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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Argentina: Fernandez extends curfew, school closures as Covid-19 cases rise

Argentine President Alberto Fernández on Friday announced a three-week extension of restrictions to tackle the Covid-19 second wave, warning the nation that the “next few weeks may be very hard.”

Fernández confirmed that the existing 8pm-6am nighttime curfew in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) - home to one in three Argentines - and other at-risk regions would remain in place.

The most controversial has been the cancellation of in-person classes at Buenos Aires metro-area schools.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta - whose right-wing JxC coalition staunchly opposes Fernández - has challenged the in-person schooling suspension. The city lost in federal court on April 20th and the case has gone to the Supreme Court.

Over 5,300 patients with Covid-19 are hospitalized in intensive care units across the country, with bed occupancy today at 69.1% nationwide and 77.9% in the AMBA region.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/fernandez-extends-curfew-school-closures-as-covid-19-cases-rise.phtml

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta visits a classroom on the first day of the current school year, February 17th.

Since then, new Covid-19 cases have jumped from around 6,000 to 22,420 today - with average daily deaths this week tripling to 384.

President Fernández's order suspending in-person schooling in the metro area has been challenged in court by the mayor.

Brazil registers record 14.4 million unemployed

Pandemic-battered Brazil registered a record 14.4 million unemployed workers in the three-month period to February 2021, up two million from the year before, officials said Friday.

The unemployment rate for the period came in at 14.4%, said the national statistics institute IBGE. That was up from 11.6% the year before, when the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to be felt in Brazil - and the highest since 1999.

Latin America's biggest economy has been hit hard by Covid-19, which has devastated the country since the first case was confirmed in February 2020.

GDP fell last year by 4.1%, to its lowest level since 2010.

"In one year of the pandemic, 7.8 million jobs were lost," IBGE said in a statement.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/brazil-registers-record-144-million-unemployed.phtml

Unemployed Brazilians at a job center in São Paulo.

Unemployment in Latin America's largest economy rose from an already high 11.6% to 14.4% during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Nearly 15 million cases and over 400,000 deaths have been recorded in Brazil thus far.

The economy grew 6.4% in Q1 amid stimulus checks, COVID-19 shots, looser business constraints

A U.S. economy that was supposed to be ailing this past winter instead got a couple of big shots in the arm, kicking off what’s likely to be a historically strong year.

Economic growth accelerated in early 2021 as federal stimulus checks and fast-growing COVID-19 vaccinations left consumers flush with cash and ready to spend it just as more states lifted business constraints.

The developments pushed up a recovery that wasn’t supposed to gather force until midyear.

The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.4% in the January-March period, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 6.9% rise in GDP.

U.S. economic output is now just 1% below its pre-pandemic level and should reclaim that mark in the current quarter, Capital Economics says. After the economy contracted 3.5% in 2020 – its worst performance since just after World War II – GDP is poised for a historic turnabout.

Private spending grew at a 10.7% rate in the 1st quarter - led by a 41.4% annualized boost in durable goods spending.

Gross private domestic investment fell 5% in the quarter due to a $90 billion drawdown in inventories. Fixed investment grew at a 10.1% rate, led by equipment purchases of 16.7%.

Government purchases grew 6.3%, with defense declining at a 3.4% rate - and non-defense jumping by a record 44.8% annualized rate.

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/29/business/economy/united-states-gdp.html

Colombians protest tax increase proposal amid pandemic

Tens of thousands of people marched in Colombia Wednesday against a proposed tax reform they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Iván Duque's government wants to tax the incomes of those earning more than US$656 a month, lowering the threshold to broaden the tax base.

It also wants to impose a tax on basic services in upper-middle class areas and on funerals.

The measures are meant to raise some US$6.3 billion in 10 years for the country which saw GDP drop 6.8% in 2020 – its worst performance in half a century.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/colombians-protest-tax-reform-proposal-amid-pandemic.phtml

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest in Bogotá yesterday against a tax reform bill proposed by Colombian President Iván Duque.

LIVE: President Joe Biden's address to a joint session of Congress

The world needs many more Coronavirus vaccines

Low- and middle-income nations are facing an unconscionable shortage of coronavirus vaccines that threatens to upend progress against the pandemic.

So far, this global shortage has been obscured by pockets of vaccine abundance in wealthier countries like the United States.

But if the shortage isn’t addressed soon, the trouble will become all too clear. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will continue to get sick and die, even as the pandemic recedes in richer nations.

Nearly as soon as vaccines entered clinical trials, wealthy countries began hoarding doses, ensuring that instead of the most vulnerable people everywhere being vaccinated, their residents would be first in line.

Then, as the vaccines came to market, some vaccine makers insisted on sweeping liability protections that further imperiled access for poorer countries.

In other countries, Pfizer has reportedly not only sought liability protection against all civil claims — even those that could result from the company’s own negligence — but has asked governments to put up sovereign assets, including their bank reserves, embassy buildings and military bases, as collateral against lawsuits.

Some countries have understandably balked at such demands, according to the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the pace of purchasing agreements has slowed as a result.

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/opinion/covid-vaccines-poor-countries.html

Senior citizens being vaccinated recently at an old age home in Buenos Aires, Argentina - where vaccinations, while ramping up, are failing to keep up with surging cases and deaths.

Export restrictions on vast U.S. Covid vaccine supplies - as well as Pfizer's demands on sovereign assets as collateral (including embassies and even central bank reserves) - have left developing countries dependent on Russia, China, and (until recently) India for most of their scarce vaccines.

While daily cases in the U.S. have fallen 77% from January highs, average daily cases worldwide have more than doubled to 825,000.

Gavin Newsom recall gathers enough signatures to qualify for California ballot

The campaign to recall Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom has gathered enough signatures to trigger a special election that could oust him from office.

California's Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the validation of the 1,495,709 petition signatures needed to trigger the recall election on Monday evening.

The petition signers will have the option to remove their signatures as state officials calculate the election's cost, a process which could take up to three months, according to The Los Angeles Times.

After Weber issues an official final certification of the signatures, the state's Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis can then call for the election to occur within 60 to 80 days.

At: https://www.newsweek.com/gavin-newsom-recall-gathers-enough-signatures-qualify-california-ballot-1586597

Opponents of California Governor Gavin Newsom protest in Fresno in favor of a recall election - which will now be held within the next few months, pending certification of all signatures.

Krishnamoorthi calls on Biden to release AstraZeneca vaccine stores to ailing countries

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) on Saturday evening called on the Biden Administration to release its supply of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to countries experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections.

Krishnamoorthi, 47, a member of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said in a statement that the U.S. needs to get the doses of the vaccine that it is not using to other countries that are experiencing intense surges in COVID-19.

"We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S. stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using and which we’ve already opened to combat COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada," Kirshnamoorthi said.

"In order to curb the spread of this virus internationally and to protect public health and our international economy, we need to get these vaccines out the door now,” he continued.

At: https://thehill.com/homenews/house/550137-krishnamoorthi-calls-on-biden-to-release-us-astrazeneca-vaccine-stores-to

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)

"We need to release our stockpile of unused AstraZeneca vaccines now," he tweeted.

"In India alone, almost 350,000 COVID-19 cases were reported today. When people in India and elsewhere desperately need help, we can’t let vaccines sit in a warehouse, we need to get them where they’ll save lives."

While new cases in the U.S. have hovered around 60,000 over the part two months (one-fourth the January highs), average daily cases worldwide have more than doubled to 820,000.

United States set to embark on campaign of 'vaccine diplomacy'

In Latin America, China and Russia have deployed an intense form of Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy dubbed “mercantilism” by the White House - while the U.S. adopted an “America First” public health approach, preferring to immunise its own population as rapidly as possible.

In response, the U.S. will be launching a global campaign to export and share its stock of vaccines “as soon as possible.”

According to sources consulted by the Argentine daily Perfil, Biden will announce his initiative in June - when U.S. authorities expect to have completed vaccination of the adult population.

Biden wants the United States to play a central role in the global struggle against coronavirus.

Prestige and influence are at stake in the face of the global rise of China and its penetration into the trade and public health of the Western Hemisphere.

While visiting Buenos Aires last week, Juan González, U.S. National Security Council Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, revealed some details of the plan the Biden administration is working on for the distribution of vaccines.

“Latin America has a pretty high priority, given the impact of cases and the number of variants which have expanded there - but also because they’re our neighbours,” he assured.

“There is much concern about the advances being achieved by Russia and China in different parts of the region.”

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/world/united-states-set-to-embark-on-campaign-of-vaccine-diplomacy.phtml

Russia's Ambassador to Argentina, Dmitry Feoktistov (middle), joins Argentine officials in welcoming the first shipment of Gamaleya's Sputnik V vaccine in December.

The unavailability of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca forced Argentina to turn to Russia's Gamaleya - which has since supplied around 60% of the 7 million doses given there thus far.

Neighboring Chile, in turn, has relied on China's Sinovac for 93% of its Covid vaccines.

The Biden administration is reportedly working on plans to counter Russian and Chinese vaccine diplomacy by making a growing U.S. surplus of vaccines available to developing countries - particularly Latin America.

Argentine Transport Minister Mario Meoni dies in road accident

Argentina's Transport Minister Mario Meoni has died from serious injuries after his car overturned in a road accident Friday evening. He was 56.

Meoni was driving alone in a Ford Mondeo, and was reportedly on his way to Junín to see his family. The accident took place on National Route 7 near San Andrés de Giles, a small town 67 miles NW of Buenos Aires and 100 miles from his destination.

According to initial reports, he lost control of the vehicle at around 9:30 pm near the Kilometer 112 marker. It is believed he crashed into railings and the car overturned; the cause of the accident is unknown.

A former mayor (2003-15) of Junín, a small city in the Pampas plains, Meoni was a prominent “K Radical” - members of the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR) who supported center-left former Presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.

Turbulent waters

Earlier in the day, he had been in Rosario, where he attended meetings and a public event with President Alberto Fernández and Santa Fe Province Governor Omar Perotti.

They had discussed infrastructure projects and agreements - the most contentious of these topics being the strategic Paraná-Paraguay Waterway in NE Argentina, which carries over 100 millions tons of freight (including 60% of the nation's exports).

Fernández (and Meoni) had thus far resisted calls from many in his Front For All coalition to nationalize the 500-mile waterway - managed since 1995 by a consortium led by local firm Emepa and Belgium's Jan de Nul.

The president has instead called for new bids this September for the concession - worth over $300 million in freight charges, and over $3 billion in dredging and signal charges.

China's state-owned Shanghai Dredging Company (SDC) has expressed interest in the upcoming bidding - which former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had referred to as “China's (using) CCCC and other state-owned companies as weapons to impose a expansionist agenda.”

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/argentinas-transport-minister-mario-meoni-dies-in-road-traffic-accident.phtml

Argentine Transport Minister Mario Meoni at his Buenos Aires office.

President Alberto Fernández referred to Meoni's death as “the loss of a thorough, tireless and honest politician. An exemplary official.”

The tragedy comes amid a difficult month for Fernández - including a Covid diagnosis on his birthday (April 2nd), a four-fold jump in new daily Covid cases that prompted new restrictions, and the right-wing mayor of Buenos Aires' refusal to enforce these restrictions.
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