Webinar Recap – Law Librarians Combatting Infodemic During COVID-19: Asia, Europe, Africa

By Jessica Pierucci

On June 18, 2020 the FCIL-SIS Continuing Education Committee hosted two webinars on Law Librarians Combatting Infodemic During COVID-19. This post recaps the first webinar on Asia, Europe, and Africa. A resources handout, slides, and recordings with far more information than could possibly fit into the recap can be found on the FCIL-SIS Continuing Education Committee webpage.

Headshots of the four panelists with the title Panelists and AALL logo



Alex Zhang shared updates on issues in countries across Asia and introduced the FCIL-SIS Asian Law Interest Group’s current project collecting and sharing valuable information on COVID-19 in the region.

Legal Frameworks

Alex identified three legal frameworks granting authority to address the public health crisis: constitutions, preexisting legislation, and new legislation.


Some countries relied on constitutional provisions to grant the state power to address COVID-19. Examples include Article 41 of the Japanese Constitution, Article 76 of the South Korea Constitution, and Interpretation 690 of the Taiwan Judicial Yuan Constitutional Court.

Preexisting legislation

Other countries already had legislation in place that they were able to rely upon, including India’s Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 and 2005 Disaster Management Act, and Mainland China’s Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases Act of 2004 (last amended 2013).

New legislation

Still others enacted brand new legislation to address the public health crisis. Examples include Singapore’s Covid-19 Temporary Measure Act of 2020 and Philippines’ Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020.

Technology and privacy

Using the example of China, Alex discussed two uses of technology to control the spread of COVID-19 that raise privacy questions. First, drones flying in remote areas and telling people spotted not wearing masks to go home (video). Second, requiring individuals to install a health tracking application on their smartphone and display a green QR code generated by the tracker to enter public spaces. Individuals assigned yellow or red QR codes must quarantine until their QR code turns green. The health, location, and other data collected in relation to generating the codes implicate many privacy concerns for the individuals required to install and use this tracking application.

Mapping Asian Legal Responses to COVID-19 Project

Alex and Sherry Chen are currently collecting primary and secondary sources to create a database on Asian legal responses to COVID-19. Many librarians have contributed sources to the project so far, leading to the project’s first publication, a newsletter providing narrative discussions of country responses and links to relevant sources. Recognizing that data trackers were already tracking some of this information, Alex and Sherry set out to provide added value by tracking countries not fully tracked elsewhere, such as Afghanistan and Yemen, and saving all sources for continued reference even if the resources disappear or are modified elsewhere.


Alison Shea discussed the European Union response to COVID-19 and legal issues in selected jurisdictions.

European Union

The EU does not have many explicit public health governance powers. As a result, the EU response has been largely financial, focusing on providing PPE, state aid, and supporting research. They have created a helpful website, reopen.europa.eu, that aggregates travel, services, and health and safety information for EU countries.Map of Europe including color coding and labels, with Check out http://reopen.europe.eu overlay, website where live version of map can be located

One legal issue of note is how COVID-19 has impacted free movement across borders within the EU. The Schengen Area originated from the 1985 Schengen Agreement and generally removes border controls to allow free travel within the EU, but EU countries unilaterally closed borders in light of COVID-19, restricting the free movement usually available in the region. The European Commission doesn’t have real enforcement mechanisms on internal border opening and closing, so the EC provided recommendations related to gradual border reopening through COM(2020) 550 on May 13, 2020 and COM(2020) 399 on June 11, 2020, but these are only recommendations.

COVID-19 has also impacted fundamental rights in the EU. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) enforces the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and, accordingly, released COVID-19 related bulletins, on equality, non-discrimination, racism, and privacy. The Council of Europe has also been working to protect human rights during the public health crisis.

Legal Issues in Selected Jurisdictions

Alison recently convened a group of reporters to start creating narrative reports on responses to COVID-19 across Europe. While this effort has just begun, Alison shared some interesting initial findings from a few countries.

The Czech Republic has been dealing with cross border worker issues arising from reciprocal and non-reciprocal border shutdowns.

Finland is also grappling with cross border worker issues, particularly in connection with Sweden. Finland has been reopening but keeping strict restrictions in place for Sweden due to Sweden’s more hands off approach to the crisis.

The French Constitutional Court affirmed an emergency law enacted in light of the crisis.

Germany is implementing the Corona-Warn-App for contract tracing. The application appears to do a good job maintaining privacy protections. Courts have upheld health regulations requiring face coverings.

Italy is running into some tricky constitutional issues related to emergency measures.


Yemisi Dina and Mariya Badeva-Bright jointly discussed the response to COVID-19 across Africa.

In terms of resources, an Africa CDC website has been in the works for a few years, but recently became fully operational and is a valuable resource for information on COVID-19. In addition, AfricanLII is collecting laws and scholarly commentary and making it available as quickly as possible. South Africa’s laws are generally available on AfricanLII within two to three days of Gazette publication, but laws from some countries in West Africa have taken weeks to arrive. AfricanLII is processing laws to add to the database as quickly as possible. The delay from some jurisdictions has led to residents not being able to access the laws applicable to them for weeks. Residents have had to rely on the news for this information and there has been some litigation over the delays.

Map of African continent with list of Coverage: African Union, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa

Other entities collecting COVID-19 legal resources include Kenya Law, Juta Law South Africa, and Lexis COVID-19 Centers for South Africa. Other COVID-19-related resources of interest include Africa Medical Supplies Platform, a socio-economic tracker from Finmark Trust, and commercial news from Webber Wentzel and ENSafrica. Afrobarometer is generally an excellent resource for socio-economic data. The resource has yet to post COVID-19 data so researchers can rely on Finmark Trust’s tracker for now but check for any updates from Afrobarometer down the line to obtain supplemental information.

Beyond litigation over delays, legislation has also faced numerous other legal challenges across the region. Some national level litigation has focused on constitutional compliance issues. Other litigation has focused on public health legislation considered inadequate and not updated since colonial times.

Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Mexico + Central America

This is the seventh 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 created its own website: lawlibrariansmonitoringcovid19.com. Materials from a June 18, 2020 webinar on the project will be posted on the FCIL-SIS Continuing Education Committee webpage.


Name: Ulysses N. Jaen + the Ave Maria Law School Library Team

Workplace: Director of the Law Library, Ave Maria School of Law

Countries you are monitoring: Mexico + Central America


1. What is your interest in this project?

Five adults and two babies under a Veterans Memorial Law Library sign

Ave Maria Law School Library Team

Our team at the Ave Maria Law School Library has been researching the spread and mitigation of the Coronavirus. Therefore, we decided to divide and conquer our research for Mexico and Central America between our librarians. We are an international team: Asli Karaevli is from Turkey, Katia Tarnowicz is from Peru, Rachel Hocott and Rebekah Miller are sisters from Michigan and I, Ulysses Jaen, am from Nicaragua. We all live in South Florida which is the gateway to Latin America. Spanish is spoken here daily, and our economies are closely interconnected. We are all naturally inclined to monitoring Latin America and found this as a great opportunity to learn and share more about the area.

2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

MÉXICO. In January, the Mexican National Committee for Health Safety created a plan for how to handle COVID-19. In February, the cases of infected citizens started trickling in.  March saw a large influx of confirmed cases, and a diabetic man was recorded as the first death from the virus on March 18th. April saw the first recoveries from the virus as well as an increase from 1,000 to 15,000+ cases confirmed. Mexico received medical supplies from China and the United States to aid with the increase in cases. May saw much of the same in terms of increasing infections with record highs for both contracted cases and deaths from the virus almost weekly.

Furthermore, May also brought more turbulence economically, socially, and politically in Mexico. The central bank cut its rate to the lowest since 2016, and inflation rates accelerated quicker than previously expected.  That month also saw their largest trade deficit on record. Socially, many Mexicans displayed their fear of the pandemic with protests. The hospitals quickly filled up, and as COVID-19 deaths were linked with patients who had diabetes, hypertension, or obesity, concern increased because many in the Mexican population are afflicted with such diseases. For the first quarter of the year, homicides increased by 2.4% from the same quarter last year.

There were some conflicting statements made by the government’s ministries as to when the auto industry could resume. GM began reopening plants on May 21st followed by the Japanese automakers Nissan, Toyota, Honda. While Ford has reopened all four of its Mexico plants recently in June. On the other hand, as of June, the state of Puebla refused to open their auto factories for Volkswagen AG and Audi due to the pandemic conditions and fearing that the worst was yet to come. Government officials pushed to reopen the auto industry and pushed back on the ideas that the pandemic would impoverish millions and on recession forecasts. On May 18th, Mexico began reopening, and on the 28th the president declared his plans to begin international traveling despite the high record levels of COVID-19 cases. While President Obrador is still yet not taking any responsibility on the government’s underestimation of its mortality rate due to Covid-19,  he is continuing on his daily attacks on the country’s press and dismissing his critics as illegitimate sources, “fake news”, calling the journalists as “criminals.”

Headshot of Ulysses Jaen

Ulysses Jaen

NICARAGUA. Nicaragua is of particular interest to me. My mother is caught isolated from the rest of our family because the airlines have stopped servicing Nicaragua and the land borders are also closed off. She has been there for months and we are waiting to get her back to the USA as soon as possible. Nicaragua is also highly controversial because of its approach varying from the herd immunity theories from Sweden to flat out denial of cases even though the population is posting videos and testimonials of loved ones being lost due to COVID-19.

The Ortega government has refused to take safety measures or to acknowledge the effects of the pandemic, relying instead on mass disinformation and activities designed to portray the government as being prepared and claiming victory over the virus. On March 14, Daniel Ortega led a rally in Managua entitled “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.” His government has an ongoing campaign forcing health department workers and even teachers to go from house to house spreading their misinformation. On 03/18/2020, Nicaragua registered its first case of coronavirus infection, a 40-year-old Nicaraguan man who picked up the virus during a recent visit to Panama. The Ministry of Health (Minsa) has confirmed that Nicaragua registered its first death from coronavirus on March 26, 2020. This is the second of two patients with COVID-19 in the country as confirmed by the government. Ortega instituted an immediate burial order for all leading to the recording of “burial midnight express” incidents of relatives being buried right after passing with no wake or family visitation.

Ortega has since gone missing from the public eye for much of the past months, and has continued to refuse to impose a shelter-in-place order on the country, and to disavow any knowledge of communicable contagion in Nicaragua. However, an explosion of “pneumonia” related deaths is seen as highly suspicious by the population that insists they are in fact Coronavirus-related deaths.  The Nicaragua Citizens COVID-19 Observatory, a collaborative citizens-driven initiative, reported that they have detected more than a thousand probable COVID-19 infections and almost 200 fatalities.

3. What situation are you monitoring the most?

EL SALVADOR. The first measure started even before the first COVID-19 case in this country. On January 25th, The Government designated $ 8.6 million as a preventive measure. As of January 27, thermographic cameras and infrared digital thermometers were part of the equipment with which the Salvadoran authorities seek to detect people with coronavirus symptoms who seek to enter the country through the international airport, or by sea and terrestrial.

Map showing Mexico and Central American countriesOn February 2nd, the government in El Salvador suspended activities in theaters, museums, and others that involve massive attendances. On March 3rd, there were no registered cases across the country. However, President Nayib Bukele declared a national quarantine on March 11th across the country for 21 days, massive events suspended, and the local governments unified in the measures.

Furthermore, President Bukele has disavowed the order of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which prohibits arresting people during the quarantine of the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations between congress and President Bukele to reinstate the quarantine measures broke down. As of May, President Bukele proposed gradual reopening of the economy starting June 6 amid the coronavirus outbreak. By June 16, the country reported more than 4,000 confirmed cases and hit a daily high of 125 new reported cases, though some believe the figures are underreported. However, some also believe that strict lockdown measures implemented in mid-March by the government of President Nayib Bukele led to the relatively low figures. However, after the president and the general assembly failed to agree on a plan in June, lockdown measures expired and contagion increased.

GUATEMALA. By the end of March, as a first measure, Guatemala tried efforts to stop all deportations of Guatemalans from the U.S. government. Locally, authorities began giving away masks and establishing ways to apply fines to people who go out without masks, up to 150 thousand quetzales.

By mid-April most of Guatemala’s 196 confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths had appeared in the country’s urban centers, including Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. However, later that month, the government reported the first case of community transmission in the Maya Kaqchikel town of Patzun, some 80km (50 miles) west of Guatemala City. By the end of April, the cases increased to 500 hundred, and the president requested social distancing and lockdown measures.

PANAMÁ. On March 9th, Panama had the first confirmed case of COVID 19: a 40-year-old woman from Spain, who entered Panamanian soil without control through the Tocumen International Airport. After five days from this first case, Panama declared a State of Emergency, instituting heightened surveillance measures in place at points of entry. On April 1, the government expanded movement restrictions based on gender. In June, union workers protested the government’s plans to reopen the economy despite 22,000 active cases.

4. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I loved how Poet Gioconda Belli analogized the Nicaragua Government’s response to the outbreak as “dark magical realism”. She has stated that “Poets are revered in Nicaragua” and she believes that’s exactly what has protected her from getting in trouble. I wish that other non-democratic countries also had shields against the “villains of poetry” who continue being strong critiques of governmental oppression.

Furthermore, the countries in Central America are working together as one through the Regional Contingency Plan against Coronavirus denominated by The Central American Integration System (SICA in Spanish). Each country was granted $1 million to each of the member countries of SICA, which has already been requested by Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Belize. The resilient characteristics from the people in Latin American countries facing massive food shortages, and historical economic contractions inspires us all.

Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico

This is the sixth 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 created its own website: lawlibrariansmonitoringcovid19.com A webinar on the topic is scheduled for June 18, 2020.


Name: Ana Delgado

Workplace: Legal Research Librarian, Suffolk University Law School

Countries you are monitoring: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico


1. What is your interest in this project?

Headshot of Ana Delgado

Ana Delgado

While living in our new normal, I have found myself with more time for introspection. Thinking about how I can do more, be more present, contribute to something bigger than myself and my immediate needs. As I was struggling to define what that next step should be, I received an email asking me to collaborate on a new project. This project allows me to research, analyze, and inform what the legal response to COVID-19 has been in Latin America, particularly Cuba, Dominican Republic, and my native Puerto Rico. We all have witnessed how fluid the situation has been, and still is. That fluidity exacerbates the impact that constant breaking news has over the information stream. This initiative allows me to share relevant information, consumable by all, in a concise format. On February 4, 2020, Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO Director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness said, “that it was important not to censor information, but rather communicate what is known about the virus, and what is not known.” I argue that this same principle applies to the dissemination of the legal response around COVID-19.

2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

On March 6, 2020, I was boarding a flight to Puerto Rico, the airport was business as usual, with a few passengers wearing masks, and I, for one, washing my hands every time I got a chance. A few days later, I flew back to Boston, already with the news that the virus that seemed so far away was right next door. Things started to move quickly. I had one ear in Puerto Rico, following the press and the other in Boston, trying to keep up. On March 11, 2020, the WHO characterized the COVID-19 as an outbreak. On March 12, 2020, the first Executive Order, OE-2020-020, related to COVID-19, was published, and it declared Puerto Rico a State of Emergency. Following that initial Executive Order, OE- 2020- 23, established a curfew, from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm. The order included the closure of all businesses on the Island, with a few exceptions of businesses that tend to basics needs like food and medicine. At the time, Puerto Rico has published a total of 23 executive orders directly related to COVID-19.

Map of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Honduras, etc.

On April 9, 2020, Cuba created a multidisciplinary medical task force focused on all things pertaining to COVID-19, including but not limited to quarantine protocols (that started on March 24, 2020), information dissemination, and developing training strategies for health care professionals. Based on these strategies as well as the renowned reputation of its medical services, Cuba has engaged in medical diplomacy efforts as it sends its doctors, nurses and other medical personnel all over the world: EuropeLatin America and other parts of the world.

Dominican Republic has been one of the most heavily affected countries in our region. As early as March 1, 2020, the country confirmed its first case which was also the very first case in all the Caribbean islands. The rapid increase of cases and the need to rapidly implement curfews and other preventive measures have created havoc in the country’s electoral calendar. Some elections were canceled abruptly at the last minute and others have been significantly delayed. The Organization of American States (OAS) has decided to open an inquiry into some irregularities in these electoral processes and has vowed to be a close observer. According to the the country’s Electoral Board, congressional and presidential general elections originally scheduled for May 17 are now set to take place on July 5. On June 1, 2020, Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina ratified the social distancing measures and extended the curfew (that began on March 17, 2020) until June 13, 2020.

3. Which situation are you monitoring most closely?

I am mainly monitoring the lifespan of Executive Orders in Puerto Rico, with a particular interest in Access to Justice and human rights. I am also interested in learning more about the contrast in the news about COVID-19 between Cuban official news outlets, like the Granma newspaper and independent journalism like that of Diario de Cuba. Issues of disinformation and ambiguous communication coming from various sources, be it official government information or “experts” informing citizens, are at a priority to our project, and we will be sharing our findings in the coming months.

4. Is there anything else you would like to add?

As we all know, this is a rapidly evolving situation, where many aspects of our lives have been altered one way or another. I am curious to learn more about legislation for economic development in the Caribbean. For example, Puerto Rico’s profile as a jurisdiction with many opportunities has been highlighted as part of the economic and health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In Dominican Republic, international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank (WB) have approved a plethora of financial packages to help the country face the current economic impact as well as recover in a more sustainable way in the long term. There is going to be a time where this will all stop being an emergency with reactionary solutions, and when we will have to move towards permanent plans for society and the economy.  I look forward to studying future legal developments in this area for years to come.

Asian Legal Responses to COVID-19: First Monthly Newsletter

This is the first in a series of posts sharing the results of the AALL FCIL-SIS Asian Law Interest Group’s Asian Legal Responses to COVID-19 project.

By Alex Zhang & Sherry Chen

Since we launched our Asian Legal Responses to COVID-19 project back in May, we have received over thirty responses from many members! Special thanks to many of you who have shared your findings and comments with us!

We have now created our first monthly newsletter to discuss the resources and information we have collected so far. The newsletter is available here: online.fliphtml5.com/sftde/flyu

We have also made the information/data available in a browseable and searchable table: datawrapper.dwcdn.net/9jTYf/1

Please continue to share your findings with us here: forms.gle/Rj9GrvFATG9DK81V8


Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazil

This is the fifth 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: Abby Dos Santos

Workplace: Reference Librarian, Caplin & Drysdale

Countries you are monitoring: Brazil


1. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

My day-to-day focus is mainly tax legal research, but I volunteered to help with this project because I am fluent in Portuguese and I was already tracking the news about COVID-19 in Brazil as most of my family still lives there. To get some in-country feedback on Brazilian legal resources related to COVID-19, I reached out to Daniela Majorie Akama dos Reis in Brazil. She was the 2018 FCIL Schaffer Grant recipient, and we have kept in touch since we met at the 2018 AALL annual meeting. She was happy to help!

Headshot of Abby Dos Santos

Abby Dos Santos

2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

Brazil’s first novel coronavirus case was confirmed on February 25, 2020, but the country had already declared a public health emergency (Portaria nº 188/2020) on February 3, 2020, and passed Law No. 13,979/2020 on February 6, 2020, providing measures to deal with the novel coronavirus public health emergency. These early responses were part of an effort to repatriate Brazilian citizens from Wuhan, China. In late March, Brazil closed its land borders, and by April, Brazil’s House and Senate started working on a “War Budget” to authorize emergency spending (“Orçamento de Guerra” – PEC 10/2020PEC 10/2020 fase 2 (106/2020)PEC 106/2020 fase 3). The budget recently passed but is still awaiting presidential signature.

Unfortunately, Brazil’s health crisis has morphed into a political crisis. In late March, a federal court in Rio de Janeiro banned President Jair Bolsonaro from spreading anti-quarantine propaganda that went against Ministry of Health recommendations. The Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta was later fired in mid-April by Bolsonaro after continued disagreement about mitigation efforts. Then the Minister of Justice Sérgio Moro quit in late April after accusing Bolsonaro of improper conduct surrounding the firing of his federal police chief Maurício Valeixo, which started discussions about possible impeachment on top of growing criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the health crisis. Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court has also weighed in on a dispute between the São Paulo newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and Bolsonaro about his COVID-19 tests, ordering the disclosure of Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 exams (Rcl 40,574). And just last week, the second Minister of Health Nelson Teich quit, and there is currently no Minister of Health appointed yet.

This is the current backdrop to Brazil’s exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, which has led Brazil to become the country with the third-most cases in the world and likely second-most by the end of this week.

3. What situation are you monitoring the most?

I have been monitoring the intersection between federal and state legal responses. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have been the hardest hit states. In March, São Paulo was the first state to issue a statewide quarantine. Other states also started implementing quarantine measures later that month, while Bolsonaro was urging Brazilians to return to “normal life.” Also in March, the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) filed an action to declare the federal provisional measure MP n. 926/2020 (amendment to Law No. 13,979/2020) partially unconstitutional because it interfered with state powers. Minister Marco Aurélio of the Federal Supreme Court upheld the federal law, stating it did not exclude acts by states, the Federal District, and municipalities. In April, the Federal Supreme Court confirmed that powers granted to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa)) by MP n. 926/2020 did not remove concurrent powers from states and municipalities over public health.Map of Brazil and surrounding countries

The Washington Post described Brazil’s situation as: “Rather than unifying the country against a common threat, the pandemic response is further dividing this deeply polarized society. Bolsonaro, whose instinct has been to do nothing, has deferred to state governors, who in turn have punted the responsibility of implementing the strictest measures to municipalities. The result has been a confederacy of conflicting and contradictory measures that change not only by state and city, but also by city section.” Terrence McCoy, While Other Countries Look to Open Up, Brazil Can’t Find a Way to Shut Down, Wash. Post, May 10, 2020.

Monitoring all the state legislations, municipal legislations, and the federal legislations related to COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Below are some good resources that are collecting all the legislation into one place.

For federal legislation:
Planalto – Office of the President’s Legislation Portal – COVID-19 Legislation (government website)

For state and municipal legislation:
LeisMunicipais – Coronavírus (non-government website compiling all state and municipal laws)

4. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have encountered two obstacles with monitoring Brazilian legal responses to COVID-19. First, it can be difficult to find English language resources on Brazilian law, and that has been true during these first few months of monitoring COVID-19 legal responses on Brazil. However, below are some English language websites that I found helpful for those who do not speak Portuguese:

Second, Brazilian newspapers are not providing free access to their COVID-19 articles. Therefore, monitoring Brazilian news sources requires a subscription to the newspaper or to news aggregators. However, they are good resources if you can access them, so I have highlighted a few that I found helpful:

Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia

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.


Victoria De La Torre

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 attemptanti-drug operationsan 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 didColombians 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.

Book Review: Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation

By Alyssa Thurston

Yun Zhao and Michael Ng (eds.), Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation (Cambridge University Press, 2017). 326 p. Hardcover $116.

China has implemented “a series of legal reforms of varying scales over the past century, borrowing models from a disparate range of countries”[1], a practice that has continued under the current Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation gathers Chinese law and legal history scholars from around the world (but predominantly from mainland China and Hong Kong) to evaluate Chinese legal reform “taking into account the country’s engagement with globalisation, increasingly complicated domestic situation and historical experiences of legal transplantation.”[2] Distinctively, the book incorporates research on legal reform from the mid-19th century onward for “a more nuanced view…of the drivers and factors underpinning the Chinese model of learning from, and at the same time shaping, the world’s legal order.”[3]

The book’s two sections delve into the present and the past. The first section’s chapters trace reform in different areas of Chinese law under Xi Jinping and generally since 1979, the year the country launched its “reform and opening up process”[4] that was the catalyst for “unprecedented economic growth”[5]. Sarah Biddulph examines attempts at criminal punishment reform policy questions that arose following the 2013 abolition of laojiao, or “re-education through labour”[6]. Xifen Lin and Casey Watters look at differing views, incorporation, and enforcement of presumption of innocence in international and Chinese criminal procedure law. Shucheng Wang assesses domestic judicial enforcement of human rights law in China, an “illiberal state”,[7] comparing it to enforcement in liberal democratic states. Chao Xi and Xuanming Pan review the impact of “foreign norms and local conditions”[8] on the development and enforcement of Chinese securities law and regulation, and Wenwei Guan compares China’s “‘market-authoritarian’” economic and free trade development model with the “‘market-democratic’” model of the West[9]. Liang Zhao analyzes the “disharmony”[10] of maritime judicial practice in China, arguing for resolution through adopting the common law doctrine of precedent. Björn Ahl focuses on the implementation of the Convention Against Torture in China via legislative and judicial reforms since 2010. Finally, Yun Zhao reviews China’s progress in developing legal protections for online privacy and suggests areas for further improvement.

Part II looks back to Chinese history and legal reform, with the first two chapters particularly engaging in their critical focus on the “self-Orientalising”[11] of Chinese law in the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries. Li Chen highlights how China’s thousand-year-old legal system came to be perceived as “traditional” (and thus in contrast with Western or modern law) not only by external Western entities, but also internally by Chinese officials and legal reformers of the late Qing dynasty. Michael Ng studies a 2002 Hong Kong family law case and the court’s reliance on “century-old…flawed and…Orientalist”[12] judicial practice based on an imaginary distinction between “pre-transplant customary Chinese law” and “post-transplant modern Chinese law”[13].

Billy K.L. So and Sufumi So trace the adoption and evolution of commercial dispute resolution mechanisms in China through the practices of the early 20th-century Shanghai book industry. Maria Adele Carrai looks at how China‘s unilateral repeal in 1926 of the Sino-Belgian Treaty of 1865 demonstrated the dual adoption and rejection of Western notions of equality and sovereignty, which “contributed to renegotiations of”[14] international law concepts. Zhaoxin Jiang concludes by studying the role and leadership of the judiciary in Republican China (1912-1948) and how that history might inform Chinese judicial reform today.

While events in 2020 have thrown much about the world into disarray, China will likely continue to be a global leader[15] and interest in its legal system and ongoing legal reform is unlikely to wane. Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order is a valuable reference source on the development of Chinese law since the late Qing era, and (true to the book’s title) how the country has both adopted and adapted foreign legal models to shape a comprehensive and unique modern legal system.



[1] Yun Zhao & Michael Ng, The Law, China and the World: An Introduction, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation 1 (Yun Zhao & Michael Ng eds., 2017).

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 1-2.

[4] Wenwei Guan, China’s Free Trade from SEZs to CEPA to FTZs: The Beijing Consensus in Global Convergence and Divergence, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 107.

[5] Id.

[6] Laojiao was a “much-maligned administrative detention power” previously used to punish so-called minor crimes, that had been “abolished without putting a clear alternative power or powers in its place.” Sarah Biddulph, Punishments in the Post Re-Education Through Labour World: Questions About Minor Crime in China, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 15.

[7] Shucheng Wang, Judicial Approach to Human Rights in Transitional China, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 64.

[8] Chao Xi & Xuanming Pan, Public Enforcement of Securities Laws: A Case of Convergence, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 81.

[9] Guan, supra note 4, at 106 (quoting Stefan Halper, The Beijing Consensus: How China’s Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century 134 (2010)).

[10] Liang Zhao, Achievements and Challenges of Chinese Maritime Judicial Practice, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 125.

[11] Li Chen, Traditionalising Chinese Law: Symbolic Epistemic Violence in the Discourse of Legal Reform and Modernity in Late Qing China, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 208.

[12] Michael Ng, Judicial Orientalism: Imaginaries of Chinese Legal Transplantation in Common Law, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 212.

[13] Id. at 213.

[14] Maria Adele Carrai, China’s Unilateral Abrogration of the Sino-Belgian Treaty: Case Study of an Instance of Deviant Transplantation, in Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation, supra note 1, at 257.

[15] Simon Tisdall, Power, Equality, Nationalism: How the Pandemic Will Reshape the World, Guardian (N.Y.) (Mar. 28, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/power-equality-nationalism-how-the-pandemic-will-reshape-the-world.

From the Reference Desk: Researching a Saudi Arabian Royal Decree

By Sue Silverman

saudiarabiaIt is Week 5 (or 6? or 100?) of my quarantine here in NYC, during which I’ve had to learn to balance work demands with the demands of my 22-month old.  As I train my mind to toggle between Wheels on the Bus and legal research, I can’t help but reminisce about simpler times when I could answer research questions without listening to Elmo’s Song on repeat. Not that I’m complaining – I cannot think of a more fortunate position to be in during this crisis.

But for a moment, I would like to revisit those simpler times and a research question regarding a royal decree by King Salman of Saudi Arabia which posed the perfect opportunity to introduce the student to free resources for foreign legal research. The student who approached me with this question was a research assistant to a professor and she was asked to find primary source material supporting a royal decree discussed in an article she had found giving women the right to drive.

On September 26, 2017, King Salman announced in a royal decree read on live television that women would be allowed to drive, to take effect in June 2018. When the student approached me, she had numerous articles mentioning the decree, but she needed a cite to the actual law or regulation granting women the right to drive or a legal cite to the decree itself if it was by itself the law.

Neither of us knew what legal weight the decree carried – was it automatically considered law? Were additional processes, procedures, or approvals required before it became the law of the land? We also had little knowledge of how exactly the Saudi Arabian legal system and government are structured – whether it is pure Islamic law or a mix of Islamic and civil or customary law, or something else –so I started by gaining some background information at JuriGlobe and GlobaLex.  The student appreciated learning about JuriGlobe as she was unfamiliar with the differences between civil, common, customary, and Muslim legal systems. Its classification of legal systems and succinct explanations of each system, along with a color-coded map showing which classification each country fell under is a helpful starting point to a novice in foreign legal research. After JurigGlobe, we moved on to GlobaLex and looked up Saudi Arabia under foreign legal research. There, we found a link to a helpful chart that outlines the legislative process in Saudi Arabia.

Once we had a basic understanding of the legal system and legislative process in Saudi Arabia, we were better equipped to search for primary source material. We learned from GlobaLex that royal decrees are a direct source of legislation – the King is empowered to enact, repeal, and amend laws by Royal Order – and are published in Saudi Arabia’s official gazette. Furthermore, the decree may delegate authority to a specified administrative body to enact rules to carry out the statute. Thus, we needed to find where in the official gazette King Salman’s decree was published as well as publications by the administrative body authorized to enact rules pursuant to the decree (if any). GlobaLex links to the official gazette; however, the site is in Arabic, which neither of us could read. Even if the student could find a way to translate the official gazette, we still needed to find the specific page and/or volume where the decree was published. We needed a cite, which none of the news articles the student found provided.

I decided to take a step back and search another secondary source – the Law Library of Congress, Guide to Law Online. On the main page, I did a very basic search using the terms Saudi Arabia, women, and driving. This search immediately retrieved an article “Saudi Arabia: Royal Decree Allows Women to be Issued Driving Licenses.”[1] The article gave a full cite to the decree – Royal Decree M/85 on Traffic (issued on 26 Shawwal 1428 Hijri, corresponding to Nov. 7, 2007) – and its title, “Royal Order to Adopt the Provisions of the Traffic Law and Its Executive Regulation, Including the Issuance of Driving Licenses for Males and Females Alike.”  The article further explained that the Ministry of the Interior was assigned the task of overseeing its implementation and provided a cite (Royal Order to Adopt Provisions of Traffic Law, 4691 UM AL-QURA (7 Muharram 1439 Hijri, corresponding to Sept. 26, 2017)) as well as a link to  the decree’s publication in the Official Gazette.  The Ministry of the Interior’s website posted an English translation of the decree, which the article also linked to. The student was thrilled to find this article and perhaps even more excited to learn about the wealth of information available through the Law Library of Congress, a free online resource. I was amazed (and relieved) at my luck in finding this article!

It proved far more difficult to find any official publication or citation to rules issued by the Ministry of the Interior pursuant to the decree. We tried searching the Ministry’s website in English, and several Arab news sources, such as those cited in the Law Library of Congress article, but to no avail. With more time, I would have probably searched for a research guide or reached out to someone with experience in researching Saudi Arabian law, but the student was satisfied with what we found, so we ended our research there.

Students often do not know about resources outside of Lexis, Westlaw, and Google. This reference question provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the usefulness of free resources such as GlobaLex and the Law Library of Congress. The student had no idea where to begin in learning about the Saudi Arabian legislative process and where to look for citations to primary source material for the royal decree, but she left the reference desk with valuable tools to equip her for starting off on any foreign legal research project.

[1] George Sadek, Saudi Arabia: Royal Decree Allows Women to be Issued Driving Licences, Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Monitor (Oct. 3, 2017), http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/saudi-arabia-royal-decree-allows-women-to-be-issued-driving-licenses/

Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

This is the third 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: Yasmin Morais

Work: Cataloging and Reference Librarian, David A. Clarke School of Law Library, University of the District of Columbia

Countries I am monitoring for this project: English-Speaking Caribbean: Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

1. What is Your Interest in the Project?

I am from the Caribbean (Jamaica, to be specific), and while many family members reside in the United States, Canada and the UK, I still have relatives, friends, and colleagues living and working throughout the Caribbean. I had responded to an earlier post from Marcelo on the COVID-19 situation there. He asked me if I wanted to continue monitoring the English-speaking Caribbean region, and I agreed.

2. What Have You Noticed Since the First Week You Began Monitoring Until Now?

Headshot of Yasmin Morais

Yasmin Morais

Many Caribbean states have adopted curfews, states of emergencies, and lockdowns. Some curfews are nightly, and in some territories such as St. Kitts and Nevis, lockdowns have been for twenty-four hours. The St. Kitts and Nevis Government is moving to nightly curfews, instead of the total lockdown.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has made available US$140 million as economic relief to the CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries. Governments are also implementing their own relief efforts. Jamaica, for example, recently passed the J$10 billion COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Welfare Plan. I also found this International Monetary Fund Policy Responses to COVID-19 Tracker to be useful for researching Caribbean economic policies. The IMF is forecasting a 5.2% economic contraction for the Latin American/Caribbean region in 2020.

With respect to elections, at least one CARICOM member state (Guyana), held elections during COVID-19 (March 2nd). Ballot counting was suspended due to a court-ordered injunction on March 17th, and CARICOM had to withdraw its independent High-Level mission. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is tracking the impact of COVID-19 on elections.

3. What Situations Are You Monitoring the Most?

I am mainly monitoring responses from CARICOM (Caribbean Community), and the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States), since these groups are the main bodies that can provide us with a more comprehensive overview on the region. For the latest statistics on COVID-19 in the Caribbean, see the CARICOM website. Food security in the region is a main concern and member states have drafted the Regional Response Framework Document. The aim is to encourage member states to prepare national food security plans and collaborate with the private sector regarding supply chains.

CARICOM Chair, and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley called for a Special Emergency Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on April 15th. This Press Release provides a summary of the meeting.

Caribbean economies also rely heavily on tourism, (See Caribbean Tourism Organization site for statistics and travel advisories) and I will be monitoring that closely, as well as the healthcare capacity of governments in the region.
4. Is There Anything Else You Would like to Add?

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is leading the regional health response to COVID-19, based on the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) mandate from CARICOM. CARPHA has raised the alert level for the Caribbean to “Very High” due to imported cases to the Caribbean. CARPHA has the only CARICOM Reference lab accredited to test for COVID-19. It has been issuing Situation Reports. The most recent Situation Report No. 34, for the week of April 17th is available here.

The University of the West Indies has also formed a Task Force which will provide a uniform Caribbean response.

Updates on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay

This is the second 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: Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran
Work: Assistant Professor, San Jose State University School of Information
Countries I’m monitoring for this project: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay

  1. What is your interest in this project?

    Headshot of Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran

    Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran

I joined this project because I was interested in learning more about how other countries, specifically in South America, are dealing with this global epidemic. My interest in the country’s perspective is to both publish our findings and research in scholarly publications and present at future conferences. I feel this project offers a unique contribution as many of us are focusing on our city, county, state or even the U.S. as a whole versus the global scene. I am in hopes that our research with this project will lead to future collaborations with our Latin American and Caribbean region.

I visited South America in April 2009, eleven years ago this month, for my international policy trip requirement in my doctorate. I had to select between China and Argentina, and I selected Argentina. I immediately fell in love with the country — its customs, its food, the people, and learned much about their history, legalities, and policies. This country is in the top five of those places I would consider permanently residing in at some point. While I regret I did not go to Uruguay and Chile while I was there, I hope to visit both of those in the future.

  1. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?

I began monitoring and aggregating information on all three countries on March 10. Much of the information was similar to that which Marcelo reported with his monitoring; however much less than I expected. Below is a short summary for each country:

Argentina by far had much more news about the government beginning to take measures to halt the spread of coronavirus. They began to ban entry of non-residents arriving from coronavirus-hit countries, and suspended processing of applications for admission as a temporary resident for foreigners from countries with advanced coronavirus. They began a mandatory quarantine on March 19. In the later weeks of March, the recession began to deepen in the country and there were concerns about firms going bankrupt and the challenges the poorest would face. The government blocked the cutting of utilities for three months and the mandatory quarantine was extended through April 12.

I was very impressed with the Chilean government and its action plan for COVID-19. This site includes everything from official figures, quarantines, self-care, protocols, news and frequent questions of which I will highlight a few aspects. A state of catastrophe was declared on March 19 with a curfew in place to reduce contact. There are many quarantines and sanitary controls in place to help the spread of the virus. There is an economic emergency plan in place to allocate $11 million to help protect employees and support workers. Interestingly, President Sebastian Pinera was under a lot of pressure to announce the national quarantine and follow their neighbor, Argentina. As of April 1, the government maintained curfew in six districts of the Metropolitan region.

There has been much less information I have found about Uruguay. Half of their initial cases (44) traced to a single event — one guest that had just returned from Spain with a fever attended this wedding. Uruguay declared its health emergency and first measures earlier on March 13. They closed their borders for 30 days on March 13. Their first death was reported at the end of March.

  1. What situation are you monitoring the most?

On April 6, the Argentine government postponed local debt payments due in dollars until the end of the year. Argentina has had an unstable debt situation for some time and the pandemic has not helped. There were already projections for the third year of recession before the virus arrives for the second-largest nation in South America. It is much deeper and worse now with the virus impact. On April 8, the Chilean government announced the second state of the economic emergency plan focusing on health, life, income, and jobs. I’m curious to the details of funding to support jobs and families. Additionally, how will businesses and banks be impacted? As for Uruguay, being such a small country, they are used to relying on themselves. A 20% cut will be applied to wages of the president, ministers, legislators, and directors to go to the “Coronavirus Fund.” They created their own Coronavirus test and have sequenced the coronavirus genome from patients at the end of March to understand the tracking of the spread of the virus.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Chile appears to be the most prepared of all three countries however, not everyone is happy with the current President. Uruguay voted to delay gubernatorial and legislative elections that were slated for May. The elections involved races for executive and legislative branches of Uruguay’s 19 provinces.