián Piñera announced that elections scheduled for April 10 and 11 will be delayed until May 15 and 16 to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

The discouraging numbers come despite the fact that Chile has the highest rate of vaccination in the hemisphere, and the third-highest in the world, behind only Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Almost half of the country’s population has received at least one shot.

Authorities in Argentina announced the suspension of flights from Chile, Brazil and Mexico last week, a measure aimed at discouraging travel during the Holy Week holidays. The announcement came after dozens of Argentine students tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a vacation in Cancún, Mexico.

SOUTHERN CONE 

PARAGUAY: Paraguayan officials said they were offered the Chinese-produced COVID-19 vaccine by “unofficial brokers” allegedly representing the Chinese government in exchange for cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The Chinese government denies having offered Paraguay the vaccine, saying that the brokers had no connection to Beijing. Paraguay is one of 15 countries that recognize Taiwan, including five in Latin America.

Over 200,000 people have gotten sick with COVID-19 in Paraguay since the pandemic started. Anger over the shortage of intensive care beds, medicines, and vaccines has provoked protests and an attempt last week to impeach President Mario Abdo Benítez. In response to the situation with China, Taiwan has put conditions on their offer to help Paraguay purchase vaccines, saying that the funds may not be used to buy vaccines made in China.

ANDES

BOLIVIA: The United States government expressed concern about the recent arrests of Bolivian ex-officials in a press statement on Saturday. The statement questioned the legality of the arrests and the “politicization of the legal system,” calling them “anti-democratic.” Earlier this month, a judge ruled that former interim President Jeanine Áñez and two other ex-officials be jailed for six months as they await trial on charges of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy for their role in the events surrounding the resignation of former President Evo Morales in November 2019. Prosecutors say they will recommend Áñez be locked up for as long as 30 years.

President Morales resigned in November of 2019 and fled the country after being asked to step down by Bolivia’s armed forces, and Áñez assumed the presidency. The current administration which won the elections in October 2020 and supports Morales has called the actions of Áñez and her associates a coup, a characterization Áñez disputes.

COLOMBIA/VENEZUELA: Thousands of Venezuelans fled to Colombia last week after violent clashes between the Venezuelan military and a Colombian armed group in the Venezuelan state of Apure. Last weekend, two Venezuelan soldiers were killed in a gunfight with the group. Venezuela has not named the armed group, but Venezuelan analyst Rocío San Miguel suggested to El País that it was a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and that the Venezuelan Army seems to be supporting the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in a conflict with the FARC dissidents.

Over the last week, nearly 4,000 Venezuelans crossed into Colombia and took refuge in the town of Arauquita, where they are being housed in eight temporary shelters. The Venezuelan humanitarian crisis has forced millions to flee the country. Nearly 2 million of them have taken residence in Colombia, and President Iván Duque has offered temporary legal protection to Venezuelans without legal status earlier this year, despite having broken off diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019.

CARIBBEAN 

CUBA: Hundreds of people protested in Havana on Sunday demanding the United States end its trade embargo against Cuba. The protesters drove and rode bikes and motorcycles along the city’s Malecón, a seafront esplanade where the U.S. embassy is located, waving Cuban flags. The embargo has been in place for over six decades, and was tightened during the Trump presidency. President Joe Biden, who has criticized Trump’s Cuba policy, said that he plans to review U.S. policy towards the island republic, but has not specifically stated his intention to end the embargo.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Downtown Santo Domingo was the site of protests both supporting and opposing the legalization of abortion over the weekend. Since March 11, feminist groups have been occupying the area around the National Palace demanding that legislators pass a proposal that would allow abortion in certain exceptional cases. Currently, the Dominican Republic prohibits abortion in all cases, and a person who receives an abortion faces between two and five years in prison, while a medical professional who provides one faces between five and 20 years.

President Luis Abinader has expressed his support for the proposed loosening of the abortion ban.

On Saturday, hundreds of people drove in a caravan protest organized by Catholic and evangelical groups through downtown Santo Domingo opposing the bill.

CENTRAL AMERICA

HONDURAS: An environmental activist who opposed the construction of a hydro-electric dam in Honduras was shot dead last week in front of a church in the Caribbean coastal department of Cortés. Juan Carlos Cerra Escalante, an indigenous Lenca activist who was president of the United Communities group, had been leading a campaign against the El Tornillito hydroelectric dam in the Ulúa River. One person has been detained for the killing of the 41-year-old activist, and authorities are investigating several others.

Honduras is a deadly place for environmental and land activists, with 14 being killed in 2019 alone. In 2016, the assassination of Berta Cáceres, a Lenca activist who was leading a campaign against a hydroelectric dam, brought international attention to the issue.

EL SALVADOR: President Nayib Bukele has said that he will veto an anti-human trafficking bill passed by the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. The bill would make the “promotion” of irregular migration over social networks a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison. The legislation drew praise from the Salvadoran attorney general, as well as from the United States government. But Bukele said in a tweet that the law would target migrants instead of human traffickers.

The Salvadoran legislature, currently controlled by opposition parties, is in a lame-duck session after an election in February gave Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party a large majority. Bukele said that the new legislature, which will take office on April 30, will pass a human trafficking law that “targets criminals but does not criminalize migrants.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Mexico’s National Election Institute (INE) has withdrawn ballot registration for Félix Salgado, a candidate for the governorship of the state of Guerrero who is facing accusations of rape, after detecting he failed to report campaign expenditures.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the disqualification of Salgado, a member of the president’s Morena party, as “an attack on democracy” and blamed “high powered, mafia interests.”

Before his nomination, Salgado had received backlash from women’s rights activists because he faces accusations of rape by two women. The statute of limitations has run out on one of those cases while the investigation for the other is ongoing.

Salgado has pledged to contest the INE’s decision.

MEXICO/UNITED STATES: U.S. immigration authorities are using emergency pandemic authority to deport migrants to Mexico during nighttime hours. Under normal circumstances, bilateral agreements require deportations to take place during daytime hours and at one of 10 major border crossings. But Border Patrol officials say that the pandemic, along with the high number of migrant apprehensions near the border, make it necessary to remove migrants as quickly as possible, preventing them from fulfilling their obligations under the agreements.

Earlier this week, a U.S delegation met with Mexican officials to discuss development plans for northern Central America as part of a strategy to reduce migration. Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who met with the delegation, said that inclusive development in southern Mexico and the Northern Triangle could prevent people being forced to emigrate due to poverty and insecurity.

The post Coronavirus Cases Rise Across South America Despite Vaccination Advances appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

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Migrant apprehensions surge on U.S.-Mexico border

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA MEXICO/UNITED STATES: A surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border is straining the capacity of United States detention facilities. There are currently around 14,000 migrants […] The post Migrant apprehensions surge on U.S.-Mexico border appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Migrant apprehensions surge on U.S.-Mexico border

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

MEXICO/UNITED STATES: A surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border is straining the capacity of United States detention facilities. There are currently around 14,000 migrants in federal custody, and officials are building up the capacity to care for them. 

Since Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people crossing the border. There were 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered by Border Patrol in February, an increase of 168% and 63% from the month before.

Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, told the Associated Press that the surge in migrants should have been foreseeable because of factors including the hurricane that hit Central America last fall and the thousands of Central American migrants already stuck at the border. Isacson also partly blamed the lack of cooperation from the Trump administration.

On Saturday, Axios reported that the Biden administration had for $86 million to house 1,200 migrants at hotels in Texas and Arizona for six months. 

NEW IN LAND

BRAZIL: The vacation of two corruption convictions against former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva earlier this month means that he will be eligible to run again for president in 2022. To find out more about what the consequences will be for Brazil, read

SOUTHERN CONE 

BRAZIL: Brazil’s health system is in what has been the worst week since the start of the pandemic. Intensive care units in 25 out of 27 states 80% capacity this week. More than 293,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil since the start of the pandemic, . Experts from healthcare institutes and hospital workers are calling the situation a “catastrophe.” President Jair Bolsonaro, however, refuses to recognize the severity of the situation, rejecting requests to impose a lockdown. Instead, the president appointed Marcelo Queiroga as health minister on March 16 after the departure of Eduardo Pazuello, making Queiroga the since the pandemic began. 

PARAGUAY: Paraguay’s Congress to impeach President Mario Abdo Benítez Wednesday over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3,600 Paraguayans have died and over 193,000 have been infected since the pandemic began. Since the beginning of March, citizens have called for Abdo’s resignation and protested the shortage of vaccines and medications. On Wednesday, police fired water cannons and rubber bullets at who threw stones and smashed windows outside of the National Congress. The lower house of Paraguayan Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, voted 42 to 36 against impeachment.  

ANDES

COLOMBIA: A top right-wing paramilitary leader and high-ranking leftist guerilla leader participated in a on March 18 regarding crimes committed by both sides in the the decades of conflict. Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, was a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group that fought against the Colombian government for more than 50 years before signing a peace treaty in 2016. Salvatore Mancuso was a leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group that targeted real and alleged FARC sympathizers. Both groups were involved in drug trafficking and kidnappings and responsible for the deaths and displacement of thousands of Colombians. The hearing was held virtually at the request of the two participants and laid the beginning on .

VENEZUELA: A pilot who helped allies of President Nicolás Maduro avoid U.S. sanctions has been sentenced to . Victor Mones Coro, a Miami-based, Venezuelan-born pilot helped charter millions of dollars worth of flights for former Venezeulan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and businessman Samark López. Both men are members of Maduro’s inner circle and have been considered “narcotics kingpins” by the U.S. government since 2017. It is for U.S. persons to provide services to anyone with this designation, but Mones Coro organized flights for these men and their associates around the world, as well as coordinating with them to organize domestic flights in Venezuela related to Maduro’s 2018 presidential campaign. Prosecutors consider the sentence of 55 months lenient at less than the federally recommended 70 months. 

CARIBBEAN 

CUBA: Cuba will use the Soberana 2 COVID-19 vaccine to as part of the last stage of trials for the homegrown jab. On Sunday, Foreign Commerce Secretary Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz that so far, trials of Soberana 2 have shown the vaccine to be effective and safe. Although Cuba still has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world, infection rates rose significantly early this year and have remained high since February. The island nation has not started vaccinations of its citizens because it plans to use a shot developed in the country, but hopes to vaccinate its entire population of 11 million by the end of the year.

HAITI: A group of staged a jailbreak at a police station in Port-au-Prince last week. The group, which calls itself Fantom 509, broke into the police station, accompanied by a crowd of civilians, and who were being held for allegedly plotting a coup against embattled President Jovenel Moïse. The officers burned tires outside of the police station and ransacked a nearby Nissan dealership. Members of Fantom 509 are also demanding that the “5 Segonn” gang of four officers who were killed during an operation in the Village de Dieu section of Port-au-Prince on March 12.

CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA/MEXICO: Mexico will to stop irregular crossings of its southern border with Guatemala as officials have identified over 4,000 minors traveling without documents through the country this month. The measures include and monitoring of border crossings with drones. In addition, Mexico has closed the border to non-essential travel to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is the first time Mexico has taken such measures on the border since the start of the pandemic.

NICARAGUA: The Yatama party chose George Patrick Henríquez as its pre-candidate to in presidential elections this November. The National Coalition is an alliance of several opposition parties, each of which is proposing a pre-candidate to face off against President Daniel Ortega. All of the parties in the coalition have promised to support the final candidate. Henríquez, a, is the youngest and the only afro-descendent of the pre-candidates. His pre-candidacy was approved unanimously by an assembly of Yatama, a regional political party in Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO/UNITED STATES: The United States of unused AstraZeneca vaccines next week to Mexico. The AstraZeneca shot has not been approved for use in the United States, but Mexico has already approved it and begun using it. Mexico has had difficulty getting enough vaccines and, so far, has administered only 5 million doses, around four doses for every hundred residents.

The deal coincides with a Mexican decision to to non-essential travel, leading some to see the vaccine deal as a quid-pro-quo for increased migration enforcement in Mexico.

The post Migrant apprehensions surge on U.S.-Mexico border appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Source : Latin Dispatch More   

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