BOLIVIA: Thousands of Bolivians marched in El Alto yesterday on the first day of a general strike to protest a decision to delay the presidential election again due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Bolivian Workers’ Center union (COB), which organized the strike, is demanding that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal reverse an earlier decision to postpone the election —originally scheduled for September 6— to October 18. Juan Carlos Huarachi, the head of the union, said the strike is indefinite. “If we join together as miners, campesinos, the middle class and El Alto, we can be dynamite,” Huarachi said.
The election is a re-do of last October’s presidential election that ended with the ousting of President Evo Morales, who appeared to have won. The Organization of American States alleged fraud in the election, but increasing evidence shows their analysis was flawed, and that the actions against Morales constituted a coup. The new election was originally slated for May, but was delayed because of the pandemic. Conservative Interim President Jeanine Áñez has been accused of using the pandemic to try to hold onto power.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
CHILE: President Sebastián Piñera replaced six ministers in his cabinet yesterday following the passage of the controversial pension reform bill last week. It was the fourth time Piñera has reshuffled his cabinet since he has been in office. Minister of the Interior Gonzalo Blumel, who was blamed for failing to stop the pension reform law from being passed in Congress, was among the ministers replaced. The reform will allow Chileans to take out 10% of their pension early to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic. Piñera opposed the reform, but several members of his Chile Vamos coalition backed the bill, causing a rift in the party.
COLOMBIA: Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero has tested positive for COVID-19. He says he is asymptomatic but taking precautions. Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city, initially kept the coronavirus at bay, with few infections and deaths. But in recent weeks, the city has seen a rise in cases. Earlier this month, Quintero expanded quarantine measures, including curfews and liquor bans on the weekend. Colombia is expected to reach its peak for cases in August.
VENEZUELA: The lawyers for two imprisoned Venezuelan deputies say their clients have been tortured and are being kept in inhumane conditions. Lawmakers Renzo Prieto and Gilber Caro have been deprived of food and water, and Caro’s sister says his cell is so small he cannot stand up. Prieto has been in prison for four years and Caro for seven months. Both are members of Leopoldo López’s Voluntad Popular party. On Sunday, Juan Guaidó called for Caro’s release, saying his torture is meant to “generate terror in those who fight.”
REGION: The U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for several Caribbean islands. The disturbance has not yet turned into a tropical storm, but experts say it will likely grow stronger. It is expected to pass over the Leeward Islands this morning and arrive at Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands tonight and the Dominican Republic and Haiti tomorrow.
SCOOP: Here’s the letter @FEMA sent to Puerto Rico Governor @wandavazquezg saying PR is “not well prepared nor has the ability to respond and manage a major event.” FEMA says the Governor has not responded even as a tropical storm is expected to hit the island in 36hrs.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 29, 2020
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced said the island is ready for the storm, but just two weeks ago FEMA sent a letter to Vázquez saying Puerto Rico is “not well prepared nor has the ability to respond to and manage a major event.”
BARBADOS: Owen Arthur, the former prime minister of Barbados and a champion for Caribbean unity, has died at 70 years old, the Barbados government announced Monday. Arthur served three consecutive terms as prime minister from 1992 to 2008. He was also the chief architect of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy development strategy. In a statement following his death, CARICOM described Arthur as a “titan of regional integration” and “esteemed son of our Caribbean civilization.”
NICARAGUA: Four out of 10 burials at three cemeteries in Managua in May were “express” burials, presumed to be for victims of COVID-19, according to a report by the newspaper Confidencial. Express burials often happen at night, and the bodies are buried the same day the people died. According to Confidencial, many of the people buried in May died of respiratory complications. President Daniel Ortega has said only 108 people have died from COVID-19 in Nicaragua, but the express burials are a sign that the numbers are likely much higher.
MEXICO: Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company Pemex, appeared in court yesterday for his first hearing on corruption charges. Lozoya has been accused of accepting bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht and Mexican steel plant Altos Hornos and funneling the money into the presidential campaign of Enrique Peña Nieto. In the hearing, Lozoya said he will prove he is not guilty, but he also offered to be a cooperating witness.
MEXICO: More than 150,000 small businesses have closed in Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Small Business Alliance said yesterday. Around 90,000 of the businesses are restaurants, leaving 300,000 workers unemployed. More than 90% of businesses reported that they didn’t receive any pandemic-related government assistance in April and May. Mexico has begun to reopen its economy, even as COVID-19 cases increase. Mexico has recorded nearly 400,000 cases and 44,022 deaths, but the numbers are likely much higher as only 3 out of 100,000 are being tested every day.