Tag Archives: South America

Just in: Canada sees first strain of ‘detected’ Brazilian virus.


Canada, with a population of more than 38 million, has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

Health authorities in Toronto announced Sunday that a resident had been diagnosed with the Brazilian variant of Covid-19, marking Canada’s first known case of the mutated virus.

The patient has been hospitalized, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said in a statement. He had recently traveled from Brazil.

TPH also said it had found the first case of the South African coronavirus variant in Canada’s largest city, though the strain had previously been detected elsewhere in the country.


“Scientists and medical professionals are concerned that these variants are more transmissible than the original coronavirus,” TPH said.

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 29, 2020 shows an engineer holding a plastic model of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing. – Sinovac Biotech is conducting one of the five clinical trials of potential vaccines that have been authorised in China. China would make any coronavirus vaccine it developed a “global public good” once it was put into use, President Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly on May 18, 2020. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

The resident with the South African strain had no recent travel history and no known contact with any recently returned travellers, TPH added.

The Brazilian variant has been blamed for a disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus.

It has already been spotted in Europe, as well as Colombia and the United States.


Toronto health authorities have now detected 27 confirmed “variant of concern” cases in the city of about 3 million people.

Canada, with a population of more than 38 million, has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 deaths.



Former Uruguayan leader, Tabare dies at 80 over lung cancer


In 1989, Tabare Vazquez became the first person from the left-wing Broad Front coalition to win the mayoralty of Montevideo, having previously become well known as the president of football club Progreso, which is based in the capital.

Former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez died Sunday at the age of 80 from lung cancer, his family announced.

“With deep pain, we communicate the death of our beloved father,” his sons Alvaro, Javier, and Ignacio Vazquez said in a statement.


The statement added that Vazquez died “due to natural causes of his oncological disease.”

On Twitter, Alvaro Vazquez, who like his father is an oncologist by profession, said that “while he was resting at home, accompanied by some family and friends, Tabare died because of his illness.”

“On behalf of the family, we want to thank all Uruguayans for the affection received by him over so many years,” he added.


In 2005, following two failed attempts, he secured the presidency, breaking the traditional hegemony of the Colorado and National parties in the small South American nation.

He held the office until 2010 and again from 2015 until March this year when he handed the presidential sash to Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party, who had beaten Broad Front candidate Daniel Martinez in an election run-off.

On Twitter, Broad Front reported “with deep pain” the death of its “honorary president, Tabare Vazquez.”

“His example of political integrity and unwavering commitment to our country and the people will drive us to continue his legacy,” it said.


In a statement, Vazquez’s relatives indicated that, due to coronavirus-related restrictions, they had decided to “not hold awake.”

“His children and grandchildren will see him off in a private and intimate ceremony,” they said.



Riots across Colombia claim seven lives after Police kills Man.


Video of the police abuse went viral sparking unrest across the country with more than 150 civilians and police injured.

The death of a Colombian man after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police who restrained him has sparked riots and protests throughout the Andean nation. The protests continued into Thursday morning and killed at least seven and wounded more than 150, the country’s defence minister said.

Javier Humberto Ordonez, a 46-year-old lawyer and father of two was allegedly violating coronavirus social distancing rules when he became involved in an altercation with police in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

In a video posted on social media by friends who were with him, Ordonez can be heard shouting, “please, no more, I’m suffocating” as two police officers continued to restrain him with their knees on his back and repeatedly tasing him. Ordonez was taken into police custody early on Wednesday where family members have alleged he faced more police abuse. He died in hospital soon after.

Colombia had a six-month coronavirus pandemic lockdown that began in late March, with the harsh restrictions eased two weeks ago.

Protesters took to the streets in Bogota on Wednesday afternoon, destroying the small police station that the responsible officers belonged to in the Engativa neighbourhood, in the west of the city. Violence continued and spread into the early hours of Thursday.


Bogota’s Mayor Claudia Lopez called the police brutality “unacceptable”, but also condemned the violence in Bogota that resulted in deaths.

“Yesterday, Bogota woke up with reason, in pain, protesting the death of a citizen because of police abuse,” the distraught looking mayor said in a Twitter video posted early on Thursday. “But today we wake up with not only one, but three dead, killed in protests and extended violence … destroying Bogota is not going to fix the police.”

Protesters chanting during a demonstration in honour of Dilan Cruz, a teenage demonstrator who died in 2019 after being injured by a tear gas canister in Bogota, Colombia [File: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Colombia’s defence minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, said on Thursday rioting had killed seven people in Bogota with more than 150 civilians and police injured across Colombia.

As the news of the alleged police brutality spread, protesters took to the streets on Wednesday night not only in Bogota, but also in the cities of Medellin, Pereida and Ibague, attacking police stations and public transport infrastructure.


“The reports of the events that occurred in the last hours reveals atrocity and vandalism. These events cast a shadow over society since they claimed human lives,” Trujillo said.

The government announced the two officers involved have been suspended pending an investigation, and an autopsy on Ordonez would be carried out.

A rubbish container on fire during protests after a man, who was arrested for violating social distancing rules, died from being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by officers, according to authorities, in Bogota, Colombia [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

‘A significant event’
The latest unrest comes two days after unsuccessful attempts were made to revive protests by workers’ unions to protest the economic and social policies of President Ivan Duque which had brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in late 2019. The government responded by sending heavily armed riot police into the streets and imposed curfews in major cities.

“With last year’s November protests, the government action to quell them and the coronavirus, this basically put a lid on a lot of social angst that was happening in Colombia,” political analyst and director of Colombia Risk Analysis, Sergio Guzman told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.


“I think that because the entire issue has not just been mismanaged by the government but just miscommunicated, this [recent action] really threatens to blow up as a significant event.”

He said the current protests reflect not only anger and frustration over police actions, but are also about the lack of political will to investigate wrongdoing.

“I expect this is the start of a much bigger period of political unrest that will coincide with the governments plans to open the economy, so this is going to be a major set back in some of these plans,” Guzman said.

People walking near a burned Transmilenio bus after protests against police brutality in Bogota, Colombia [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

“There is a lot of discontent about unresolved issues which were quieted due to restrictions,” Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, Andes director for the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) said.


“The ongoing use of the stun gun after the lawyer is clearly disarmed and not fighting was not necessary. Disproportionate use of force in Colombian police forces is not a new problem neither is the misuse of weapons meant to disperse protests or pacify.”

Human Right Watch (HRW) Americas also criticised the police handling of the protests.

“We have received serious reports of excessive force by members of Bogota’s police,” HRW Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco said on Twitter.

“Citizens have every right to protest and should do so peacefully.”


Beirut explosions: Chilean team sense ‘signs of life’ beneath rubble of building after month


Chile rescue team says it has found signs someone may still be alive beneath the rubble of a collapsed building.

A Chilean rescue team said it detected signs of life underneath the rubble of a building that collapsed in the massive explosion that tore through Beirut one month ago.

A member of the TOPOS CHILE rescue team told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media that, using a scanning machine, it discovered signs of a pulse and breathing near the ground floor of the collapsed building.

He said it most likely belonged to a child, adding that the team also found the presence of at least one body.

TOPOS CHILE rescue team member told Al Jazeera that they had discovered signs of a pulse and breathing near the ground floor of the collapsed building using a sensitive scanning machine [Timour Azhari/Al Jazeera]

The August 4 explosion, that killed 191 people and injured more than 6,000, destroyed much of Lebanon’s capital.

The Chilean team had been visiting streets in the capital as part of a mission to secure buildings before the reconstruction phase when one of their search dogs ran towards a building and alerted them of human presence, Akram Nehme, member of the Achrafieh 2020 NGO that helped bring TOPOS CHILE to Beirut, told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.


Edward Bitar, a member of NGO Live Love Lebanon working with TOPOS CHILE in Lebanon, said they had detected 18 breath cycles per minute emanating from under the rubble using the sensor.

“We are trying to keep hopes low. If someone is found, it would be a miracle,” said Bitar.

TOPOS CHILE often heads to disaster zones, including to Japan’s Fukushima region in 2011 when a nuclear reactor exploded.

The August 4 explosion that killed 191 people and injured more than 6,000 destroyed much of Lebanon’s capital [Timour Azhari/Al Jazeera]

In 2010, it helped rescue a man in Haiti after he spent 27 days in the rubble caused by an earthquake.

Looking for life
Bitar said the owner of the building had attested to the fact that no one was inside.


But a number of people on the scene said they had alerted security forces of the smell of decomposition emanating from the building in the days after the blast, adding that security forces did not search the rubble.

Official search-and-rescue efforts have long-since been called off.

Thursday’s volunteer-led effort started in the morning and continued into the night. The team removed the rubble of the building – stone by stone – with help from Lebanese climbers, firefighters and civil defence.

Rescue workers repeatedly silenced the large crowd to enable their sensor to probe for signs of life, leading an eerie silence to fall over the street.


For many Lebanese, Thursday’s volunteer-led efforts are just the latest example of state failure, both in the lead-up to the explosion – caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate haphazardly stored at the Beirut port for almost seven years – and in the explosion’s aftermath.

On Thursday, a month after the explosion, Lebanon’s army announced it found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port.

The military said army experts were called in for an inspection and found the dangerous chemical in four containers stored near the port.

“Honestly this is why we all walk around believing something else is gonna blow us up. Their incompetence is stunning,” Lebanese activist Bissan Fakih said in a tweet, referring to the country’s political class


COVID-19: Brazil dives into recession by 9.7% drop.


Brazil’s economy, the biggest in Latin America, contracted by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, plunging into recession as coronavirus lockdowns hit home, the official statistics agency said Tuesday.

Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the second-highest number of infections and deaths worldwide after the United States, and stay-at-home measures to contain the virus have taken a heavy toll.

“GDP is now at the same level as late 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis,” the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said in a statement.

It was the biggest drop since the current system of records began in 1996, it said.


There were record contractions of 12.3 percent in the industrial sector and 9.7 percent in the services sector, which together account for 95 percent of the Brazilian economy, IBGE said.

“These results refer to the peak of social distancing, when many economic activities were partially or totally paralyzed to fight the pandemic,” IBGE national accounts coordinator Rebeca Palis said in the statement.

The contraction was worse than the 9.2 percent average forecast by 49 economists polled by business daily Valor.

However, it was better than the 11.1 percent drop economists were predicting in May.


Brazil fared better in the second quarter than many other economies, including Britain (-20.4 percent), France (-13.8 percent), Mexico (-17.1 percent) and Chile (-13.4 percent).

“The country suffered one of the more modest downturns in Latin America,” consulting firm Capital Economics said in a note.

“But with fiscal policy set to turn from a tailwind to a headwind, the pace of the recovery is likely to lose momentum.”

Stimulus extended, but halved
Analysts say Brazil’s improvement was largely thanks to the decision by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to launch a massive stimulus program that has been paying 600 reals ($110) a month to 66.4 million Brazilians hit hardest by lockdown measures.


That is nearly one-third of the population.

Bolsonaro, who faces pressure from deficit hawks to rein emergency spending back in, announced Tuesday the government would extend the measure for four more months, but halve the payout to 300 reals.

“The Brazilian fiscal package was brutal, it was absolutely enormous,” Margarida Gutierrez, an economist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

Brazil’s economy shrank a revised 2.5 percent in the first quarter, as the impact of the pandemic began to hit, IBGE said.


Since then, Covid-19 has exploded in Brazil: the country has now registered more than 3.9 million infections and 121,000 deaths.

The economy was only just recovering from its longest recession in history, driven by the fallout of a massive corruption scandal centered on state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Reeling from the scandal, which felled a laundry list of top political leaders and business executives, the economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016.

Economists polled by the central bank are forecasting a contraction of 5.28 percent for the year in 2020.