Argentina becomes largest Latin American nation to legalise elective abortion | World News


Argentina has become the largest nation in Latin America to legalise elective abortion despite a last-minute appeal by Pope Francis.

After a 12-hour session the country’s senate passed the law by a comfortable 38-29 margin, two years after a similar measure failed in a close vote.

The legislation, which President Alberto Fernandez has vowed to sign into law shortly, guarantees abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and beyond that in cases involving rape or where a woman’s health is at risk.

Tweeting after the vote, Mr Fernandez wrote: “Safe, legal and free abortion is now the law.

“Today, we are a better society that expands women’s rights and guarantees public health.”

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Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had reversed her opposition to the legislation

Abortion is already allowed in Uruguay, along with Cuba and Mexico City in other parts of Latin America, but the legalisation in Argentina is expected to have a big impact in the region.

Pro and anti-abortion rights activists had gathered outside the senate building, with the bill’s mostly female supporters wearing green which has symbolised their movement.

The crowd of a few thousands cheered and hugged as Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced the result.

Hours before the senate session began, Pope Francis – Argentinian himself – had tweeted: “The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God.

“He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also criticised the decision. He tweeted: “I deeply regret for the lives of Argentinian children, now subject to being ended in the bellies of their mothers with the state’s agreement.”

A similar bill was voted down by Argentine senators in 2018 by a narrow margin. This time it was backed by the centre-left government, and was boosted by the so-called “piba” revolution from the Argentine slang for “girls”.

The feminist movement within Argentina has demanded legal abortion for more than 30 years. Supporters cite official figures which claim more than 3,000 women have died from clandestine abortions in the country since 1983.

The legislation allows health professionals and private medical institutions to opt out of the procedure, but they are required to refer the woman to another medical facility.



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Mexico, Chile lead Latin America’s first vaccine rollouts


Frontline medical workers in Mexico and Chile were among the first to be vaccinated against the coronavirus as several countries in hard-hit Latin America launched mass immunization programs.

“It’s the best gift I could receive in 2020,” 59-year-old Mexican nurse Maria Irene Ramirez said as she received the injection at a hospital in the capital on Christmas Eve.

“It makes me safer and gives me more courage to continue in the war against an invisible enemy. We’re afraid but we must continue.”

Mexico’s televised rollout came a day after the first 3,000 doses produced by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech arrived by courier plane from Belgium.

Mexico has registered more than 120,000 COVID-19 deaths – the world’s fourth highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India.

Brazil, which has reported nearly 190,000 deaths, is still negotiating the purchase of 350 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for 2021.

Immunization has been a highly politicized issue and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he will not take a vaccine.

‘Everyone’s hope’

In Chile, 46-year-old nursing assistant Zulema Riquelme was the first person shown receiving the jab, hours after the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived by plane.

“I’m very excited and nervous – many emotions,” she said after being inoculated in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera in the capital.

“You’re everyone’s hope,” Pinera told her.

Mexico was the first country in Latin America to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, followed closely by Chile as well as Costa Rica, which was also due to begin an immunization program on Thursday.

Medical personnel line up to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the General Hospital in Mexico City.

AAP

“It may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said.

Argentina meanwhile received the first 300,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on Thursday on a special flight from Moscow.

It is the only Latin American country to have so far approved the Russian shot, which has faced criticism because it was registered before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

Argentina and Mexico also have an agreement with Britain’s AstraZeneca to produce its vaccine to supply to Latin American nations.

Mexico City and surrounding areas last week announced a new suspension of all non-essential activities, warning that hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by a spike in the number of cases.

The government has promised to make vaccinations available free of charge across the country of almost 129 million people – a massive logistical challenge involving the armed forces.

10 December: Life goes on at Mexico City market amid coronavirus surge

The first doses were whisked to a military installation in the south of Mexico City on Wednesday, guarded by a security escort to prevent them from falling into the hands of the country’s powerful criminal gangs.

The foreign ministry said that 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would arrive by January 31, out of the 34.4 million that the US company has agreed to deliver.

The country also has preliminary purchase agreements with China’s CanSino Biologics for 35 million doses and with AstraZeneca for 77.4 million doses.

It is also part of the international COVAX mechanism aimed at ensuring equitable access for all countries, which allows it to buy 51.6 million additional vaccines.

Chile has reserved 30 million doses of three vaccines – enough to immunize 15 million people in the country of 18 million by mid-2021, according to Pinera.

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Argentina First in Latin America to Approve Russian Vaccine


Argentina’s health ministry said Wednesday it has given the controversial Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine “emergency” authorization, making the country the first in Latin America to do so.

The first shipment of the 25 million doses of the vaccine bought by the Argentine government is due to arrive on Thursday.

The authorization for the Gam-CovidVac vaccine, nicknamed Sputnik V after the Soviet-era satellite, was given “in conformity with the recommendations” of Argentina’s drug administration agency, Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia said.

The vaccine has come under fire from critics in Russia and abroad because it was registered before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

Its developers claim it is more than 90% effective but detractors have described it as a tool to bolster Russia’s geopolitical influence.

“The authorization of the Sputnik V vaccine in Argentina without added clinical trials in the country constitutes an important acknowledgment of Russia’s rules and regulations and the quality of its clinical tests,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the director of the Russian direct investment fund that helped finance the vaccine’s development.

On Tuesday, an Aerolineas Argentinas flight left for Moscow to collect the first 300,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine developed by the Nikolai Gamaleya Epidemiology and Microbiology Center.

The authorization came hot on the heels of approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as the government continues to negotiate with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer over supplies.

“We’ve had discussions with many laboratories. The first one we started with was Pfizer, which is why we’re quite frustrated this hasn’t happened,” said Gonzalez Garcia. “When it’s finished the truth will come out.”

The minister said Pfizer had set “unacceptable” new conditions for the provision of vaccines, without specifying what.

Gonzalo Perez Marc, who is in charge of studying the Pfizer vaccine in Argentina, complained that “the negotiation isn’t easy, it remains a commercial product.”

Argentina previously signed an agreement to acquire the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and is part of the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism.

Argentina has recorded over 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 42,000 deaths amongst its 44 million population.



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How producer Tainy is shifting Latin culture with Neon16


For well over a decade, Marco Masís Fernández, also known as Tainy, has been the mastermind behind some of reggaeton’s biggest hits. The Puerto Rican producer has crafted sounds for such chart-topping artists as Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Cardi B, Daddy Yankee, and more.

But now Tainy is stepping more in front of his music with his debut EP, Club Dieciséis—which debuts Friday, December 18—a project that’s as much about Tainy branding himself as more than a behind-the-scenes figure, as it is a vehicle to showcase the creative might of his label Neon16.

“When I started my career, I was restricted from trying certain things. Artists weren’t as open and had a fear of going against the current,” Tainy says. “With Neon16, I want people that don’t have that fear of what people might say or what the radio might think. Just do you.”

Club Dieciséis features tracks produced by Tainy and artists from Neon16’s label, including Dylan Fuentes, Kris Floyd, and Álvaro Díaz.

But Tainy’s mission of creative fearlessness extends beyond the label side: Neon16 has been steadily positioning itself as the more encompassing entertainment outfit for Latin urban culture.

Founded last year by Tainy and former Roc Nation exec Lex Borrero, Neon16 is part talent incubator, part management company, part live events producer, part TV/film production company, and part investment firm—not unlike what 88 Rising is creating for Asian hip-hop culture.

Tainy and Lex Borrero (right) [Photo: courtesy of Neon16]

“American urban businesses like Roc-A-Fella Records, Bad Boy, Cash Money, or any of these brands that live beyond the music, they were really movements of culture. And we see an opening for [Latin culture],” Borrero says. “For us, that’s where our motto came from, ‘Fear nothing, impact everything.’ We wanted to impact culture.”

In addition to its label run in partnership with Interscope Records, Neon16 has curated and hosted events, including the History of Reggaeton Art Exhibit during Art Basel Week 2019 and a celebrity e-sports tournament earlier this year. The company also led a Series A for the e-gaming startup ReKTGlobal and invested in the Toronto spot Regulars Bar.

“Every vertical is based around trying to see the spaces in the business where we can be impactful,” Borrero says.

An area of particular interest for Neon16’s growth is its film and TV arm, Ntertain Studio, that is officially launching in 2021 with two shows already in production.

“We think the [demand] for high-level content [from the Latin community] is going to continue to grow,” Borrero says. “And if we could be a piece of that, I think we’re going to set ourselves up to be a very successful business over the next 5 to 10 years.”

On the artist side, Borrero and Tainy have been finding various ways to push Neon16 artists into the mainstream, such as securing a partnership with the NFL to have their artist Jodosky’s song “Campeón” as the soundtrack to an NFL Shop commercial. Or even Tainy becoming one of the faces of car brand Genesis’s “Born to Rise” campaign.

For Tainy then, his debut EP is only a starting point for the larger vision he sees for Neon16.

“I want to keep exploring,” he says. “We’re all learning doing the process. But at the same time we want to create that movement of just being free to create amazing things.”





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Total solar eclipse wows crowds in Latin America | World News


Thousands of people who turned up in the Chilean region of La Araucania to witness the rare experience of a total solar eclipse were not left disappointed, with poor weather doing little to dampen their excitement.

Despite the limited visibility due to cloudy skies, the large crowds – who donned their face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 – were able to watch the moon black out the sun, plunging daytime into darkness.

Many jumped and shouted in the rain when the sun was totally covered by the moon, followed by moments of silence afterwards and then more screams and cheering when the sun re-appeared.

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A rare sight of a total solar eclipse in La Araucania, Chile
Total solar eclipse
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Onlookers described the solar eclipse as a ‘spectacular’ and ‘unique’ sight

Diego Fuentes, who had travelled with his family to see the eclipse, said: “It was worth the two minutes.”

Another onlooker, Catalina Morales, said she “liked it a lot”, adding: “It was good that there were clouds because we could see it a little without glasses.”

Her father Cristian described it as “spectacular, a unique experience”.

During the brief period of darkness, the only light was that from people’s mobile phones.

There were some similarly impressive views in other Latin American countries, including Argentina, as well as in some African nations and above parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

But the best images came from Chile, where the next total solar eclipse is not due for another 28 years.

Total solar eclipse
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Thousands turned up to see the eclipse across Latin America
Total solar eclipse
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Many attendees wore face masks during the event

The indigenous Mapuche people from La Araucania traditionally believe that the total eclipse signals the temporary death of the sun after a battle with the moon – and what follows is a series of negative events.

Diego Ancalao, member of a Mapuche community and head of an Indigenous foundation that promotes development, noted that a July 2019 eclipse was followed by civil unrest in Chile and later the COVID-19 pandemic.



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In Latin America, a Biden White House faces a rising China


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Beijing has ramped up investment and low-interest loans to the region too, backing energy projects, solar farms, dams, ports, railway lines and highways.

Bolivian ex-President Jorge Quiroga explained the draw of China during an interview with Reuters in La Paz earlier this year, adding that along with local powerhouse Brazil it was the most important partner.

“People ask me who I prefer, the United States or Europe? I say Brazil. What about in second place? I say China. That’s the reality of South America,” Quiroga said.

‘TRUMP DIDN’T SHOW ANY INTEREST’

Officials in the region cautioned that China, a major economic and diplomatic partner for many nations, will be difficult to unseat. Billions of Chinese dollars have given crucial lifelines for indebted emerging countries, a need that has been sharpened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think China has more interest in Argentina than the United States has in Argentina. And that is what makes the difference,” an Argentine government official told Reuters.

“Trump did not show any interest. Let’s hope Biden does.”

China is now the number one trade partner to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and others. It far outstrips the United States in terms of trade with Argentina.

Outside of Mexico, China’s trade with the region overtook the United States in 2018 and extended that in 2019 to more than $223 billion versus U.S. trade of $198 billion, according to an analysis of trade figures from the U.N. Comtrade database.



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Washington ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America needs overhaul: report


The US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday with testimony from leaders of the commission.

Representative Eliot Engel, the committee’s chairman, said he hoped the report would serve as a blueprint for the new administration and Congress “as they work to set our counter-narcotics policies on a far better path.”

Anti-Narcotics police officers guide a police helicopter to land over a coca field during an operation in Tumaco, Colombia, last year.Credit:Bloomberg

It comes as the coronavirus outbreak increases the challenges of eradicating drug trafficking. “The pandemic has exacerbated conditions that are worsening our ongoing opioid crisis, such as lack of adequate treatment, economic distress, and social isolation,” said the report issued by a panel of former Democratic and Republican government officials and members of the House of Representatives.

The report praises some policies, including programs in Colombia to provide alternatives to growing coca – the source of cocaine – and support for criminal justice reforms in Mexico. It cites uneven progress from police reform schemes in the troubled nations of the “Northern Triangle” – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The report also found that counter-narcotics policies have caused considerable harm. For example, some efforts to eradicate production of coca have moved production, and associated violence, to new communities.

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And law enforcement efforts targeting drug-gang leaders, or kingpins, have at times fractured drug cartels, leading to more violence as gang members fight for control.

The administration of President-elect Joe Biden is expected to shift the US approach to the region, with more emphasis on aid, diplomacy and human rights than President Donald Trump’s focus on sanctioning Venezuela and Cuba and stopping immigrants at the US border.

Reuters



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Brazil-based payments processor Conductor raises $150M led by Viking Global Investors to expand in Latin America (Reuters)




Reuters:

Brazil-based payments processor Conductor raises $150M led by Viking Global Investors to expand in Latin America  —  SAO PAULO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Brazilian payments firm Conductor has raised $150 million in a private funding round to expand its business in Latin America ahead …





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Bolivia election: Why Latin American Pink Tide is still out – for now.


One year ago, Bolivia’s election ended in chaos: weeks of protest; incumbent President Evo Morales fleeing the country; and a right-wing interim government stepping in, which twice postponed redo elections.

When the long-awaited vote was held this week, observers across Latin America viewed it as more than a referendum on Mr. Morales’ socialist leadership. It was a wider test: Could Latin America’s political left – the so-called pink tide – make a comeback?

The socialist party candidate, Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, won at the polls. But that’s not a harbinger for the region, analysts say. Instead, the biggest takeaway for Bolivia’s neighbors is the rejection of incumbents in a region where faith in democracy is on the decline, and economic security is in a tailspin, says Christina Ewig, an expert on Latin American politics. 

The conservative interim government made a series of missteps, which combined with the unprecedented toll of COVID-19 to lay the groundwork for socialists’ return, says economist Gonzalo Chávez Alvarez. 

“Bolivia chose to resolve its problems through democracy,” Dr. Chávez says. But, he adds, “right or left, we are seeing a resistance to playing by the rules of the game” across Latin America, whether Morales in 2019, or Venezuela, Brazil, or Nicaragua today.

Mexico City

 “¡GAME OVER!” tweeted Venezuela’s foreign minister.

A “retreat to the left,” suggested one international headline.

A “blow to neoliberalism,” a foreign activist proclaimed.

For many, Bolivia’s long-awaited presidential election this week was not only a referendum on exiled former President Evo Morales’ 13-year term, but a test for the possible rebound of Latin America’s political left.

The socialist party candidate Luis Alberto Arce Catacora earned 54.5% of the vote with roughly 95% of votes counted by Thursday morning. It’s a rare win for the left in a region that took a sharp right turn in recent years, following more than a decade of the so-called pink tide of leftist leadership, from Brazil to Argentina, Chile to Uruguay. And it’s a striking comeback for Bolivia’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, after allegations of fraud in the 2019 vote threw the country into months of civil unrest. But it’s not, experts warn, a harbinger for the reemergence of the Latin American left.

The results reflect unique aspects of Bolivia’s socio-economic situation, an Indigenous majority with a strong history of social mobilization, unhappiness with the conservative interim president, the socialist party’s move away from personality politics, and the opposition’s inability to coalesce behind a single candidate.

The biggest takeaway for Bolivia’s neighbors isn’t a return of the left, but the rejection of incumbents in a region where faith in democracy is on the decline and economic security is in a tailspin, says Christina Ewig, a professor at the University of Minnesota who studies Latin American politics.

“In terms of the regional context, this doesn’t signal more votes for the left, but more votes for change,” she says. “What we’ll see more of are problems for incumbents in Latin America, especially in 2021.”

Turbulent year

Evo Morales became Bolivia’s first Indigenous president when he took office in 2006. Over the course of his three terms in office, he promised to fight inequality, tighten state control over natural resources, and distance Bolivia from imperialist powers like the United States. Mr. Arce served in his administration for more than a decade, implementing fiscal policies that don’t typically jibe with leftist governments.

But the widespread support Mr. Morales enjoyed from his base started to erode as he began consolidating power and pushed for a second, third, and finally a fourth term in office. Before the fourth campaign, voters had narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment to let him run again. Yet the Supreme Court scrapped term limits altogether in 2018, ruling it was Mr. Morales’ human right to run – putting off many of his former supporters. He claimed victory in last year’s polls, but international observers questioned the results, and protesters took to the streets. The sometimes violent protests lasted nearly a month.

Sabino Chavez Mamani, member of the Departmental Electoral Tribunal, attends the counting of votes after nationwide election, in La Paz, Bolivia, Oct. 21, 2020.

Mr. Morales fled Bolivia, while a U.S.-backed, right-wing interim government took the helm. When interim President Jeanine Áñez was sworn in, she made a show of bringing Christianity with her, after the last administration’s emphasis on Indigenous traditions. “The Bible has returned to the government palace!” she declared, carrying an oversized Bible.

A series of missteps, combined with the unprecedented economic and health tolls of COVID-19, laid the groundwork for a return to MAS leadership, says Gonzalo Chávez Alvarez, an economist who directs the master’s in development program at the Catholic University of Bolivia.

“This vote isn’t saying everything Morales did before was wonderful,” Dr. Chávez says. “It was a vote for social and economic change.”

Over the past year, the transitional government, which postponed the vote twice, “made many errors that scared voters,” Dr. Chávez says, including corruption, a lack of coordinated leadership, violent crackdowns on Indigenous communities and protesters, and the “terrible idea of the interim president presenting herself as a candidate for reelection,” even though she later took herself out of the running.

“Bolivians had a taste of what the right would be like and they really blew it under Áñez,” Dr. Ewig says. “She wasn’t prepared to be president. It was a year of right-wing rule that was disastrous and reminded people how much elites in Bolivia can be really exclusionary to the majority of the population, which is Indigenous.”

Former President Carlos Mesa, who also ran, “was painted with the same brush.”

The opposition had a hard time deciding whom to back, much like Venezuela’s opposition, which for nearly two decades failed to unite to contest increasingly authoritarian leftist leaders. The closest contender in Bolivia’s vote, the centrist Mr. Mesa, led the country during a tough economic crisis, conjuring up unhappy memories. President-elect Arce, by contrast, was finance minister at the height of the region’s commodity boom.

“We have recovered democracy,” Mr. Arce said in a speech early Monday, when early results signaled his victory. “We are going to govern for all Bolivians and construct a government of national unity.” He said Mr. Morales is welcome to return home, but he needs to answer to the justice system for the numerous charges lodged against him.

Over the past year, MAS and President-elect Arce were able to move themselves away from Mr. Morales’ powerful personality and become a more institutionalized party. And his emphasis on unity has given international observers hope.

“MAS has been an incredible force in Bolivian politics, and for it to become more institutionalized as a party rather than a personal vehicle for Evo Morales is really important for the long-term health of democracy,” says Dr. Ewig.

Questions ahead

Many of the international lessons from Sunday’s vote may be yet to emerge, depending on how Mr. Arce moves forward. Will he truly distance himself from his predecessor, as was the case in Ecuador after Rafael Correa, observers ask? Or will he follow the path of Venezuela, where Nicolás Maduro leans heavily on predecessor Hugo Chávez’s name and legacy?

Bolivia is in economic crisis, Dr. Chávez says, and whether Mr. Arce tries to create a new path or falls back on policies from the Morales days will have a big impact on what comes next. “This wasn’t just the interim government mismanaging the economy, this began back in 2014,” he says of Bolivia’s economic downturn. The GDP is forecast to shrink nearly 8% this year.

The global consequences of COVID-19 are hitting Latin America particularly hard, pummeling already fragile economies, increasing inequality, and feeding preexisting feelings that the promises of democracy haven’t delivered. With general and midterm elections taking place across the region later this year and in 2021 – from Argentina to Mexico to Venezuela – regional governments and citizens may hold up Bolivia as an example for peaceful change.

“Bolivia chose to resolve its problems through democracy,” Dr. Chávez says. “That’s a win for democracy. It proves turmoil can be resolved with the vote,” he says.

“But, right or left, we are seeing a resistance to playing by the rules of the game” across Latin America, he says, whether Morales in 2019 or Venezuela, Brazil, or Nicaragua today. 

“It’s democracy that saved Bolivia’s socialist movement.”





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Argentina passes 1 million cases as virus hits Latin America


USHUAIA, Argentina (AP) — At the edge of Argentina in a city known as “The End of the World,” many thought they might be spared from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sitting far from the South American nation’s bustling capital, health workers in Ushuaia were initially able to contain a small outbreak among foreigners hoping to catch boats to the Antarctic at the start of the crisis.

But as Argentina passed 1 million virus cases Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks. Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60% of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.

“We were the example of the country,” said Dr. Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. “Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus.”

Across Latin America, three other nations are expected to reach the 1 million case milestone in the coming weeks — Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The grim mark comes as Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts. And though some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another.

The trajectory is showing that the pandemic is likely to leave no corner of Latin America unscathed.

“The second wave is arriving without ever having finished the first,” said Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández, a public health professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia.

Argentina has seen cases spiral despite instituting one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Colombia’s major cities have seen a dip, but smaller areas like the department of Caldas in the coffee region are only now reaching a peak. Peru’s overall numbers have dropped, but officials recently reported 12 regions are spiking back up. Mexico, likewise, has seen a rise in a quarter of all states over the last week.

The result is that rather than a second virus wave like that being seen in Europe, epidemiologists anticipate a more sustained, plateau-like trend.

“Our countries are still getting out of the first wave,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization’s Department of Communicable Diseases. “A great part of the population remains exposed and community transmission continues.”

The virus’ cruel path through Latin America is a consequence of weak public health systems, social factors like poverty and poor government decisions early on that resulted in flawed or limited testing and little contact tracing. Today the region is home to half the 10 countries with the highest total cases around the globe.

Argentina initially registered low virus case numbers but now has one of the highest rates of new daily infections per capita, according to Our World in Data, a non-profit online scientific publication based at the University of Oxford. It is on par with several European countries that are experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

Dr. Adolfo Rubinstein, a former Argentine health minister, said the nation depended too heavily on lockdowns as its primary means of controlling the virus, failing to purchase enough tests in the initial months of the pandemic.

Where the virus is appearing is also shifting. Initially, up to 90% of the confirmed cases were in metropolitan Buenos Aires. Today, 65% of Argentina’s cases are in its provinces and even faraway places like Ushuaia, authorities said.

“Now it is everywhere in the country,” Rubinstein said.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Americas branch of the World Health Organization, warned recently that the coronavirus is appearing in places that were previously not affected, with high numbers popping up in regions like the English-speaking Caribbean.

“In many countries, the pandemic has also moved to less populated areas,” she said.

That can be seen not just in Argentina but in Colombia as well. The city of Manizales in a region known for its coffee farms now registers 440.98 cases per 100,000 residents, far higher than the nationwide average of 284.09 per 100,000, according to the Ministry of Health. Officials say the slower rise in cases allowed them to expand ICU capacity.

“Here we didn’t have a peak like in Europe,” Hernández said. “We had a plateau.”

Throughout the region, testing remains a hurdle. In Peru, officials have relied heavily on antibody tests to identify cases — even though the tests are not designed to make a diagnosis because they can only detect proteins that develop a week or more after infection. Argentina’s testing is still far below that of neighboring countries; on Sunday, just 13,890 were tested, compared to 31,988 the same day in Colombia.

The high percentage coming back positive in Argentina suggests the country is still likely missing vast numbers of infections.

Brazil reached 1 million cases in June and now is up to 5.2 million for the pandemic.

“These are huge undercounts of what is really going on in terms of numbers,” said Felicia Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas at the University of Miami. “We need more consistent mask use — but we have to couple that with testing and tracing — or else the numbers are going to rise tremendously.”

In Ushuaia, officials believe truckers carrying in produce from the Buenos AIres region may be responsible for the rise in cases since mid-September. The city famous as a departure point for cruises to the Antarctic had been a model for the nation. Closed off air travel and a halt on tourism left it virus free for months.

But that false sense of comfort may have led people to relax on basic pandemic norms like hand washing and social distancing. The Tierra del Fuego province, which has a population of about 150,000, now has over 8,000 confirmed cases.

In Ushuaia, anxious residents line up in their cars for drive-thru testing. A sports center that had been empty is now set up to take care of patients. One month ago, the regional hospital was treating just seven COVID-19 patients; now it has 28, occupying all of its bed set aside for adults with the illness.

“The failure in Argentina was the low amount of testing,” Guglielmi said.

José Bongiovanni, a lawyer in Ushuaia, said a worry that seemed distant now feels close.

“Living at the end of the world was never easy,” he said. “It’s a lot less easy in a moment like this.”

___

Associated Press journalist Nicolas Deluca reported this story in Ushuaia, AP writer Almudena Calatrava reported from Buenos Aires, and AP writer Christine Armario reported from Bogota, Colombia.



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