Brazil Closes Borders, Mexico Announces First Death From Pandemic

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP
A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP.

 

South America’s biggest country Brazil on Thursday announced it was closing land borders to nearly all its neighbors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as Mexico reported its first virus death.

People in several cities in Colombia and Brazil mounted pot-banging “cacerolazo” protests from apartment balconies against the failure of their governments to act quickly against the pandemic.

Chile, rocked by months of social protests, unveiled an $11.75 billion economic stimulus package to cope with the effects of the virus on the giant copper producer.

Meanwhile, a plane operated by Spanish carrier Iberia sent to Ecuador to pick up stranded foreigners was prevented from landing at an airport in Guayaquil, which is under lockdown.

Cynthia Viteri, mayor of Ecuador’s second city, said she ordered vehicles to block the runway of the international airport to prevent the plane from landing.

The flight from Madrid, with only crew aboard, was able to land later in Quito.

Ecuador has banned all flights since Monday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Italy Passes China’s Virus Deaths, Braces For Long Lockdown

Mexico reported its first coronavirus death — a 41-year-old man with diabetes who died Wednesday in Mexico City. Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection.

Latin America has so far recorded 1,921 cases and 18 deaths.

– Chile stimulus plan-

Chile’s stimulus plan “will strengthen our ability to face the health, economic and social needs that the coronavirus pandemic is signifying and that will probably tend to worsen in the future,” President Sebastian Pinera told a press conference.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced a lockdown of Chile’s Easter Island, saying no one could enter or leave the remote Pacific island for the next two weeks.

Manalich said that though none of the island’s 7,000 population had the disease, many people from the island were trying to return and risked carrying the virus back with them.

Chile has registered 342 cases of the virus to date.

Colombia will block all international flights from Monday for 30 days, President Ivan Duque announced Thursday.

“As of 00:00 hours on March 23, the arrival of all international passenger flights to the country’s airports is prohibited,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Duque said the shutout was necessary because some people who had entered the country had tried to avoid mandatory quarantine regulations.

Colombia closed its land and sea borders on Tuesday.

– Bogota confinement –

Bogota city hall said the capital’s seven million people would face confinement from Friday to Monday as part of a trial run for a probable future quarantine.

Other cities across Colombia, which has more than 100 cases of the coronavirus, were also under nighttime curfews.

Brazil said its 15-day border closure would affect all neighboring countries, with the exception of Uruguay to the south.

It shut its border with Venezuela on Tuesday.

Senior Brazilian officials, such as Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia, had called for a total border shutdown.

Latin America’s largest country, with a population of 210 million, has so far registered 428 cases of the coronavirus, with four deaths.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, the lawmaker son of the Brazil’s president, joined US President Donald Trump in criticizing China over the pandemic, prompting demands from Beijing for an apology.

China’s embassy accused Bolsonaro of perpetuating the anti-China stance of Trump, who repeatedly refers to the “Chinese virus.”

“We are familiar with your irresponsible words. You imitate your dear (American) friends. On your return from Miami, you unfortunately caught a mental virus, which infected the friendship between our peoples,” the embassy said in a tweet.

AFP

Nine Killed In Mexico Shootout With Police

Forensic experts work in the area where two ministerial agents, 6 kidnapped people and a civilian lost their lives during a confrontation in the La Huertas neighborhood in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, on March 6, 2020. 
Ulises Ruiz / AFP

 

Nine people were killed in a bloody confrontation Friday in western Mexico between a criminal gang and agents investigating a suspected kidnapping, officials said.

The dead included two officers and six people believed to have been held captive in a house in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, the state prosecutor’s office said.

Another man died on the street.

Jalisco has been hard-hit by violence linked to organized crime, particularly the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

In the latest incident, the kidnappers opened fire on the officers and shot their captives when they were cornered, state prosecutor Gerardo Octavio Solis Gomez said.

READ ALSO: Trump Names Meadows As Fourth Chief Of Staff

After the gang shot at them, the agents returned fire and requested backup.

Dozens of police and elements of the army supported by two helicopters were deployed to begin a house to house search for the attackers.

A woman who asked to remain anonymous said the man who was killed in the street was her 43-year-old brother who had gone to visit his daughter.

“They shot him in the heart, but he had nothing to do with it. He was already dead when I arrived,” she said.

Around 300 assault rifle shells were scattered at the scene.

Neighbors described moments of panic during the shooting and the search operation.

“They banged on the door, the windows were broken. We weren’t given a chance to go and open the door,” a neighbor who identified herself as Gabriela told AFP, adding that officers went up on the rooftops.

In a nearby kindergarten, teachers followed safety protocols to protect the children.

“They grabbed the children and then laid them down on the ground, they had them all protected,” Josefina, 40, told AFP.

AFP

Coronavirus: Mexico Confirms Fourth Case, All Linked To Italy

A staffer at the General Adolfo Lopez Mateos hospital checks the contingency area -isolated and with strict sanitary and protective measures- to receive patients presenting symptoms of the COVID-19, in Toluca, Mexico on February 28, 2020. MARIO VAZQUEZ DE LA TORRE / AFP.

 

Mexico confirmed its fourth case of the new coronavirus on Saturday — all linked to recent travel to Italy — after a young woman tested positive for infection.

Health authorities said the 20-year-old from northern Coahuila state was carrying the virus without showing symptoms.

She had recently traveled to Milan and was now under isolation in her home, according to the state government.

Another eight people are being tested for suspected infection, authorities said.

The other three confirmed cases — two men in Mexico City and one man in northern Sinaloa state — are all believed to have visited northern Italy, authorities said Friday.

READ ALSO: Mexico Confirms First Three Cases Of Coronavirus, Linked To Italy

Italy has emerged as one of the global hotspots of the COVID-19 outbreak with more than 1,100 cases in cities across the country’s north.

The virus has infected around 87,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 since it first emerged in central China late last year.

AFP

Mexico Confirms First Three Cases Of Coronavirus, Linked To Italy

 

Mexico’s health ministry said the country has confirmed three cases of the coronavirus, becoming the second Latin American nation reached by the global outbreak.

The three men — two in Mexico City and one in the northern state of Sinaloa — are all believed to have visited northern Italy, the epicenter of the virus in Europe.

“Probably all three were infected from the same source. All three are imported cases,” Jose Luis Alomia, general director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health, said at a press conference Friday.

Senior health ministry official Hugo Lopez-Gatell told a separate news conference that one of the men, a 35-year-old in the capital, “has a mild, mild illness” with symptoms “similar to that of a cold”.

“He is a young individual and so he is at very low risk,” he said.

The patient and five members of his family have been isolated at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, Lopez-Gatell added.

The second case, a 41-year-old man who returned from Bergamo in Italy, is in isolation at a hotel in Sinaloa after being tested by regional authorities, officials said.

A 59-year-old man in Mexico City who also visited northern Italy is the third case but authorities did not say whether he had been hospitalized.

Italy has recorded 650 cases of the coronavirus and 17 deaths across cities in the north.

In Mexico, two more, suspected cases are under analysis in the central state of Guanajuato and one in northwestern Durango.

“It is not a national or health emergency,” Lopez-Gatell said, urging Mexicans to remain calm and not panic-buy protective items such as masks.

Mexico is the second Latin American nation to confirm coronavirus infections after Brazil said it had a case on Wednesday.

More than 50 countries have now reported cases worldwide.

The virus has infected more than 85,000 people and over 2,900 have died — mostly in China where the epidemic started.

Son Of Mexican Drug Lord Extradited To US

US flags are pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 12, 2019 at Wall Street in New York City. Johannes EISELE / AFP
US flags are pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 12, 2019 at Wall Street in New York City.
Johannes EISELE / AFP

 

The son of a powerful Mexican drug lord was Thursday extradited to the United States, where he is wanted for trafficking, a government source told AFP.

Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, known as “El Menchito,” “was extradited this day on the charge of conspiracy to smuggle drugs” into US territory, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US-born Oseguera Gonzalez is the son of “El Mencho” Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, head of the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

Oseguera Gonzalez, 30, was denied an appeal against his transfer to the United States, where he will be tried in federal court in Washington.

He was arrested and released four times between January 2014 and August 2015, when he was finally imprisoned on charges of being number two in the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

The US Department of Justice regards the cartel as one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world, responsible for trafficking tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, and multiple acts of violence.

The gang emerged in 2010 after the death of the regional leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexico’s biggest criminal group.

The Mexican government estimates the Jalisco New Generation cartel has amassed a $50 billion fortune.

It has a strong presence in nine Mexican states and connections with criminal organizations in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

In recent years, it has carried out attacks against military and police targets, including the 2015 downing of a military helicopter which killed 20 soldiers and a policewoman.

The wife of cartel leader Oseguera Cervantes, Rosalinda Gonzalez Valencia, was arrested in May 2018.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of El Mencho.

AFP

Mexican Children take Up Arms In Fight Against Drug-Gangs

A boy holds a makeshift rifle as the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force teaches a group of children how to use weapons, at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP
A boy holds a makeshift rifle as the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force teaches a group of children how to use weapons, at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP

 

With baseball caps and scarves covering their faces, only their serious eyes are visible as a dozen children stand to attention, rifles by their side.

In the heart of the violence-plagued Mexican state of Guerrero, learning to use weapons starts at an early age.

In the village of Ayahualtempa, at the foot of a wooded hill, the basketball court serves as a training ground for these youths, aged between five and 15.

The children practice with rifles and handguns or makeshift weapons in various drill positions for a few hours every week.

“Position three!” yells instructor Bernardino Sanchez, a member of the militia responsible for the security of 16 villages in the Guerrero area, which goes by the name of Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF).

Guerrero is one of the poorest and most violent parts of Mexico, with one of the country’s highest murder rates because of drug gang wars over the trade in opium and marijuana.

Battle against cartels

In the face of indifference from the authorities, 600 people voluntarily joined the militia force to fight organized crime. They included children.

At Sanchez’s order, the young people perform a drill and throw themselves face down on the ground in a cloud of dust, rifles aimed towards an imaginary enemy.

Children are tought to use weapons by the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP
Children are tought to use weapons by the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP

 

Their opponent may be imaginary for the exercise but the drug cartel violence which plagues the region is all too real.

A week ago, nine men and a child — musicians and their assistants — were kidnapped and tortured, and their charred bodies were found inside their two vans at the bottom of a ravine.

Mexican authorities immediately recognized the handiwork of the local Los Ardillos cartel but did not take any action against it.

Exasperated by official indifference, leaders of communities across the region, including Ayahualtempa, decided to take matters into their own hands and teach their children to shoot.

Thirty children are in training. Those under the age of 13 are not yet taking part in patrols but are ready to fight in the event of an attack by Los Ardillos, as happened in May 2015 when the cartel entered the town hall of Chilapa and kidnapped more than 30 people.

Since then, clashes between the militia and the drug traffickers have not abated.

Near the training ground are some abandoned ramshackle huts.

Inside are clothes, children’s shoes and bags of rotten corn cobs — everything left as it was when the occupants fled.

‘They must defend themselves’

The situation has become so untenable for the inhabitants of the region that parents have agreed to let their children join the militia.

“I wanted to study, but since the school is close to the area where Los Ardillos operates, I preferred the community police … They were about to capture me,” said 13-year-old Gustavo.

A boy aims a makeshift rifle as children are tought to use weapons by the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP
A boy aims a makeshift rifle as children are tought to use weapons by the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP

 

The boy said he “feels good” holding his .22 caliber shotgun and already knows how to use and clean it.

Gustavo’s father Luis has been a member of the militia for three years.

His other son, Gerardo, 15, is also learning to “defend himself and his family,” he said during training.

“The children decided to support us,” said Luis, who recalls the day when his two children told him they wanted to arm themselves and leave school.

Luis, who said he went to “great lengths” to buy hunting rifles for his children and his own weapon, believes the danger is the same for the patrols as for municipal police who go to school “unarmed, defenseless” at the mercy of drug traffickers.

The children train in various shooting positions for two hours a week.

The idea is that they also learn to fend for themselves “in case they are orphaned,” Luis said seriously.

A boy aims a rifle as the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force teaches a group of children how to use weapons, at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP
A boy aims a rifle as the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) community police force teaches a group of children how to use weapons, at a basketball court in the village of Ayahualtempan, Guerrero State, Mexico, on January 24, 2020. Pedro PARDO / AFP

 

All of them wear olive green militia T-shirts that are far too large for some of the younger recruits.

“My children now have more courage than fear. They know how to handle their weapons. When armed groups force their way into a community, they must stand up and defend themselves,” Luis added.

Guerrero governor Hector Astudillo on Friday made his first appearance in the region since taking office four years ago.

He took the opportunity to criticize the training of children and negotiate with the militia over lifting roadblocks.

Many children “have lost their parents,” said Bernardino, who does not want to see others traumatized by the murder of their loved ones.

On the basketball court, it is break time. The children grab a basketball and one aims for the frayed net, a too-large rifle slung behind his back.

 

AFP

Mexico Ramps Up Border Security To Block Migrant Caravan

Honduran migrants rest at Casa del Migrante (Migrant House) shelter in Guatemala City, on January 17, 2020, on their way to the US. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs Friday to migrants in a new caravan currently crossing Central America toward the United States. The caravan, which formed in Honduras this week and is making its way across Guatemala, currently has around 3,000 migrants, Lopez Obrador said. Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Mexico deployed around 200 National Guard officers to the Guatemalan border on Friday in an effort to block a huge migrant caravan traversing Central America toward the United States.

A group of more than 3,000 people, mainly from Honduras and El Salvador, crossed into Guatemala on Wednesday.

According to Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei, Mexico has vowed to use “everything at its disposal” to stop the convoy from entering its territory.

The Mexican troops were stationed at the town of Ciudad Hidalgo, one of the main crossing points into the country from its southern neighbor.

Earlier on Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs to members of the caravan in an attempt to dissuade them from traveling on to the United States.

Mexico has come under pressure from President Donald Trump to slow a surge of undocumented migrants who arrived at the US-Mexican border last year.

Trump threatened in May to impose tariffs on Mexico if the government did not do more to stop them.

Cornered, Lopez Obrador’s administration deployed 27,000 National Guardsmen to tighten its borders.

He has also allowed the United States to send more than 40,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico while their cases are processed, under the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Human Rights Watch accused Mexico Tuesday of violating migrants’ rights by failing to guarantee the security of those returned by the United States and detaining others in “inhumane conditions.”

Tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossed Mexico toward the US last year in large caravans, fleeing chronic poverty and brutal gang violence and seeking safety in numbers from the dangers of the journey.

That prompted Trump to warn of an “invasion” and deploy nearly 6,000 US troops to the border.

Mexico Offers 4,000 Jobs To New Migrant Caravan

 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs Friday to migrants in a new caravan currently crossing Central America toward the United States.

“We have more than 4,000 jobs along our southern border, and also migrant shelters. There is work in our country,” the leftist leader said at his daily news conference.

The caravan, which formed in Honduras this week and is making its way across Guatemala, currently has around 3,000 migrants, Lopez Obrador said.

According to Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei, Mexico has vowed to use “everything at its disposal” to stop them.

Mexico has come under pressure from President Donald Trump to slow a surge of undocumented migrants who arrived at the US-Mexican border last year.

Trump threatened in May to impose tariffs on Mexico if the government did not do more to stop them.

Cornered, Lopez Obrador’s administration deployed 27,000 National Guardsmen to tighten its borders and has allowed the United States to send more than 40,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico while their cases are processed, under the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Human Rights Watch accused Mexico Tuesday of violating migrants’ rights by failing to guarantee the security of those returned by the United States and detaining others in “inhumane conditions.”

Tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossed Mexico toward the United States last year in large caravans, fleeing chronic poverty and brutal gang violence and seeking safety in numbers from the dangers of the journey.

That prompted Trump to warn of an “invasion” and deploy nearly 6,000 US troops to the border.

Mexico Exhumes 29 Bodies From Mass Grave

 

The bodies of at least 29 people have been unearthed from a mass grave on a property outside Mexico’s western city of Guadalajara, local authorities said Monday.

The grim site was discovered in Jalisco — a state hard-hit by violence linked to organized crime, and the same area where authorities have found a total of 80 bodies since November.

The local prosecutor’s office said that four of the dead had been partially identified and corresponded with open missing persons investigations.

Authorities will continue to search the grave, which is about 80 feet (25 meters) by 155 feet.

The grave is located about 260 feet away from another mass grave, where the bodies of at least 50 people were discovered in December.

In November, 31 bodies were also found nearby.

The three graves were located after the National Guard took control of a warehouse in the nearby municipality of Tlaquepaque in November, where they rescued eight people who had been kidnapped, seized weapons and detained 15 people.

Before that, a mass grave with 34 bodies was discovered in a suburb of Guadalajara on September 3, while another was found nearby in May with the remains of 30 people.

Nearly 2,500 murders were reported between January and November in Jalisco — where the powerful Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel is based — state authorities have said.

16 Inmates Die In Mexico Prison Fight

 

A prison riot left 16 inmates dead and five wounded in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas on New Year’s Eve, local authorities said Wednesday.

Prisoners fought each other using handguns and knives, which were seized after the fight, the Public Security Ministry said.

“On Tuesday afternoon a fight occurred inside the Regional Center for Social Reinsertion which left a toll of 16 inmates dead, as well as five more wounded,” the ministry said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Air Raid Kills Three In Libya

Authorities later arrested a prisoner with a firearm and “three other handguns were found, as well as knives, with which the homicides were allegedly perpetrated,” it said.

The prison in the town of Cieneguillas and another in the nearby town of Fresnillo had been searched just last weekend, the authorities said.

Frequent disturbances in Mexican prisons have been blamed on overcrowding and the presence of organized crime gangs.

A prison riot in October in the central state of Morelos left six dead, including the head of the powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel.

AFP

US, Mexico, Canada To Sign Deal Finalising Trade Agreement

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (L), US President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are pictured after signing a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.  Martin BERNETTI / AFP

 

The United States, Mexico and Canada will sign an “initial deal” Tuesday finalizing the USMCA trade agreement, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

“There is an initial deal between the governments,” the leftist leader told his daily news conference, as negotiators from the three countries prepared to meet in Mexico City.

“Today it will be signed by… the three countries’ negotiators.”

Lopez Obrador was due to chair a meeting of top officials from the three countries at the presidential palace at 1800 GMT.

Initially signed in November 2018, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is meant to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump complains has been “a disaster” for the US.

But Mexico is the only country to ratify it so far.

In Washington, opposition Democrats — acutely aware of the need to win back blue-collar voters they lost to Trump in 2016 — have insisted on greater oversight of Mexican labor reforms promised under the new deal, including wage hikes and increased power for unions.

AFP

Mexico Shootout Leaves At Least 14 Dead

 

A shootout in a Mexican town near the US border between suspected drug traffickers and police left at least 14 dead, including four officers, officials said Saturday.

The confrontation broke out shortly before noon in Villa Union in the northern state of Coahuila when officers detected several vehicles and heavily armed passengers touring the small community, which is roughly 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the US border.

Four of those killed were police, seven were suspected criminals and another three unidentified bodies were found nearby on a rural road, Coahuila governor Miguel Angel Riquelme told reporters.

Six officers were also wounded but their injuries were not serious and they had already been discharged from hospital, Riquelme said.

An unspecified number of people — including a child — were also missing, government officials added.

Local authorities said twelve trucks were seized in the operation, as well as several high-calibre weapons and an unspecified load of ammunition.

Video shared on Riquelme’s official Facebook page showed the bullet-ridden mayor’s office, while images showed some of the chaos left after the confrontation.

The attack comes after Mexico’s leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador warned he would not allow the US to conduct cross-border armed operations against drug cartels in the country, after President Donald Trump said he planned to designate Mexican drug hangs as terrorist organizations.

The US president has been talking tough on the powerful drug cartels since one was allegedly responsible for the massacre of nine women and children from a US-Mexican Mormon community in northern Mexico on November 4.

Trump has said he would help Mexico tackle the drug gangs, and the two countries have cooperated closely in the fight against drug cartels.