LatAm Daily Briefing: São Paulo to Ramp Up Covid-19 Testing; Chile Unveils $12bn Emergency Covid-19 Fund; Volkswagen Mexico Retu

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

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


Argentina has no plans to restart soccer tournaments in the country in the near future, given the rise in Covid-19 infections, according to Health Minister Gines González. Sports events in Argentina have been suspended since mid-March. “We cannot think about allowing football to be played in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area or anywhere else in the country in the near term,” González was quoted by local media as saying. “I see no need to even train right now,” he added. Germany’s national league, the Bundesliga, restarted competition in mid-May, while Spain’s league, La Liga, restarted on June 11th. Argentina remains in partial lockdown as a result of the virus, with international flights on hold until at least mid-August. The country has so far reported 815 deaths from Covid-19, with more than 30,000 infections.

The Brazilian city of São Paulo aims to test around 44,000 people across its 96 districts in the coming weeks to monitor new coronavirus infections in a bid to gradually allow the reopening of economic activity. The first round of serological tests was completed on Sunday and will be followed by seven more, in each of the city’s 468 basic health clinics. The aim of the testing is to map where the virus still has a strong presence, and to monitor people close to those infected and to treat them before they need hospitalization. Shopping malls in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro reopened last week, in a move seen as premature by health analysts, given the virus’ continued presence. Brazil has now recorded 43,396 Covid-19 deaths, with more than 870,000 confirmed cases.

Chile’s Finance Minister Ignacio Briones has announced a fresh, two-year, $12 billion citizen support and economic stimulus package to overcome the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. The plan is the result of a cross-party agreement reached on Sunday. Briones was quoted by media as saying Chile was experiencing a “unique moment” in its history as it faces the toughest weeks of fighting the pandemic, and that the only way out of it was through working together to offer its citizens “a sign of hope.” The announcement comes after criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis, and a new surge in cases following an easing of lockdown measures. Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera removed Health Minister Jaime Mañalich on the weekend, who had come in for criticism for failing to implement a lockdown sooner. Chile’s death toll from the virus is currently 3,362, with more than 179,000 confirmed cases.

Colombian left-wing guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) has released six hostages, among them two police officers who had been held by the rebel group since March, to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The release of the hostages is seen as an attempt by the ELN to resume peace talks with the government, which were suspended last year following an ELN bomb attack on a police academy in Bogotá. The release follows that of two oil services company employees, who were freed on Friday after being held for 36 days. The ELN is classified as a terrorist organization by Colombia and the United States.

Carmaker Volkswagen reportedly plans to send workers back to its plants in Mexico’s central state of Puebla this week in preparation for a return to production. The decision comes despite Puebla state governor Miguel Barbosa having advised that conditions for the reopening of the automotive and construction sectors are not favorable, according to media reports. Mexico began a partial reopening of its productive sectors on June 1st, and which included construction and the automotive sector, while some assembly plants, particularly those that are US-owned or directly supply US companies, returned to work sooner. Volkswagen and Audi assemble vehicles in the Puebla plants, and which are major sources of employment for the city of Puebla. Mexico’s Covid-19 cases continue to spread, with the death toll from the virus currently at 17,141, with more than 147,000 confirmed cases.

Peru is eyeing a growth in avocado exports to the US as Mexico’s exports shrink. Peru’s avocado exports traditionally focus on Europe, with sales to the US dominated by Mexico, but the drop in Mexican exports will make room for more Peruvian product, according to the president of ProHass, the Peruvian avocado association, Daniel Bustamante. Mexican avocado exports typically total around 50,000 pounds per week, but have dropped to around 35,000 in recent weeks, with Peru expected to fill the gap in demand during July and August, Bustamante said. He added that the country’s avocado production has not been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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