This is the fourth 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. The group also recently created its own website: lawlibrariansmonitoringcovid19.com/
Name: Victoria De La Torre
Workplace: Currently seeking opportunities
Countries you are monitoring: Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia
1. What is your interest in this project?
We know that the Latinx population in the United States is seeing a significantly steeper health and economic impact of COVID-19 than any other demographic, and I am no exception to this statistic as I have been recently laid-off from my position. Participating in this project allows me to not only continue to contribute scholarly research to the field, but it’s also giving me the ability to measure the impact of COVID-19 on South/Central American and Caribbean nations in order to encourage action and aid from those in decision-making roles.
2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?
There has been a clear pattern in the countries I’ve monitored; the downplaying of the severity of the situation followed by the imposition of sweeping restrictions with little regard for logistics and equity, and then the collapse of an already fragile health-care system under the weight of the suffering and the dead. Infected doctors are waiting in chairs beside their patients for them to die for a chance to use a ventilator, which most developing nations have less than 25% as many as nations like the United States. The state of affairs in these three countries is just as underreported as it is severe.
Below is a brief summary of each country:
The situation in Ecuador is by far one of the most gruesome in the world, with Ecuador being considered the South American epicenter of the virus. With several hundred abandoned bodies in the streets and inside homes, fears of indigenous extinction, and discrepancies over the figures of infection and death, suggest that the actual death toll is upwards of 15 times higher than what is currently being reported and that the impact of COVID-19 will continue to have devastating affects. Despite COVID-19 ravaging their country, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court is operating and working to protect citizens against human rights violations after a series of “inconsistent decisions” made by the Judiciary Council.
COVID-19 strikes Venezuela at a tumultuous political environment rampant with an alleged coup attempt, anti-drug operations, an alleged sea invasion by Venezuela, and long-time ally Iran hauling the diminishing reserves of gold from Venezuela’s vaults. While Venezuela has reportedly kept the number of deaths low (345 cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths), this is being heavily debated as misinformation as reporters are being arbitrarily detained. Many Venezuelans are finding that crypto-currencies are further complicating the economic crisis, particularly due to the national crypto-currency, petro, going offline for maintenance, and due to over 20,000 shops and enterprises accepting crypto starting June 1st. Meanwhile, upwards of 12,000 migrants are fleeing Colombia by bus or on foot, all Venezuelan Nationals who had previously immigrated to Colombia to avoid the economic crisis. Prison conditions, which are historically notorious for having deplorable conditions, are worsening due to COVID-19, exemplified by a prison riot in which 45 people were killed and 75 injured.
The political climate in Colombia is also heated due to the Colombian President attempting to usurp local authority power while declaring a national emergency, and failing. Since then, local authority has rivaled the power of the President so strongly that when the President has attempted to restart the economy, the local authorities have categorically rejected the measures. Despite this, Colombia is moving toward partial re-opening by relaxing the strict measures currently in place, including the separation of genders. Colombia saw the failed attempt of an app that tracks active COVID-19 cases, but will be revising and relaunching after partnering with Apple and Alphabet, Inc. Colombia is severely lacking in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and according to a poll of insurance companies who were ordered to provide these kits, 80% never did. Colombians are also finding themselves without food, partially due to the embezzlement of emergency funds and due to price gouging, and are hanging red flags of desperation outside their homes to signal the dire need for help.
3. Which situation are you monitoring most closely?
The humanitarian issues are the most concerning to me, particularly those of the indigenous nations. I spent a week this past December with the Maijuna tribe in Peru, learning about their way of life, the immense challenges they’ve overcome with little outside aid, and the economic success they’ve seen due to combining their roots in environmental preservation and strong business acumen. Indigenous groups like these are being forgotten in the fight for survival and protection, and the inaction of governments translates directly into willful complicity in their extinction.
4. Is there anything else you would like to add?
The only thing that remains clear is that as the industrialized nations rush to protect themselves, their health and their economy, from the virus, the rest of the world is continuously and mercilessly pushed aside. Efforts to fight for peace and justice came to halt, supply chains were intentionally disrupted and pirated, and medical relief remains unachievable. As masks, gloves, and other protective equipment become more scarce and in demand, all of our planet’s countries are forced to compete in the same, price-gauged market.