Five Shot Dead In Rare Mexico City Attack

BREAKING: 'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue
File photo

 

Five people were shot dead in central Mexico City, the local security secretariat said Saturday, a rare attack in the capital and likely linked to organized crime, according to local media.

The attack occurred late Friday at the town hall in Miguel Hidalgo, one of the most prosperous districts of Mexico City.

Police responding to an alert found “five people on the ground with gunshot wounds,” according to a statement.

Medical services certified three men dead at the scene while the other two were transferred to a nearby hospital where they later died due to the seriousness of their injuries, the security secretariat said.

Local media reports said one of the victims was a member of the local Union Tepito cartel but city authorities have not confirmed this.

Despite growing drug cartel violence in Mexico over the last decade, shootings and multiple killings are rare in the capital compared to other areas of the country.

However, the city was shocked by an attack in June last year on its security chief, Omar Garcia Harfuch, by heavily armed gunmen who killed two of his bodyguards and a passerby. Garcia Harfuch, who was wounded, blamed the attack on the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

More than 300,000 people have been murdered since Mexico deployed the military to fight the drug cartels in 2006, with most of the killings blamed on organized crime.

AFP

Mexico Approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Mexico on Monday authorized the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for emergency use in the country, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls.

Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell announced on Twitter that Mexican regulators had approved the vaccine, which has also been authorized by Britain, India and Argentina.

Lopez-Gastell said the vaccine could be available in March. “It depends on the private entities that work on it to specify the production capacity,” he explained later during a routine afternoon conference.

It is the second coronavirus vaccine authorized by Mexico, which on December 24 began a mass immunization program using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, with priority given to health workers.

Some 30,000 workers, about a quarter of what was planned in the first stage, had received the vaccine by Sunday, according to the government.

Mexico, which has reported more than 127,000 Covid-19 deaths and around 1.4 million cases, has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 77.4 million doses of its vaccine.

READ ALSO: Britain Locks Down Over COVID-19 Surge Despite New Vaccine Rollout

Together with Argentina, it also has an agreement with the British drugs giant to produce its vaccine to supply to Latin American nations.

It also has a preliminary purchase agreement with China’s CanSino Biologics and is part of the international COVAX mechanism aimed at ensuring equitable access for all countries.

The government has promised to make vaccinations available free of charge across the country of almost 129 million people — a massive logistical challenge involving the armed forces.

Mexico Offers Political Asylum To Julian Assange

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange raises his fist on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. PHOTO: Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

Mexico on Monday offered political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a British judge blocked his extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.

“I’m going to ask the foreign minister to carry out the relevant procedures to request that the UK government releases Mr. Assange and that Mexico offers him political asylum,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters.

He said Mexico would ensure “that whoever receives asylum does not intervene or interfere in the political affairs of any country.”

READ ALSO: UK Court Rejects Assange’s Extradition To US

This Latin American country has previously offered political asylum to high-profile international figures such as former Bolivian president Evo Morales.

Assange is wanted on 18 charges in the United States relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If convicted in the US, the 49-year-old Australian publisher faces up to 175 years in jail.

British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Monday that Assange’s actions in leaking secret documents went “well beyond” that of a journalist, and he would have been “well aware” of the dangers the leak posed.

But facing the “harsh conditions” likely in the US jail system, Assange’s mental health would deteriorate, “causing him to commit suicide” with the determination of a person with autism spectrum disorder, she ruled, siding with a diagnosis by psychologists.

AFP

Phase Three Trials Begin For Novavax Vaccine In US, Mexico

KIRKLAND, WA – DECEMBER 28: Pharmacists prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on December 28, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home, was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. Karen Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

 

Clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate from American biotech company Novavax have begun in the United States and Mexico, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Monday.

A similar Phase 3 trial for the same vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is also under way in the United Kingdom, where about 15,000 volunteers have been recruited.

In the US and Mexico, the new trials will include around 30,000 volunteers over the age of 18.

Two-thirds of the participants will receive the vaccine and one-third a placebo. None of them will know, for the duration of the trial, what was in the injection they received.

“The launch of this study — the fifth investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be tested in a Phase 3 trial in the United States — demonstrates our resolve to end the pandemic through development of multiple safe and effective vaccines,” said leading US immunologist Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH.

The goal is that at least 25 percent of the participants in the US and Mexico trials should be aged 65 and over, the statement said.

Emphasis will also be placed on recruiting people who are more exposed to Covid-19 — African-Americans and Hispanics in particular — or who present with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, such as obesity or diabetes.

READ ALSO: US Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations For Troops In South Korea

The vaccine is taken in two doses three weeks apart. It can be stored between two and eight degrees Celsius (35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit) — much warmer temperatures than already approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, meaning it could be more easily distributed.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on a new technology, messenger RNA, while the Novavax vaccine is a recombinant protein vaccine.

The coronavirus has spikes (viral proteins) on its surface that come into contact with cells it infects. These proteins can be reproduced and presented to the immune system so that it can later recognize them and react if it is actually infected.

Two other vaccines that have conducted Phase 3 trials, those from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca/Oxford, are expected soon to seek emergency authorization for distribution in the US, the country most affected by the pandemic in absolute numbers worldwide.

Mexico To Start COVID-19 Vaccinations On Thursday

In this file photo taken on November 23, 2020 is pictured a bottle reading “Vaccine Covid-19” next to US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech logos on November 23, 2020. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

Mexico will begin Covid-19 immunizations on Thursday, a day after the country receives its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) the first consignment of the Pfizer vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 arrives,” he said Tuesday on Twitter.

“There will be a press opportunity and then the vaccine will be safeguarded until its use on Thursday, December 24, the day vaccinations start,” Lopez-Gatell said.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said 1.4 million doses will arrive from Belgium of the 34.4 million that the company has agreed to deliver.

The first vaccines will be destined for frontline medical personnel, and administered in Mexico City and the northern state of Coahuila due to the logistics related to the frigid temperatures required for the shots.

Mexico also has preliminary purchase agreements with the Chinese-Canadian project CanSinoBio for 35 million doses and with Britain’s AstraZeneca for 77.4 million doses.

READ ALSO: Buhari Extends PTF Mandate Till March 2021

It is also part of the international COVAX mechanism aimed at ensuring equitable access for all countries, which allows it to buy 51.6 million additional vaccines.

Mexico has registered 119,495 deaths linked to the virus and 1.33 million infections, according to official figures.

It has the fourth most deaths after the United States, Brazil and India, and is the 15th highest in deaths per 100,000 residents.

AFP

Mexico’s Lopez Obrador Congratulates Biden On US Election Victory

In this file picture taken on September 1, 2019 Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivers his first state of the nation address at the National Palace in Mexico City. Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP

 

Mexico’s leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday, over a month after the Democrat won the US election.

Lopez Obrador, who has nurtured a cordial relationship with incumbent US President Donald Trump, was one of the last remaining high-profile leaders yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, which was confirmed on Monday by the US Electoral College.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Vladimir Putin also congratulated Biden, although Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, a staunch Trump ally, has yet to do so.

“I express my appreciation for his stance on Mexican migrants around the world, which will … promote the development of communities in southeastern Mexico and Central America,” said Lopez Obrador.

“We rulers must work to maintain good bilateral relations based on collaboration, friendship and respect for each other’s sovereignty.”

The Mexican leader said he was looking forward to speaking with Biden, especially about migration.

The two countries share a 3,200-kilometre-long border which is crossed illegally by drug-traffickers heading north and arms dealers moving the other way, as well as by many legal migrants from Mexico and Central America seeking a better life or fleeing violence and poverty.

READ ALSO: ‘Extremely Limited’ Crowds To Attend Biden’s Inauguration

The neighbours are also part of a trilateral trade deal with Canada that was renegotiated under Trump.

Analysts expect Biden to closely monitor Mexico’s labour and energy commitments related to the trade deal.

Lopez Obrador had faced much criticism for his delay in congratulating Biden while Trump and his campaign team touted unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud.

The Mexican leader, a left-wing populist, twice alleged he was the victim of voter fraud when losing the 2006 and 2012 presidential races.

He has insisted his delay was out of a desire to “act prudently” and wait for “all legal issues” to be resolved in the US.

AFP

Mexico Surpasses One Million COVID-19 Cases

Forensic experts remove a corpse from the crime scene after Mexico City's Public Security Secretary Omar Garcia Harfuch attacked in Mexico City, on June 26, 2020. - Mexico City's security chief was wounded in a gun attack Friday in which two of his bodyguards and a woman passerby were killed, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)
Forensic experts remove a corpse from the crime scene after Mexico City’s Public Security Secretary Omar Garcia Harfuch attacked in Mexico City, on June 26, 2020. – Mexico City’s security chief was wounded in a gun attack Friday in which two of his bodyguards and a woman passerby were killed, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)

 

Mexico surpassed one million Covid-19 cases on Saturday, registering 5,860 new infections over the previous day in a country with one of the world’s highest death tolls from the virus, the government said.

A total of 1,003,253 people have now tested positive for the virus in Mexico, said health ministry official Ricardo Cortes.

The death toll meanwhile reached 98,259, including 635 registered over the past day, he added.

Mexico has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from the virus behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

It also has the 11th highest number of infections.

Cases have been spiking in a number of areas of the country.

“We probably still need to see the worst,” Alejandro Macias, former national commissioner against the AH1N1 influenza pandemic in Mexico City in 2009, told AFP.

The government earlier declared a lockdown on March 23, although essential economic activities remained open, with no sanctions for non-compliance.

The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, announced on Friday the closure of bars for 15 days and earlier closing times for restaurants, cinemas and gyms due to the spike in infections and hospitalizations over the last week.

Sheinbaum also said that daily tests will be increased to 10,000.

The capital has seen an increase in infections since mid-October and remains the epicenter of the pandemic in Mexico.

AFP

Fear Of Hospitals Means Some Mexicans ‘Prefer To Die At Home’

Forensic experts remove a corpse from the crime scene after Mexico City's Public Security Secretary Omar Garcia Harfuch attacked in Mexico City, on June 26, 2020. - Mexico City's security chief was wounded in a gun attack Friday in which two of his bodyguards and a woman passerby were killed, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)
Forensic experts remove a corpse from the crime scene after Mexico City’s Public Security Secretary Omar Garcia Harfuch attacked in Mexico City, on June 26, 2020. – Mexico City’s security chief was wounded in a gun attack Friday in which two of his bodyguards and a woman passerby were killed, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)

 

By the time 61-year-old Mexican mechanic Martin Urdiain finally decided to go to hospital to seek treatment for the coronavirus, it was already too late. He died the next day.

When Urdiain and his wife fell ill, they chose to stay at their home in Mexico City rather than put their trust in the creaking public health system.

After their symptoms worsened, they even bought two mechanical ventilators for $3,400 instead of going to hospital.

“He was suspicious because he saw on the news about the overflowing hospitals, and poor care, but in the end he felt worse and finally went,” Urdiain’s brother Alfredo told AFP.

Urdiain died on June 17, while his wife recovered without hospitalization.

In Mexico, it is common to hear of people choosing to fight the virus on their own at home, sometimes refusing to be taken to hospital by paramedics.

The government has recognized that the health system has suffered from years of neglect, but says it is working to improve standards.

When the pandemic began, Mexico had a shortage of 200,000 doctors and 300,000 nurses, prompting the health ministry to embark on a major hiring spree.

It also scrambled to refurbish a thousand hospitals and buy supplies with an investment of $1.9 billion.

– ‘I’ll never return’ –

Rather than set foot in hospital, Jessica Castillo endured a week at home in Hidalgo state in central Mexico where she even had suicidal thoughts, the 43-year-old pastry chef said.

“I felt that the air I was breathing wasn’t entering my lungs, but I said ‘If I go to hospital, I’ll never return.'”

Castillo, who suffers from diabetes and hypertension, said her distrust of the public health system stems from the poor care she received before the pandemic.

“I don’t believe them. They’ve hurt me a lot physically, and emotionally.

“I haven’t even been for medicine for my diabetes for about three years. I prefer to buy it elsewhere,” said Castillo, who took more than a month to recover from the virus.

With more than 73,000 deaths, Mexico has the world’s fourth-highest Covid-19 toll, although the government says that is partly due to its large population.

The country of 128 million has officially registered nearly 700,000 coronavirus infections.

There is no official number for the number of Mexicans who have died in their homes, but the government’s own figure of excess mortality offers a clue.

From mid-March to August 1, there were 122,765 more deaths from all causes than usual across 24 of the country’s 32 states.

“For years, we’ve had a sick health system without the necessary equipment,” Mayra Reyes, a doctor at the Cuautitlan General Hospital just north of Mexico City, told AFP.

At the start of the year, her hospital did not even have paracetamol.

– ‘Many rumors’ –

Misinformation has added to this distrust about the public health system.

Rumors that disinfection work was spreading the virus sparked riots in the southern state of Chiapas in May and June. A hospital, city hall, homes and vehicles were vandalized.

“There are many rumors that the hospitals end up killing patients,” said Eustaquio Garcia, a 27-year-old driver in Guerrero, another southern state.

Yet even some doctors admit that there is a grain of truth in that.

Ivan Carreno, a general practitioner, said that from March to July people’s fear “was well founded”, since the hospitals “were full, the care was poor and there was a lack of supplies.”

Although the situation has since improved, many people remain wary.

“I’ve had patients who ask me if it’s true that they remove the fluid from their knees — or if we traffic their organs,” Carreno said.

“Many people literally prefer to die at home.”

AFP

Mexico Warns Setback In Tests Could Delay COVID-19 Vaccine

(FILES) In this file photo Dr. Rhonda Flores looks at protein samples at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. – The Canadian government announced on August 31, 2020 a deal with American biotech firm Novavax for 76 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in development, if it proves to be effective against the new coronavirus.  ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.

 

The Latin American roll-out of a potential COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca could be set back after the biotech company announced a pause in tests, the government of Mexico, which is involved in developing the drug alongside Argentina, said Tuesday.

AstraZeneca, which is working on a vaccine in conjunction with Oxford University, said that a volunteer had developed an undiagnosed illness and that, in line with security protocols, it was delaying further tests until an independent panel had studied the case.

Pausing vaccine trials “is not an unusual occurrence… and as a consequence the vaccine’s arrival may be delayed” across the region, said Hugo Lopez Gatell, Mexico’s undersecretary for health, at a press conference on the latest development.

Gatell asked that people avoid speculation about the safety of the vaccine, especially given that it is considered to be one of the most promising projects under development in the western world.

Mexico and Argentina have signed an agreement to work together with the Swedish-British pharmaceutical company.

Under the plan, some 250 million doses of the vaccine would be sold at cost across Latin America, with the exception of Brazil, which has its own agreements.

Mexico will also work with other labs in Europe, China and Russia in vaccine development projects, although AstraZeneca is the only one that has guaranteed distribution across Latin America.

With a population of almost 129 million people, Mexico had suffered 68,484 fatalities from the virus by Tuesday, with 642,860 cases of Covid-19.

AFP

Former Trump Aide, Steve Bannon, Arrested Over Fraud Case

 In this file photo former advisor to the US president and US publicist Steve Bannon poses during a photo session in Paris on May 27, 2019. JOEL SAGET / AFP
In this file photo former advisor to the US president and US publicist Steve Bannon poses during a photo session in Paris on May 27, 2019. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

Former top Trump aide Steve Bannon was on Thursday arrested and charged along with three others for defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in a Mexico border wall fundraising campaign — a blow to the Republican incumbent.

The online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall” raised more than $25 million, prosecutors said, which the defendants said would be used on construction but was instead used for their own profit.

The arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile legal battles faced by members of Trump’s inner circle as the Republican runs for re-election in November.

Manhattan federal prosecutors said Bannon, the organization’s founder Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”

The initiative began in 2018 as a GoFundMe campaign to raise money organizers said would go towards the border wall Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign, which Bannon orchestrated.

Kolfage, a 38-year-old based in Florida, had vowed that all funds raised would go to the wall and he would not take compensation — but according to the indictment, he took more than $350,000 for his own use and worked to hide his actions.

‘Launder donations’

After calling the effort a “volunteer organization,” Bannon, 66, received over $1 million of the donations which he funneled through a non-profit he controlled, using some of it for his personal expenses, prosecutors said.

All four men are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

In this file photo former Trump advisor Steve Bannon (L) watches as US President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo former Trump advisor Steve Bannon (L) watches as US President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

“Not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth,” said Philip Bartlett, head of New York’s division of the US Postal Inspection Service which worked on the investigation.

Prior to leading Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, Bannon — a brash, aggressively conservative voice of US nationalism — headed the far-right outlet Breitbart News.

Once a prominent voice in the president’s ear, Bannon was behind some of Trump’s most controversial moves, including his ban on some travelers from abroad and the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement.

After frequent clashes with others in the White House including Trump, Bannon was pushed out in August 2017.

In Coronavirus-Hit Mexico, Feeding Orphans Takes A ‘Miracle’

A 10-year-old boy works placing crosses at the San Miguel Xico cementery on August 5, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)

 

 

At an orphanage in pandemic-stricken Mexico, the nuns water down milk and eke out food for the children — victims of violence, poverty, and now the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Even before donations began drying up because of the disease, it was a struggle for Mother Ines de Maria Piedras and her sisters to keep the shelter located in Texcoco, in central Mexico, running.

Now the Casa Hogar San Martin De Porres y Juan XXIII is facing a critical situation.

Largely dependent on state resources that were already insufficient before the virus struck, the orphanage has lost several benefactors due to the pandemic.

“Many of them were left without work, so they stopped their donations until further notice,” Mother Ines told AFP.

Since 1965 the shelter has welcomed children who have suffered from mistreatment, sexual abuse or the sudden disappearance of their parents.

Currently 65 children and teenagers live there.

Due to sanitary measures prompted by the virus, the nuns cannot take in more children, or receive visitors from companies or groups that used to bring donations each Saturday.

A sign at the door says clothes and toys are no longer accepted, although some benefactors continue to leave what food they can spare.

“The situation worries us a lot because we have no economic security,” said Mother Ines, 52, standing in a small room full of toys.

– Scars of violence –
Most of the children at the orphanage are girls.

Some of those who have been there long enough to see their emotional wounds start to heal flash smiles, while nervous newer arrivals keep their heads down.

Many have been through traumatic times.

One girl’s father murdered her mother and buried her in the yard.

Two young twins were brought to the shelter after their mother simply disappeared.

Texcoco, where the shelter is located, is 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Ecatepec, considered the most dangerous town in the country for women.

So far this year, the authorities have recorded 473 suspected femicides across Mexico.

The State of Mexico, home to Texcoco, leads the way with 63 cases.

The children are referred to the orphanage by the authorities.

But the $1,500 a month they give the nuns to care for them all is barely a quarter of what is needed, said Mother Ines, wiping away her tears with her habit during a tour of the kitchen.

– ‘We perform miracles’  –
The situation has forced the nuns to take drastic measures, such as diluting the milk with one quarter water, said Barbara de la Rosa, the 37-year-old cook.

“We perform miracles!” she said.

The nuns draw drinking water from their homes because the well they rely on is drying up.

In the shelves for fruit and vegetables there are only a few kilos of potatoes, chayotes — a type of squash — and prickly pears, and some sausages in the refrigerator.

Outside, the twins play on the grass.

Here they learned to walk and uttered their first words, but they face an uncertain future.

With nearly 50,000 officially registered coronavirus deaths and around 450,000 cases, the country of 128.8 million has the world’s third-highest fatality toll from the pandemic.

The economy has buckled with an unprecedented plunge of more than 17 percent in gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of the year.

More than 12 million jobs have been lost, particularly in the informal economy.

The nuns have launched an appeal for help and a campaign to raise funds was organized on social media.

But so far the response has been modest.

“It’s worrying,” said the cook.

Unless the situation improves, “it’s uncertain where the little ones will end up.”

Peru Says Over 900 Girls, Women Feared Dead Since Pandemic Began

A patient infected with COVID-19 waits for assistance outside the regional Honorio Delgado Hospital, in the Andean city of Arequipa, south of Peru on July 23, 2020. – The government issued an emergency decree allowing the Ministry of Health to intervene to mitigate the crisis situation caused by the increase in COVID-19 infections and victims. Peru exceeded 17,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, adding 188 new cases and adding 3,688 deaths between March and June that had not been officially counted by health authorities, the government reported. (Photo by Diego RAMOS / AFP)

 

 

 

A staggering 900-plus girls and women are missing and feared dead in Peru since COVID-19 confinement began, authorities said Monday.

The Andean nation home to 33 million people long has had a horrific domestic violence problem.

But COVID-19, which has compounded home confinement combined with job losses and a health crisis, has seen an already scary situation grow worse in just 3-1/2 months, according to Eliana Revollar, who leads the women’s rights office of the National Ombudsman’s office.

Seventy percent of that figure are minors, she added.

“During the quarantine, from March 16 to June 30, 915 women in Peru were reported missing,” and feared dead, said Revollar.

Before COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every single day; since the lockdown, the number has surged to eight per day.

Revollar said Peru’s situation was grim because the lack of a national missing persons registry made it hard for authorities to keep track of the crisis.

Walter Gutierrez, the ombudsman, told RPS Radio: “We need to know what has happened to them.”

Revollar said she would push for the creation of a missing persons registry.

Women’s rights groups and NGOs however say that very often police refuse to investigate domestic violence, make fun of victims, or claim that the missing have left their homes willingly.

But that doesn’t address the fact that Peru has a problem with domestic violence and other violence against women, as well as human trafficking and forced prostitution.

In January, the case of a university student and activist for women’s rights and safety, Solsiret Rodriguez, was in the headlines here — but only when her body was found three years after she went missing.

Last year there were 166 killings of women in Peru; just a tenth of those were cases of a person first being reported missing. And there were just under 30,000 calls to report domestic violence, according to the Women’s Ministry.

And coronavirus hasn’t spared Peru: it has had more than 384,000 coronavirus cases and 18,229 deaths. It is the third-hardest hit country in Latin America behind Brazil and Mexico.

 

 

 

-AFP