Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Has Killed Thousands Of People And Now Many Fear It Could Push Millions More Into Extreme Poverty

Around the world, governments have taken action to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Yet more than four million people have been infected and the death count has surpassed 300,000 – and continues to grow.

As the virus continues to claim victims, many are also worried about the economic fallout from this global pandemic. Many of the world’s poorest countries have made huge advances in pulling millions out from poverty over the past decade. But now, tens of millions are at risk of being pushed right back into it

The economic devastation the pandemic wreaks on the ultra-poor could ultimately kill more people than the virus itself.

Across the globe, lockdowns and social distancing measures have erased incomes and made it difficult for people to afford even basic food items – especially in the poorest parts of the world.

The United Nations predicts that a global recession will reverse a three-decade trend in rising living standards and plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 a day.

“I feel like we’re watching a slow-motion train wreck as it moves through the world’s most fragile countries,” said Nancy Lindborg, president of the nonprofit U.S. Institute of Peace, in an interview with the LA Times.

Mexico in particular is worried about the effects on its poorest citizens.

Over the past decade, Mexico has made enormous progress is helping nearly 30 million Mexicans escape extreme poverty. But now, all of that progress is in jeopardy.

The economic fallout from coronavirus could add nine million people to Mexico’s poor, according to a government study released on Monday. The report also calls for aid like pensions and insurance, in a country that provides no federal jobless benefits.

With businesses forced to close to help stop the spread of the disease, more than 346,000 formal jobs were lost between mid-March and early April, the government said, with further layoffs expected as the economy shrinks. That’s not including the millions of jobs in the informal economy that have also been lost.

Mexico also relies heavily on money sent from relatives working in the United States. With the U.S. economy also heavily battered, remittances are beginning to dry up.

“Families are not receiving their remittances,” said Abel Barrera Hernández, an anthropologist in Mexico’s impoverished Guerrero state. 

The consequences are being felt across Latin America.

Credit: Moises Castillo / Getty

In Guatemala, villagers are begging for food along highways by waving pieces of white cloth at passing drivers. In Colombia, the hungriest hang red flags from their homes in hope of donations.

In Venezuela, which for years has been roiled by food scarcities, soaring inflation and street protests calling for the removal of President Nicolás Maduro, life was miserable for many before the pandemic, and it has only gotten worse.

Among the most vulnerable groups are Indigenous communities – which were already struggling before the pandemic.

Already poor, Mexico’s Indigenous people have been forced to face the virus with few defenses. Although official infection rates have remained low, the Coronavirus is having an outsized impact on Indigenous communities across the country.

One man, Samuel, 54, from the Zoque community, committed suicide after learning about his Covid-19 diagnosis. He hung himself from a tree where his body remained for several hours because the community didn’t have any protective gear to help bring his body down – a grim illustration of the plight of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Some ethnic groups have taken their own protective measures, such as shutting off access to their territories.

“For now it is the only way to stop contagion in these communities, where there is also a lack of hospitals and medicine,” said Adelfo Regino, director of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, or INPI in Spanish.

All of this dire economic news comes as much of the world has made huge gains in helping communities overcome poverty.

Credit: @WorldBank / Twitter

Since the Great Recession, the world has made huge progress in reducing poverty around the globe. In fact, over the last three decades more than 1 billion people – or 13% of the world’s population – have risen out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. 

Though the gains were largely driven by the economic gains of China and India, countries around the world have seen success. Across Latin America, Brazil and Mexico have largely driven the gains. Mexico is now the world’s 11th largest economy and has added millions of people to its middle class.

But Coronavirus poses a major threat to these economic miracles. If the Coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s the interconnection between all of the world’s countries.

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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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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has long called himself the voice of the people – and many Mexicans agree with him. That’s why his latest announcement against social media companies has many so worried.

In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s (along with many other social media platforms) announcement that they would be restricting or banning Donald Trump from their platforms, the Mexican president expressed his contempt for the decisions. And his intention to create a Mexican social network that won’t be held to the standards from Silicon Valley.

Mexico’s AMLO moves to create a social media network for Mexicans outside of Silicon Valley’s control.

A week after his United States counterpart was kicked off Facebook and Twitter, President López Obrador floated the idea of creating a national social media network to avoid the possibility of Mexicans being censored.

Speaking at his daily news conference, AMLO instructed the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) and other government departments to look at the possibility of creating a state-owned social media site that would guarantee freedom of speech in Mexico.

“We care about freedom a lot, it’s an issue that’s going to be addressed by us,” he told reporters. He also added that Facebook and Twitter have become “global institutions of censorship,” sounding a lot like the alt-right terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“To guarantee freedom, for freedom, so there’s no censorship in Mexico. We want a country without censorship. Mexico must be a country of freedom. This is a commitment we have,” he told reporters.

AMLO deeply criticized the moves by Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump from their platforms.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO – like Trump – is an avid user of social media to connect with his constituents. He’s also been known to spread falsehoods and boast about his achievements on the platforms – sound familiar?

So, it came as little surprise when he tore into social media companies for ‘censoring’ Donald Trump, saying that they have turned into “global institutions of censorship” and are carrying out a “holy inquisition.”

Nobody has the right to silence citizens even if their views are unpopular, López Obrador said. Even if the words used by Trump provoked a violent attack against his own government.

“Since they took these decisions [to suspend Trump], the Statue of Liberty has been turning green with anger because it doesn’t want to become an empty symbol,” he quipped.

So what could a Mexican social media network be called?

The president’s proposal to create a national social media network triggered chatter about what such a site would or should be called. One Twitter user suggested Facemex or Twitmex, apparently taking his inspiration from the state oil company Pemex.

The newspaper Milenio came up with three alternative names and logos for uniquely Mexican sites, suggesting that a Mexican version of Facebook could be called Facebookóatl (inspired by the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcóatl), Twitter could become Twitterlopochtli (a riff on the name of Aztec war, sun and human deity Huitzilopochtli) and Instagram could become Instagratlán (tlán, which in the Náhuatl language means place near an abundance of something – deer, for example, in the case of Mazatlán – is a common suffix in Mexican place names.)

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