For Brazil’s Bolsonaro: A Week of Isolation, Hydroxychloroquine

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro spent his first week in isolation doing the things he’d scoffed at for months: wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing.Bolsonaro, who said Tuesday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, is taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine. On Saturday, his wife said her test and those of her two daughters came back negative.Bolsonaro, who said his symptoms are aches, fever and malaise, has a new routine of virtual meetings and Facebook live broadcasts spent in the company of a few aides who had previously tested positive. Not so long ago Bolsonaro was attending rallies and going out to mix and mingle.“I’m sorry I can’t interact with you here. Not even next week will it be possible, because I think I will not yet be completely free of the virus, so I will not have anyone on my side here,” Bolsonaro said on his weekly Facebook broadcast Thursday.Brazil, with 1,071 new deaths Saturday, has a total of nearly 71,500 deaths and 1.9 million confirmed cases. The South American nation trails only the United States in cases and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.Worldwide, there are more than 12.6 million confirmed cases and more than 560,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.In Iran on Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said the nation’s economy must stay open despite a rise in the number of coronavirus infections. He called for a ban on large gatherings, such as at weddings and wakes, to limit the spread of the virus.Iran reported Saturday that in the previous 24 hours, there had been 2,397 new COVID-19 cases and 188 deaths related to the virus, for a more than 255,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of more than 12,600. The country, which has a population of more than 80 million, ranks ninth globally in the number of cases and deaths due to the coronavirus.“We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said, according to a Reuters report. Shortly after he spoke, Tehran police closed all wedding and mourning venues until further notice, the wire service reported.Also Saturday, in India, Biocon, an Indian biopharmaceutical company, told Reuters it had received regulatory approval for its drug Itolizumab to be used in India on coronavirus-infected patients suffering from moderate to severe respiratory distress.Itolizumab also is used to cure the skin disease psoriasis.India, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, has recorded 820,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and a death toll of 22,000.In Australia, Victoria’s capital city of Melbourne has begun a six-week lockdown because of a spike in coronavirus cases.“Nobody is enjoying being locked at home. It is frustrating, it is challenging, but the strategy will be successful if we all play our part,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria state, said Saturday.Victoria reported 216 new cases Saturday, down from 288 Friday.“We will see more and more additional cases,” Andrews said. “This is going to be with us for months and months.”Australia’s seven other states and territories reported 11 new cases Saturday.Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, warned that the pandemic is worsening in the U.S. because the country lacks a coherent strategy to contain the virus.“As a country, when we compare ourselves to other countries, I don’t think you can say we are doing great. I mean, we’re just not,” Fauci said in a recent interview.Fauci suggested earlier this week that states struggling to combat the virus “should seriously look at shutting down,” despite state efforts to reopen in order to revive their economies.Dozens of U.S. Marines have been infected on the Japanese island of Okinawa, officials said. They said the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not be released.“We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.On Saturday, the United States reported more than 66,000 new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest in a string of record-breaking days.The U.S. remains the hardest-hit country, with about one-quarter of all confirmed infections and fatalities worldwide. As of late Saturday, more than 3.2 million people in the U.S. had contracted the virus and more than 134,000 had died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.On Saturday, Disney World in the Southern U.S. state of Florida opened to tourists after nearly four months, with guidelines in place to help prevent spreading the coronavirus.Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened Saturday; Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open next week.Among the many guidelines put in place: a mandatory mask rule, social distancing required; guests will not be allowed to hop between parks; and the popular daily fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to help limit drawing large crowds.  

your ad here

Coronavirus Hits Dozens of Latin Leaders, Including Presidents

The coronavirus pandemic is sweeping through the leadership of Latin America, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive this week for the new coronavirus, adding a destabilizing new element to the region’s public health and economic crises.In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, 65, announced his illness Tuesday and is using it to publicly extol hydroxychloroquine, the unproven malaria drug that he’s been promoting as a treatment for COVID-19 and now takes himself.Bolivian interim President Jeanine Añez, 53, made her own diagnosis public Thursday, throwing her already troubled political prospects into further doubt.And in Venezuela, 57-year-old socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said Thursday on Twitter that he, too, had tested positive, at least temporarily sidelining a larger-than-life figure considered the second-most-powerful person in the country.Another powerful figure, Venezuela’s Oil Minister Tarek El Aissami, announced Friday he has the bug.Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez, wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, waves during a procession Corpus Christi, in La Paz, Bolivia, June 11, 2020.An Associated Press review of official statements from public officials across Latin America found at least 42 confirmed cases of new coronavirus in leaders ranging from presidents to mayors of major cities, along with dozens, likely hundreds, of officials from smaller cities and towns. In most cases, high-ranking officials recovered and are back at work. But several are still struggling with the disease.Many leaders have used their diagnoses to call on the public to heighten precautions like social distancing and mask wearing. But like Bolsonaro, some have drawn attention to unproven treatments with potentially harmful side effects.El Salvador’s Interior Minister, Mario Durán, was diagnosed on July 5, becoming the second Cabinet member there to fall ill.“I am asking you, now more than ever, to stay home and take all preventive measures,” he said after his diagnosis. “Protect your families.’’Durán was receiving treatment at home on Friday.Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced June 16 that he and his wife had tested positive, along with two other people who worked closely with the couple.The following day the 51-year-old Hernández was hospitalized after doctors determined he had pneumonia. The president’s illness came as the pandemic spread from an early epicenter in the northern city of San Pedro Sula to the capital of Tegucigalpa, where cases surged.Hernández said he had started what he called the “MAIZ treatment,” an experimental and unproven combination of microdacyn, azithromycin, ivermectin and zinc that his government is promoting as an affordable way of attacking the disease. He was released from the hospital July 2.The revelation that Cabello – whose commanding voice resonates from Venezuelan airwaves every Wednesday on his weekly television show – has COVID-19 will likely have a sobering impact on the many people who thought their isolated country was relatively shielded from the virus, said Luis Vicente León, a Venezuelan political analyst.This handout picture released by the Honduran Presidency shows Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez sending a live message to the nation on July 2, 2020, announcing he has recovered from COVID-19.Venezuela – already largely cut off to the outside world before COVID-19 – has had far fewer registered cases than many other countries in Latin America, though in recent weeks the number of new confirmed infections has been steadily increasing.Cabello said he was in isolation while getting treatment. A day earlier, he’d canceled his regular TV appearance, telling followers he was battling “strong allergies.”No information has been released on whether Cabello is hospitalized or what type of medical care he is receiving. Venezuela is considered one of the least prepared countries in the world to confront the pandemic. Hospitals are routinely short on basic supplies like water, electricity and medicine.“I think this shows Venezuela is on the same route all the other countries,” León said.In the Caribbean, Luis Abinader, the newly elected president of the Dominican Republic, contracted and recovered from COVID-19 during his campaign.Like Bolsonaro, many Latin leaders have kept up a schedule of public appearances even as the region has become one of the hardest hit in the world.That poses a growing risk to governance in the region, said Felicia Knaul, a professor of medicine who directs the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas at the University of Miami.“We’re trying to keep our health providers safe. It’s the same for our government leaders. We don’t want a Cabinet ill and in hospital. It would be tremendously destabilizing in a situation that’s already extremely unstable,” she said. “That’s a reason why being out in public unless everyone around you has masks on is dangerous. They have to be responsible.”Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei placed his entire Cabinet and their staff in quarantine Thursday after one of his ministers tested positive.In Bolivia, officials said the interim president Añez, had not been displaying symptoms and was in good spirits in her official residence on Friday.At least six other Bolivian ministers and vice ministers have been infected, and at least eight staff members.The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Bolivia, overwhelming the already weak medical system and funeral services to the point where families in the central city of Cochabamba have been holding funerals in the street.With the country in crisis, some polls have shown Añez in last place in a three-way presidential race leading to September elections. Añez, who took office after President Evo Morales was ousted during national unrest last year, does not have a vice president and, if she could no longer serve, the next in the line of succession is Senate President Eva Copa, a member of Morales’ party and a bitter opponent of Añez. 

your ad here

In Florida Visit, Trump Melds Venezuela Policy, Campaign Strategy

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump flew to Florida on Friday on a visit that melded his administration’s policy toward Venezuela and Cuba and his reelection bid in one of the nation’s biggest swing states.Trump hosted a round-table discussion in Doral, in Miami-Dade County, home to one of the largest Venezuelan communities in the United States. Flanked by Venezuelan and Cuban dissidents, Trump reiterated his administration’s support for the people of Venezuela and Cuba.“We are standing with the righteous leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaido,” Trump said, adding that he had ended the “Obama-Biden sellout to the Castro regime.”Trump laid out a similar message at an earlier event Friday as he met with leaders of the U.S. Southern Command to review the counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean, an effort his administration has described partly as an attempt to intercept funds going to the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.“We’re going to fight for Venezuela and we’re going to be fighting for our friends from Cuba,” Trump said.FILE – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido talks to a journalist during an interview with The Associated Press in Brussels, Jan. 22, 2020.Last year, Guaido, who was then Venezuelan National Assembly president, took over the role of interim president, replacing Maduro. Washington’s early support for Guaido helped him gain diplomatic recognition from about 60 countries. But a series of sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba and a proposal for a peaceful transition presented by the U.S. State Department have failed to persuade Maduro to leave office.In June, Trump was criticized for saying he was open to meeting with Maduro. Trump later clarified he would do so only to discuss the Venezuelan president’s exit.Shifting Venezuela policyPresumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reminded voters of what he described as Trump’s shifting Venezuela foreign policy in a statement Friday.“Just like his response to this pandemic, the president has been unreliable and self-centered in his approach to the issues closest to the Venezuelan people,” Biden said.He renewed his pledge to grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans to allow them to live and work in the United States and said he would lead a coordinated international effort to help Venezuela’s failing economy. He called Trump’s Florida visit a “photo-op and a distraction from his failures.”FILE – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an event with the youth of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party in Caracas, Venezuela, June 22, 2020.At the round-table event in Florida, Trump hit back at his Democratic opponent. As attendees shared their experiences of fleeing from socialist countries, Trump described Biden as a puppet of progressive Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “the militant left.”Despite sanctions and diplomatic pressure by the Trump administration, the issue of Venezuela remains unresolved.“The power struggle between Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro endures with no end in sight,” wrote FILE – A health care worker takes a swab sample from a driver at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium, July 8, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida is one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus.Overshadowed by pandemicFlorida reported nearly 11,500 more cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to nearly 245,000 across the state. The state’s health department reported nearly 440 more hospitalizations Friday, the largest single-day increase the state has seen thus far.Trump allies Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez are both facing criticism for their handling of the pandemic. DeSantis downplayed the outbreak early on but has since been forced to pause the state’s reopening amid a resurgence of the virus.Despite the surge of cases, Republicans still plan to hold their national convention next month in Jacksonville, Florida.The Trump campaign has been criticized for holding rallies and other large gatherings amid the pandemic. On Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was postponing a rally in New Hampshire set for  Saturday, citing a tropical storm forecast to hit in the area.Trump ended his Florida trip with a private fundraiser at Hillsboro Beach before returning to the White House.Maritime counternarcoticsSince the Trump administration increased its maritime counternarcotics focus April 1, the U.S. has added 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships to support drug interdictions, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday during the U.S. Southern Command meeting with Trump.President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command, July 10, 2020, in Doral, Fla.The enhanced operations have allowed the U.S. and its allies to ramp up targeting of known maritime smugglers by 60%, Esper added, disrupting more than 122 metric tons of drugs and denying $2 billion in drug profits since late March.That means that in the last three months alone, the U.S. and allies interdicted nearly half the amount of drugs that they interdicted in all of last year. According to SOUTHCOM data provided to VOA, the U.S. and its allies interdicted 273 metric tons of drugs in 2018 and 280 metric tons of drugs in 2019.Still, these counternarcotics operations are making just a small dent in the illegal-drug profits of transnational criminal organizations, estimated at $90 billion a year according to SOUTHCOM.In written testimony before the asset increase took effect, SOUTHCOM commander Admiral Craig Faller said the U.S. “only enabled the successful interdiction of about 9 percent of known drug movement” recently in Latin America and the Caribbean.VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

your ad here

Goya CEO Praises Trump at White House, Backlash is Swift

Goya Foods is facing a swift backlash after its CEO praised President Donald Trump at a White House event.Goya was founded in Manhattan in 1936 by Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife Carolina, immigrants from Spain. The company calls itself the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States.  Robert Unanue, a grandson and now Goya CEO, spoke at a Rose Garden event announcing a “Hispanic Prosperity Initiative” on Thursday.  “We all truly blessed, at the same time, to have have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” Unanue said standing at a podium beside Trump.Almost immediately, #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway began trending on social media platforms like Twitter, with scorn coming seemingly from all directions, including some big political names.  Many were angered by the support, citing Trump’s history of derogatory comments and harsh policies toward Hispanics, most notably, the administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.Former presidential candidate Julian Castro was among those to take to Twitter, saying Unanue praised someone who villainizes Goya’s customer base.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said she would learn to make from scratch some of the Latin cuisine that Goya makes.  Goya did not immediately comment.  According to the Pew Research Center, 13.3% of eligible voters in the U.S. this year are Latino, a record high.Trump has been working hard recently to court Latino voters, who could swing the vote in states such as Arizona. On Wednesday, he welcomed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the White House with lofty language, calling Mexico a cherished partner. Trump’s tone was in stark contrast from when he kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign by referring to Mexicans as “rapists” and railed against migrants entering the United States illegally.  Goya recently donated thousands of pounds of food to families in the Bronx and Harlem who have been affected by COVID-19. The company also made a big donation to a public school in Queens. 

your ad here

Venezuela Socialist Party Leader Tests Positive for Coronavirus

The leader of Venezuela’s ruling Socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, is self-quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, making him the highest-ranking official in the South American nation to contract the virus.Cabello announced his infection in a tweet Thursday. He vowed to overcome the disease, writing, “We will win!”President Nicolas Maduro said Cabello is fine but added he will need several days of treatment and recovery.Cabello’s diagnosis comes a few days after the governor of Venezuela’s Zulia state, Omar Prieto, tested positive for the coronavirus after being treated for a respiratory illness.Venezuela has confirmed more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 75 deaths. 

your ad here

Latin America, Caribbean Are New Pandemic Hot Spot, UN Says

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Latin America and the Caribbean have become “a hot spot” for the coronavirus pandemic, with several countries tallying the highest per capita infection rates in the world.During his video briefing report Thursday, Guterres said COVID-19’s impact on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to result in the deepest recession in living memory.Guterres said in the short-term response governments should consider providing people living in poverty with emergency basic incomes and anti-hunger grants.He said the novel coronavirus is having an especially hard impact on Latin America and the Caribbean’s most vulnerable groups, who lag in access to health care services and stable employment.Guterres said indigenous people of African descent, migrants and refugees are also suffering disproportionately.In his report, Guterres said some unnamed countries in the region are not prepared to address the health and human crises created by the pandemic.The U.N. chief said the international community must provide financial help and debt relief for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

your ad here