Things That Matter

Cartels In Colombia Are Killing Residents Who Don’t Obey Their Covid-19 Lockdown Orders

Colombia’s government was quick to institute wide-ranging measures meant to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within the country. They banned all international travel – even of its own citizens – and instituted nation-wide curfews that limit the times and amount of people that can go into markets, pharmacies and other essential services.

However, like many places, not all people have adhered to the restrictions and Colombia is seeing a surge in cases. In places where the government has failed to protect its citizens, local cartels are now stepping onto the scene and enforcing their own much more severe rules and lockdown orders. For those who don’t respect the new rules, they risk severe consequences – including death – at the hands of cartel members.

Colombian cartels are executing those who break their Coronavirus lockdown rules.

Across Colombia, heavily armed cartels have introduced their own Coronavirus lockdown measures and “justice” system for those who break quarantine orders. To date, a least nine people have been killed for either refusing to adhere to the hardline restrictions or for daring to speak out against them.

The worrying news was revealed by experts from the campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW). José Miguel Vivanco, HRW’s Americas director, said the shocking developments are down to the failure to keep control over swathes of Colombia after decades of in-fighting.

“In communities across Colombia, armed groups have violently enforced their own measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “This abusive social control reflects the government’s long-standing failure to establish a meaningful state presence in remote areas of the country, including to protect at-risk populations.”

Left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were among those said to be responsible.

“They have shut down transport between villages, and when someone is suspected to have Covid-19 they are told to leave the region or they will be killed,” one community leader in Colombia’s southern Putumayo province told the Guardian, on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “And people have no choice but to obey because they never see the government here.”

The cartels curfew orders are even more strict than those imposed by the actual local governments.

Credit: Juan Barreto / Getty Images

At the very start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Colombia’s government was quick to institute wide ranging lockdown measures. Since March, the entire country has been under lockdown, which includes curfew hours with allowances for people to leave their houses for necessities and in a medical emergency. But the cartels have reportedly implemented more stringent and sometimes lethal measures across 11 of the country’s 32 states.

HRW’s report tells how in the port city of Tumaco – where local residents are banned by gangs from fishing – cartels are limiting their ability to earn money and food. They have also imposed a 5pm curfew on citizens – far stricter than that imposed by the state. 

In the provinces of Cauca and Guaviare armed groups torched motorcycles belonging to those who they claimed ignored their lockdown measures.

Cartels distributed pamphlets about the restrictions, warning that they are ‘forced to kill people in order to preserve lives.

Credit: Luis Robayo / Getty Images

The cartels are informing residents of the lockdown orders and that armed fighters would kill anyone who disobeyed them. Cartel groups handed out pamphlets and communicated with communities through WhatsApp to establish curfews, lockdowns and restrictions on movement for people, cars, and boats, according to the report from HRW.

COVID-19 instructions also included limits on opening days and hours for shops as well as bans on access to communities for foreigners and people from other communities.

One pamphlet by the National Liberation Army (ELN) fighters in Bolívar, in northern Colombia, from early April said they were “forced to kill people in order to preserve lives” because the population had not “respected the orders to prevent Covid-19.”

The pamphlet said “only people working in food stores, bakeries, and pharmacies can work,” and only until certain hours of the day, saying others should stay “inside their houses.”

The brutal attacks come as Covid-19 cases have been surging across Colombia and elsewhere in South America.

Like much of South America, Colombia is bracing for the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed on March 6, medical authorities have confirmed 159,898 cases, with 5,625 deaths. Cases regularly climb by over 5,000 a day.

Meanwhile, nearby countries in the region – including Ecuador and Brazil – are the region’s epicenter for the pandemic. It’s only a question of time until the worst of the outbreak arrives in Colombia.

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Hector Villas / Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has largely downplayed the severity of the crisis. Despite record-setting deaths across Mexico, the president continued to hold large rallies, rarely uses face masks and continues to be very hands on with his supporters. Many of his detractors grouped him in with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro in his poor response to the pandemic.

Mexico’s President AMLO has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing light symptoms.

In a tweet on Sunday evening, AMLO revealed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. From his official Twitter account, he said his symptoms were mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

Despite his diagnosis, the president plans to continue business as usual. He plans to continue with his duties from the Palacio Nacional, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Monday. He added on Twitter, that “I will be conducting all public affairs from the National Palace. For example, tomorrow I will take a call from President Vladimir Putin, because irrespective of friendly relationships, there is a possibility that they will send us the Sputnik V vaccine.”

AMLO has taken a very hands off approach to his country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

AMLO, 67-years-old, has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to travel extensively across the country aboard commercial flights – putting both his health and those around him at risk.

He has also resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day. And because of that, Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the world. Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, AMLO removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” AMLO said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”

In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Mexico’s leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens, saying that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to experience the worst effects yet of the global health crisis.

Credit: Ismael Rosas / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thanks to a lack of national leadership, Mexico is one of the 17 countries that has reported more than one million cases of Covid-19. Since early October, newly confirmed cases and deaths have been reaching record levels, with recent daily numbers some of the highest since the beginning the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has recorded at least 1,752,347 Covid-19 cases and 149,084 people have died from the virus in the country.

In hardest-hit Mexico City, nearly 30 public hospitals report they have reached 100% percent capacity, and many others are approaching that mark. The city’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has urged residents to not go out unless absolutely necessary. In December, Mexico City and the state of Mexico were placed into “red level,” the highest measure on the country’s stoplight alert system for Covid-19 restrictions. The tighter measures included the closure of indoor dining, with only essential sectors like transport, energy, health and construction remaining open.

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Just After Congress Approves $600 Stimulus Checks, Trump Threatens To Veto The Bill

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Just After Congress Approves $600 Stimulus Checks, Trump Threatens To Veto The Bill

Pixabay

Updated: December 23, 2020

Just days after the U.S. Congress approved legislation that would send millions of Americans much-needed stimulus checks – even though they were only $600 – Donald Trump has thrown the entire plan into chaos.

Donald Trump threatens to veto historic spending bill.

Trump is holding a veto threat over recently passed, bipartisan legislation that was aimed at stimulating a suffering economy. Trump says that he wants lawmakers to boost the $600 direct payments to checks for $2,000 but his own party is basically united against increasing the size of checks.

Many point out that Trump is simply holding up the legislation, not for the stimulus checks, but because he objects to other parts of the law. Within the spending package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle approved spending for arts and cultural programs as well as aide to developing countries across the world.

Original Story Published: December 18, 2020

So it looks like millions of Americans may end up getting that long overdue second stimulus check after all. So long as Congress doesn’t screw things up again.

As part of the latest round of negotiation between Democrats and Republicans, it looks a like a proposal for $600 direct payments is back on the table. However, $600 is literally half of the amount that was sent out to millions of Americans back in April and May.

A new stimulus package could include direct payments to millions of Americans.

Congressional leaders are considering a new deal to help stimulate the economy which has been battered by the Coronavirus pandemic. And although it appeared, as recently as last week, that a second stimulus check was off the table, that seems to have changed.

The new deal under consideration included new stimulus checks and enhanced federal unemployment benefits, according to reports by Politico. Even President Trump said in a TV interview over the weekend that he wants stimulus checks in the deal, saying he wants to “see checks—for more money than they’re talking about—going to people.”

Millions of workers aren’t getting any help from the largest emergency aid deal in US history.

The bill, known as the CARES Act, delivers direct payments to most taxpayers, vastly expands unemployment benefits, and makes testing for the virus free, among other provisions.

But although unauthorized immigrants are no more immune from the effects of the current crisis, the stimulus bill conspicuously leaves them out in the cold — potentially putting them at greater economic and health risk, and impeding public health efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

There are an estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the USA who are ineligible for emergency federal benefits or state unemployment insurance because they don’t have valid work authorization. 

That’s left an extra layer of anxiety for immigrants without legal status who have lost their jobs or seen work hours reduced amid the statewide shutdown of “nonessential” businesses. Many turned to local organizations for help to put food on the table and pay other expenses. 

Undocumented residents are already at greater risk of being affected by Covid-19 because of inadequate resources and access to health care.

The unauthorized worker population is particularly vulnerable to the virus due to inadequate access to health care. Noncitizens are significantly more likely to be uninsured compared to US citizens, which may dissuade them from seeking medical care if they contract the virus.

Compounding matters are the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies — including wide-scale immigration raids and a rule that can penalize green card applicants for using Medicaid — which have made noncitizens afraid to access care. These factors pose a problem for America’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 12,000 in the US as of April 7.

Where the government is failing, advocates and organizations are stepping up to help.

Some immigrant advocates lobby for the undocumented to be included by allowing payments to those who file taxes using individual tax identification numbers, which are often used by workers without legal immigration status. 

“They should include at least the individual taxpayers,” said Diana Mejia, founder of the Wind of the Spirit, an organization that helps immigrants in New Jersey’s Morris County.  “They are paying taxes,” she added in an interview with CNN.

Filers who use ITINs contribute about $11.74 billion in state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington think tank.

Aside from millions of undocumented migrants, millions of others are also being left out of the stimulus:

Credit: Department of Treasury

College Students and 17-Year-Olds: If someone else claims you as a dependent on their taxes, you won’t get your own check. Parents will get an extra $500 payment per child, but that’s only for kids under 17.

Most 17-year-olds, some young adults and many of the country’s roughly 20 million college students are claimed by their parents as dependents. They won’t get checks, and their parents won’t get an extra $500.

Disabled People: People who get disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs are eligible for the payments — but not disabled adults who are claimed as dependents by their parents or other relatives on their taxes

Seniors Who Live With Family: Senior citizens who are on Social Security or make less than the income cap are eligible. But the “dependent” rule applies to them, too. Some seniors who live with their adult children or other relatives are claimed by them as dependents on their taxes. Those seniors won’t get checks.

Immigrants are eligible for some free testing.

Credit: Pixabay

Here’s one thing the bill does offer to unauthorized immigrants: free coronavirus testing at government-funded community health centers through a $1 billion federal program. But some community health centers have already reported shortages of tests.

There is also a larger, state-level testing program funded through Medicaid, but that’s only available to Medicaid-eligible immigrants — green card holders who have lived in the US for at least five years, immigrants who come to the US on humanitarian grounds such as asylum, members of the military and their families, and, in certain states, children and pregnant women with lawful immigration status. Those groups, however, make up only a small proportion of immigrants living in the US. 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that it won’t consider use of free testing services when evaluating whether immigrants will likely end up relying on public benefits under the “public charge” rule, which went into effect in February

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