This is the first in a series of updates by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Updates will be posted every two weeks.
Name: Marcelo Rodriguez
Work: Research and Training Librarian, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Countries I’m monitoring for this project: Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru
- What is your interest in this project?
I created this project because, like a lot of you, I have family, friends and professional colleagues throughout Latin America and the Caribbean region. Furthermore, I think it’s important in this moment of global crisis affecting every single one of us to also be aware of what is happening in the rest of our shared continent. Here in the United States, it’s easy and inevitable to some extent to read news from or about Latin America and the Caribbean region only when it affects us directly or too late to understand much at all. As law librarians, I’d like to think that we have the expertise and the network to strive for a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding either right away or in the future. I hope this project achieves that and more.
- What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?
The very first week we began collecting information, namely the week of March 10th was also the week when lots of governments throughout the region began enacting and imposing obligatory quarantines, suspension of flights, border closings, restrictions on the population, curfews and different levels of national states of emergency. As you can imagine, the situation has not been the same throughout the region, and continues to develop in different ways for each of these countries. For example, after only 2 cases confirmed, Bolivia’s Interim President Jeanine Añez declared a national state of emergency on March 11th. Paraguay has opted for a health emergency declaration on March 16th, including a reduction of border points of entry and obligatory quarantine for those entering the territory. Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra has received a lot of international attention because of his March 16th state of national emergency, which closed its borders, including international flights in a matter of 24 hours. The abrupt emergency closings has left hundreds if not thousands of Americans as well as other foreigners stranded in Peru.
- What situation are you monitoring the most?
On March 21st, Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal suspended the presidential elections scheduled for May 3rd, and also declared a 14-days suspension of electoral campaigns and preparations. Now Bolivia’s current Senate needs to pass new legislation to select a new future date. Given the political crisis at the end of last year when the then-President Evo Morales left the country sparking national protests, the current interim government of Jeanine Añez’s legitimacy has been questioned in some circles. Despite these concerns, the May 3rd elections were universally seen as the democratic way forward for a country marred in a precarious political situation. How COVID-19 will affect the already tenuous political process in Bolivia is a situation I’m trying to monitor as close as possible.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Compared to other regions, COVID-19 “arrived late” in Latin America and the Caribbean region. First case was confirmed in Brazil on February 26th. As I mentioned before, despite these low number of cases and responding to an exponential increase of confirmed cases, governments in the region have taken an array of protections and steps to protect their populations. Besides meetings among Mercosur countries and the CARICOM states/region, I have not been able to find any information as to whether countries are preparing or even considering a more regional approach to a pandemic which is not concerned with political boundaries, and which seems to require a level of international coordination.