LatAm Daily Briefing: Argentina Claims Debt ‘Unpayable’; Chile Surpasses Germany in Covid-19 Deaths; US Sanctions Mexican Compan

19 June: Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update.

19 June: Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update.

Argentina’s cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero said Thursday that Argentina's debt is "unpayable" in its current form, and told the country’s congress the burden must be restructured. Speaking less than 24 hours before the latest deadline for talks with creditors arrived, Cafiero said the blame for the debt issue should be attributed to the previous government led by former president Mauricio Macri, who he accused of acting irresponsibly by overloading Argentina with debt commitments. "The debt was contracted irresponsibly, it is unpayable and it is deeply unfair to put it on the back of Argentines," the cabinet chief told the Senate in response to questions from the opposition regarding the status of the debt talks, which have stalled in recent days as Argentina prepares a new proposal to continue with its payments, after defaulting for the ninth time in May. 

Six Brazilian states have more than 80% occupancy of intensive care (IC) beds for patients with Covid-19 as the country begins to reopen its economy, with shopping malls having reopened in major cities this week, and as the country prepares to restart soccer tournaments. The data, collected by local newspaper Folha de São Paulo, one of the media outlets that is gathering figures on the Covid-19 pandemic, shows that the states of Acre, Ceará, Rondônia, Espírito Santo and Rio Grande do Norte face a critical scenario, while the states that have already reached the collapse of their health systems, such as Amazonas, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, are beginning to show an easing of pressure on hospitals destined to the treatment of Covid-19, according to the newspaper. Brazil’s death toll from the virus currently stands at 47,897, with more than 984,000 confirmed cases, with the latter figure expected to surpass one million by the end of this week.

Chile has surpassed Germany and Iran to become the world’s ninth worst-hit country by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 226 more deaths and 4,475 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people to 225,103 since March 3rd. Health Minister Enrique Paris, who stepped into the role this week, said the country will continue testing and tracing to contain the spread. In a further attempt to contain contagion, authorities extended mandatory quarantine this week to five more communes, in the regions of Valparaíso, O’Higgins and in the urban radius of Curicó, in Maule. Sanctions were also increased against those violating the quarantine, including fines and penalties of up to three years in prison.

The Colombian army has rescued two tourists kidnapped three months ago by dissident guerrillas from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebel group that has been in conflict successive governments for decades, but which signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016. The tourists were traveling in the country’s Cauca department when they were abducted, and the rebels were demanding several million pesos as a ransom. One of the tourists’ captors was taken into custody, according to media reports. Another rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), which does not recognize the peace deal signed between the government and the FARC, freed six hostages earlier this week in a bid to restart peace talks with the government.

The US Treasury Department has blacklisted two Mexican companies over their links to Venezuela. Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group stand accused of helping Caracas evade US sanctions, in what is the first formal action by the US against Mexican firms involved in trading Venezuelan oil, according to Reuters. The Treasury said in a statement it imposed sanctions on three individuals, eight entities and two vessels for activities related to a network attempting to skirt US sanctions on Venezuela. Libre Abordo and Schlager are accused of brokering the resale of millions of barrels of Venezuelan crude. Also listed is Mexican Joaquin Leal Jimenez, accusing him of having worked with Alex Saab, recently arrested in Cape Verde. Leal accused of acting as a conduit between Libre Abordo, Schlager Business Group, and their owners, and PDVSA and Saab. The US sanctions are aimed at crippling the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Peru’s economy is currently functioning at between 50-55% of its capacity, the country’s cabinet chief Vicente Zeballos said on Thursday, and which remains below the 80% capacity the government had said the economy would achieve this month amid its partial reopening. More retail outlets began opening this week. Meanwhile, the country is considering restarting domestic flights in the first half of July, along with inter-provincial road passenger transport, according to Transport and Communications Minister Carlos Lozada. “The restarting of domestic flights will be within the first 15 days of July,” he was quoted by local media as saying, but added that the final decision regarding the restarting of both methods of transport will depend on the Health Ministry. The Covid-19 death toll in Peru now stands at 7,461, with more than 244,000 confirmed cases.


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