The Palace of Justice, home to Guatemala’s Supreme Court, in 2015. Photo courtesy of Flickr user zug55.
Today in Latin America

Guatemalan Courts To Close After Rise In COVID-19 Infections

July 9, 2020 By Staff

TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA

GUATEMALA: The Guatemalan Judiciary will suspend court hearings for two weeks after more than a hundred workers tested positive for coronavirus. The closure of the courts is expected to delay the extradition of Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, two sons of ex-Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. They have been detained in Guatemala since Monday, and face money laundering charges in the United States.

The charges against the brothers state that they allegedly initiated $28 million worth of bribes through the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Courts are expected to reopen on July 23, after which a judge will decide whether to extradite the brothers to the U.S. or allow them to return to Panama.

Guatemala is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases much higher than other Central American countries. According to the Ministry of Health, the country currently has more than 24,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,000 deaths. The health crisis is expected to affect economic growth and the unemployment rate, which is currently 2.5%. Guatemala plans on reopening its airports in the next 15 days, among other sectors of the economy.

Headlines from the western hemisphere

SOUTHERN CONE

ARGENTINA: More than 3,600 coronavirus cases were reported yesterday, marking a new one-day record for Argentina. The capital Buenos Aires saw a record number of new cases on Wednesday, with 2,222 positive tests reported. The total number of deaths reached 1,694. The country’s lockdown has been extended this month in the capital due to the alarming increase in cases in recent weeks.

BRAZIL: More than 70 Facebook accounts linked to supporters and employees of President Jair Bolsonaro were removed from the social media network as part of the company’s efforts to combat fake news. The accounts consisted of personas posing as false news organizations and reporters to post factually incorrect content on the website. Several posts from the accounts had already been taken down due to violating Facebook’s regulations on hate speech. Advisor to the President Tercio Anaud Tomaz was one of the employees revealed to be involved in the network. Tomaz also managed Bolsonaro’s social media accounts during his 2018 presidential campaign. 

ANDES

ECUADOR: The country’s foreign minister has resigned, just two days after Vice President Otto Sonnenholzer announced his resignation. In a virtual news conference, José Valencia said that his resignation was not related to Sonnenholzer’s sudden departure, and that he believes he has “fulfilled his mission” at the Foreign Ministry. According to Valencia, his resignation has already been approved by President Lenín Moreno. Valencia served as foreign minister for two years, during which he attempted to expand bilateral relations with other countries and Ecuador’s involvement in international organizations.

PERU: President Martín Vizcarra signed a decree on Wednesday to hold Peru’s general elections in April 2021. The decree, which was published in the newspaper El Peruano, states that elections must be held on the second Sunday of April. The ballots will include voting for the president, vice president, 130 legislators, and representatives for the Andean Parliament. The decree also states that in the event that no presidential candidate receives more than half of the votes, the two highest voted candidates will participate in a runoff. Vizcarra said the presidential term cannot be extended due to “political crises, or the pandemic, or any other factor.”

VENEZUELA: Police arrested 88 people for failing to comply with national lockdown measures that have been put back in place since the beginning of this week. The National Guard was ordered to close businesses in Barrio Obrero starting at 3pm, leading many other neighboring businesses to close out of fear of being fined by the government. The individuals arrested were taken to a sports field where police officials explained the preventative measures the government is attempting to take to avoid the spread of coronavirus. 

CARIBBEAN

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Executive Director for the National Health Service Chanel Rosa Chupany announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus. Chupany stated via Twitter that he is resigning from his position effective August 16. In light of the Dominican Republic’s newly-elected administration, Chupany said he wants to “facilitate” a “new direction” for its health services. Chupany also wrote that his decision to resign was unrelated to his positive COVID-19 test. The health official served as the executive director for four years, and helped oversee most of the Dominican Republic’s coronavirus response efforts. The country currently has 39,588 confirmed cases and 829 deaths.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: Lockdown measures in multiple cities are expected to become more restrictive as El Salvador is experiencing a growing number of coronavirus cases. Marketplaces and house-to-house visits have been restricted, with fines for not wearing a mask while in public being more strictly enforced. Health officials are conducting unexpected visits on hard-hit towns and communities to expand coronavirus testing. The measures have been rejected by President Nayib Bukele, who has insisted that a new state of exception be initiated nationwide for 15 more days. The country currently has more than 8,000 confirmed cases and 235 deaths.

NICARAGUA: Government officials are urging President Daniel Ortega to release official COVID-19 case data to the public so as not to risk travel restrictions for Nicaraguans in the near future. Other countries such as the United States are asking travelers to provide evidence that they have not contracted coronavirus before entering. In Nicaragua, however, no centralized data on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths has been revealed since the beginning of the pandemic. Ortega’s administration has not revealed how many coronavirus tests it has conducted, or on whom. Several hospitalized people have reported not being able to get tested despite showing prominent symptoms.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO/UNITED STATES: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday. Trump praised AMLO for his work on a new trade deal between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, while AMLO thanked Trump for the “help” he has given Mexico involving trade and combating the pandemic. Both leaders signed a diplomatic document in front of news reporters which described the ways in which the countries’ relationship will be strengthened by the new trade deal. Neither president wore a mask during the televised conference. AMLO, who was once a strong critic of Trump, has faced backlash for his decision to meet with a leader who has called Mexicans rapists and criminals.

MEXICO/UNITED STATES: Former governor of Chihuahua César Duarte was arrested in Miami and will be extradited on corruption charges. Mexican prosecutors said that they have attempted to extradite Duarte from the United States since last year, working with Chihuahua state officials to build the case against him. In 2018, an investigation into Duarte’s administration revealed a diversion of nearly $320 million in government funds. More than 40 public officials led by Duarte were also found to be involved in “irregularities.”

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