Published On: Thu, Jun 25th, 2020

Deportees to Guatemala test positive (June 25, 2020)

At least six migrants deported to Guatemala from the United States on June 9 tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Guatemalan authorities. In total, 28 deportees tested positive upon arrival since May 4, when the U.S. agreed to deport only migrants with medical certificates showing they tested negative for Covid-19. (Associated Press)

Guatemala is increasingly struggling with Covid-19 — it has reported more than 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 449 deaths and images of hospitals overwhelmed by the sick have increasingly painted a grim picture of the situation, reports the Associated Press. Experts believe the real number of cases could be 10 times higher given Guatemala’s limited testing. Last week Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei fired the health minister and his top collaborators.

And Guatemalan officials see deportations from the U.S., which has been hit by the pandemic with more than two million Covid-19 cases, as one of the main potential sources of contagion in the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. Deportations have strained relations between Guatemala and the U.S. — “Guatemala is an ally of the U.S. The U.S. is not an ally of Guatemala,” Giammattei said in May.

Migrant advocates are concerned that deportations have also spread Covid-19 to other recipient countries: Since March, the U.S. has sent a weekly average of 75 deportation flights to a dozen countries in Latin America.

Pre-pandemic vulnerabilities for deportees are compounded in times of Covid-19, documents a new report by Refugees International, that urges that Guatemalans seeking refuge be allowed to apply for asylum in the U.S., instead of being turned over to Mexican authorities or repatriated.

News Briefs

  • The current draft of a so-called “fake news” bill in Brazil’s Senate contains vague and overbroad provisions that are open to abuse, warns Human Rights Watch, which recommends lawmakers reject the bill that would “unnecessarily restrict and penalize legally protected speech and freedom of association, including with prison terms, and undermine the privacy of communications.”
  • The current bill is even worse than previous drafts, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “It will hinder users’ access to social networks and applications, require the construction of massive databases of users’ real identities, and oblige companies to keep track of our private communications online.”
  • Brazil is testing an experimental coronavirus vaccine, but interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello acknowledged Tuesday that the government has yet to strike a deal to get it if it works, reports the Associated Press.
  • The latest moves by Venezuela’s Maduro-loyal Supreme Court drastically limit the chances of free and fair legislative elections this year — and are seen as a sign by many that talks between the government and opposition are useless. “But negotiations remain the only route to a stable outcome for the country’s protracted crisis,” according to a new International Crisis Group report. The report warns that even “a relatively competitive parliamentary election would make only a modest contribution to resolution of Venezuela’s political conflict, now two decades long,” that a broader negotiation is necessary. “The dismantling of Venezuelan democracy, which is now almost complete, was not a single event but a long, drawn-out process. Restoring institutions and the rule of law, likewise, is not going to occur overnight.”
  • Tankers carrying nearly two months worth of Venezuelan oil output are stuck at sea due to global refiners wariness of U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said an incident in which a U.S. Navy ship navigated near the South American country’s coast was an “act of provocation.” (Reuters)
  • The U.S. said the ship engaged in what it called a “freedom of navigation operation,” a day after a cargo ship from Iran docked at a Venezuelan port, reports Al Jazeera.
  • The Pan American Health Organization said yesterday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Latin America has tripled in less than a month, with about 690,000 cases having been detected as of May 23 but more than two million being registered now. (EFE)
  • The presidents of nine Latin American countries teleconferenced with senior executives of the IMF, the World Bank and the IDB over how to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in their countries. AFP reports that the group wants to publish a non-binding statement, which will be “an appeal to international financial institutions” to articulate a “novel” mechanism with which to face the effects of the pandemic in the region, which has been severely impacted.
  • Uruguay and Paraguay have bucked the region’s negative coronavirus trend — to the point where they can claim near total victory over the virus, reports the Guardian. The success is only more notable as both share porous borders with Brazil.
  • Haitian prosecutors ordered ex-paramilitary leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant to be transferred to a jail in Gonaives where authorities will decide whether he will be freed. The former strongman, accusedof murder and torture, was deported from the U.S. this week, and arrested immediately upon arrival in Port-au-Prince, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday’s briefs.)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced a trip to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump. The move generated strong criticism at home, reports the Associated Press.
  • Volkswagen AG’s Mexican unit said about 2 percent of its workers tested for coronavirus had contracted the disease at some point, underlining the challenge faced by automakers in reopening factories in the country, reports Reuters.
Culture Corner
  • Robert M. Laughlin, an anthropologist and linguist whose extensive work in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico documented and helped revitalize Mayan languages and culture, died at age 85 — New York Times obituary.
I hope you’re all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances … And in these times of coronavirus, when we’re all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share. 

Latin America Daily Briefing

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Deportees to Guatemala test positive (June 25, 2020)