LatAm Daily News Roundup: May 22nd

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

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

Argentina has extended its deadline for negotiations with private bondholders until June 2nd to restructure its $65 billion foreign debt. Passing its original deadline of May 22nd means the country will be defaulting on its sovereign debt for the ninth time. “We are encouraged by the willingness of both sides to continue discussions to reach an agreement,” Gerry Rice, the IMF’s communications director, said in a press conference on Thursday when asked about an imminent default. While bondholders have accused the country’s economy minister Martín Guzmán of being too dogmatic, one bondholder was quoted as saying by the Financial Times that the creditors’ and the governments’ proposals “are not a million miles away from each other”.

Brazil plans to increase emergency aid for the country’s informal workers, with payments to low-paid, informal workers to total 151.5 billion reais ($26.8 billion) over the next three months. The aid package for the informal sector comes as the Economy Ministry released unemployment figures for the formal sector for the first half of May, and which show a 76.2% rise in unemployment claims over the same period of last year. The year-to-date total was also a sharp rise on 2019, by 9.6% to 2.84 million claims. The government has so far spent 344.6 billion reais ($62 billion) on total emergency measures in the face of the coronavirus, which has now claimed 20,047 lives in Brazil, with some 310,000 confirmed cases.

Chilean-headquartered LATAM Airlines Group, the largest airline conglomerate in Latin America, has announced it will lay off 1,400 workers from its branches in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. “Unfortunately we’ve come to the conclusion that we have no option other than starting to reduce the group,” the company’s CEO Roberto Alvo said in a video shared with employees and broadcast by Reuters. CNN Chile reported that, of the 1,400 employees to be laid off, 400 are cabin crew workers. The move makes LATAM the first major Latin American carrier to confirm layoffs as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Canada will make a contribution of CAD$7.5 million ($5.3 million) to support immediate life-saving assistance in Central and South America, including in Colombia, through the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). The support will allow recipient countries to address the most urgent needs in the midst of the pandemic, such as the delivery of personal protective equipment and the improvement of essential medical services. Canada will also provide CAD$35,000 ($26,115) to the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, the first university laboratory certified by Colombia’s National Institute of Health (INS) to increase the capacity and coverage of nationwide Covid-19 testing. Colombia’s death toll from the virus reached 652 on Thursday, with more than 18,000 confirmed cases.

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei has criticized the US for deporting migrants back to the country who are infected with the coronavirus, and which he says is placing a strain on the Central American country’s health system. One hundred and nineteen migrants deported to Guatemala have tested positive for Covid-19, and which represent 5% of the country’s total cases. The country has so far registered 48 deaths from the virus.

Mexico has overtaken Canada to enter the top ten countries with the highest death toll from Covid-19, as the country’s total number of fatalities reached 6,510 on Thursday. The increase in the number of confirmed cases surged overnight to an all-time high of 2,973, bringing the total number to above 59,000. Meanwhile, the country’s education ministry has proposed bringing forward the school summer holidays to June 26th, with pupils returning to school in late July or early August to finish their academic year, with the start of the new school year pushed back to mid-September. The proposal will be discussed during the next meeting of the council of national education authorities, which is to be held in the first week of June.


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