Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, at a press conference after the resignation of Justice Minister Sergio Moro, Brasilia, April 24, 2020 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

The coronavirus pandemic has so far proven to be a boost for many autocratic leaders around the world, who have managed to exploit the crisis to expand and tighten their hold on power. But the situation is different for at least one far-right demagogue, for whom the pandemic is shaping up to become the key line in his political obituary: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. The political future of a president who has been called the “Trump of the Tropics” now hangs in the balance as Bolsonaro continues to actively exhort Brazilians to reject public health measures, even as the number of […]

Demonstrators hold a banner with the names of murdered activists during a protest march in Bogota, Colombia, July 26, 2019 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

The first victim in March was Julio Gutierrez Aviles, the president of a local community action group in Campoalegre, a small town in the rural, mountainous department of Huila in western Colombia. Gutierrez had taken part in recent protests to support Huila’s farmers, trying to make a difference in a region that has long been seen as strategic by various armed groups in Colombia. According to local news, he was on his way home when he was attacked by a group of men, who shot him without saying a word and then left his body on the road. In the […]

Austrian soldiers wearing protective masks at a military ceremony in Vienna, April 27, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

“We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed while announcing a nationwide lockdown last month. He was not alone in his choice of rhetoric, as leaders around the world have invoked battlefield metaphors to galvanize national responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The drama of the analogy certainly makes it a convenient political instrument to justify radical state-led interventions. Yet it also blurs the differences between the current public health crisis and an actual war. During an armed conflict, militaries face human opponents with wills of their own, but there is no such enemy during this pandemic—only an unfeeling virus. […]

Soldiers stand guard after the start of a curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in Lima, Peru, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

LIMA, Peru—Even before his quick, decisive response to the novel coronavirus, the irony of Martin Vizcarra’s accidental yet popular stint as president of Peru was not lost on many of his constituents. When voters here are asked to explain their reformist leader’s apparent honesty and effectiveness, they often respond cynically, “We didn’t vote for him.” They have a point. All five of Peru’s elected presidents between 1985 and 2018, when Vizcarra stepped up from the vice presidency to replace the scandal-plagued Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have been linked by prosecutors to corruption. One, Alberto Fujimori, is serving a 25-year jail sentence. […]

Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, center, arrives for the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Ghana this week became the first African nation to begin rolling back some of the restrictions it had put in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as President Nana Akufo-Addo voiced concern about the economic toll of extending the lockdown further. As several African leaders prepare to follow suit, they will be watching closely to see if Akufo-Addo’s gamble pays off. Ghana only confirmed its first two COVID-19 infections in mid-March, but the number of cases rose quickly, spurring […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, April 20, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

As a teenager, I watched in confusion as my father, a successful chest surgeon who specialized in infant care, went back to school to gain an advanced degree in public health. This required easing himself out of a job that had always impressed me with its heroics, often literally saving a life or two each week. When my father patiently explained the rationale, I gradually came to not only accept it but admire it, for its logic and even nobility. No matter how hard he worked, in the operating room he could only help a few people each week. But […]

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, […]

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline, take part in a rally in Smithers, British Columbia, Jan. 10, 2020 (Photo by Jason Franson for The Canadian Press via AP Images).

MONTREAL—On Feb. 10, Karla Tait was arrested in northern British Columbia while participating in a ceremony along the path of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project to honor missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police accused Tait and other members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation of violating an injunction preventing them from blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The project passes through an area where members of the Unist’ot’en clan, a sub-group of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, have set up a traditional healing center and camp to reclaim their ancestral lands and protest the pipeline’s construction. The road […]

Soldiers distribute food to people who cannot leave their homes during the coronavirus lockdown in Quito, Ecuador, April 2, 2020 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, has emerged as Latin America’s epicenter in the COVID-19 pandemic. Though smaller in scale than the staggering outbreak in New York City, Guayaquil’s is no less devastating. Its 2.7 million inhabitants are enduring many of the same, wicked challenges that New Yorkers have been facing: a surge in confirmed cases, overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries, and a national government that is trying to look like it is handling the crisis. Yet one thing is quite different: Guayas, the province surrounding Guayaquil, has been placed under military jurisdiction. To respond to the spread of the virus, […]

A sign indicates a COVID-19 checkpoint ahead as a truck crosses the Confederation Bridge in Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick, Canada, March 22, 2020 (photo by Andrew Vaughan for The Canadian Press via AP).

Throughout history, outbreaks of infectious disease have often been linked with illicit trade. A cholera outbreak in Mexico during the 1990s, for example, is believed to have originated with an infected person from South America who arrived on an illegal airstrip used for drug trafficking. The historian Julia Clancy-Smith writes that in mid-19th-century Tunisia, “contraband, quarantine, and cholera worked together.” And while the precise origin of the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe is unknown, the illicit wildlife trade in China may have been a major factor. Once they spread widely, infectious diseases also disrupt the illicit drug trade at […]

Voters line up to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election, Milwaukee, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Morry Gash).

If the April 7 Democratic presidential primary vote in Wisconsin was a test of American democracy’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic, then by many accounts, it failed. The lead-up to the election was marred by last-minute partisan wrangling and poor communication with the public. Thousands of absentee ballots went missing or undelivered. And when people showed up to vote, they encountered crowded, under-resourced and under-sanitized polling stations. The state’s leaders have been widely condemned for forcing voters to choose between their health and their democratic rights. Wisconsin’s example shows that without proper preparation, voters across the country could face […]

A motorcycle taxi driver wearing a face mask waits for customers in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

Southeast Asian countries, already struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, are bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 cases. Most countries in the region, with the exception of Singapore and Vietnam, had sluggish initial responses to the virus. Most also are poor or middle-income states, which lack public health systems that can effectively track and trace coronavirus patients. Malaysia now has more than 5,000 known COVID-19 cases, although the true number is probably much higher, while the Philippines and Indonesia also have more than 5,000 known cases. With minimal testing in Indonesia, the region’s most populous country, […]

A woman wearing a mask and a shirt with the face of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Forty African nations will be eligible for a debt moratorium declared this week by the world’s richest countries. The decision by the G-20 to freeze the debt of the world’s poorest nations follows calls for an unprecedented effort to support the continent’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Demands for a debt freeze had been mounting as countries across Africa have scrambled to find the resources to respond to the pandemic. Oxfam had raised alarms that the world’s 76 poorest countries face $40.6 […]

A man wearing a mask walks through Brooklyn Bridge Park, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the things we previously took for granted, didn’t sufficiently appreciate or simply didn’t know—whether on a national or international level—that the coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharper focus. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every day of the week, plus three more complimentary articles in our weekly roundup […]

A police officer wearing a face mask at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, April 8, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The dusty border town of Taftan in western Pakistan is a frequent stopover for religious pilgrims. Many members of the country’s Shiite minority pass through it en route to visit holy sites in neighboring Iran. But after Iran emerged as one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, the Pakistani government set up a quarantine camp in Taftan to prevent further movement, inadvertently turning the town into an epicenter for the spread of COVID-19. Testing in the camp is sporadic at best, while health facilities are abysmal. Many pilgrims reportedly paid bribes to escape back into Pakistan, and as […]

A grocery store worker restocks shelves, Dallas, Texas, April 13, 2020 (AP photo by LM Otero).

One of the many challenges facing governments and businesses during a disaster is ensuring the steady supply of food and other essential items. People’s natural impulses to stock up in preparation for shortages often kick in at the same time that complex supply chains are coming under immense strain. Add to this the direct impacts of COVID-19 on workers in the food industry and the export restrictions on agricultural products that some governments have put into place to ensure that their own populations stay well-fed, and you’ve potentially got the makings of a looming food security crisis. Robyn Metcalfe, a […]

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