There are relatively few cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Latin America so far. But coronavirus is spreading in the region, and Latin American governments are taking action to arrest or slow the spread of COVID-19, sometimes quite drastic.
Noteworthy from a National Question perspective: they are taking action independently, based on their current understanding and their particular situation, As Pat Buchanan says: It's Every Nation for Itself.
As of March 16, there were 82 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mexico, 171 suspected cases and no deaths.
In his March 13 press conference, President AMLO made a few comments, saying coronavirus shouldn’t be politicized as he proceeded to do just that, railing against “conservadores” (conservatives), a group which according to him includes elements of the Mexican media, presumably those who aren’t on his bandwagon [Versión estenográfica de la conferencia de prensa matutina | Viernes 13 de marzo de 2020 (“Stenographic Version of the Morning Press Conference of March 13, 2020”), Presidential Website, March 13, 2020].
After that, AMLO turned the podium over to Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, Undersecretary of Health for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
According to Wikipedia, Dr. Lopez-Gatell received his doctorate in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health so he presumably knows a thing or two about epidemics. He said that Mexico does not currently have a state of emergency to deal with the virus, on the level of the United States. And he explained how the disease got to the U.S. before Mexico:
“…the arrival of passengers and also commercial relations between the U.S. and China, and the U.S. and Europe, are much more intense than what exists between China or Europe with Mexico, therefore for that reason we had less intensity of the possibly entry of the virus.”
Lopez-Gatell said that “Today the possible flow of coronavirus would come from the north to the south, not from the south to the north.”
In this case, from the U.S. to Mexico. So what follows?
“…in the case that it were technically necessary to consider mechanisms of restriction and intensification of vigilance, we would have to consider not that Mexico would take the virus to the United States, but the United States would bring it to Mexico.”
In other words, it’s more likely that COVID-19 travels from the U.S. to Mexican than from Mexico to the U.S.
As far as what would be done, the official wasn’t very specific, simply speaking of “mechanisms of restriction and intensification of vigilance.”
Does that mean that Mexico might forbid Americans from entering Mexico? Theoretically.
But the Daily Mail (U.K.) grabbed ahold of Lopez-Gatell’s statement and spectacularly titled its article Mexico is considering closing its border to stop Americans bringing coronavirus into its country as US case count passes 2,000 by Jennifer Smith, March 13, 2020).
That’s an exaggeration which makes it sound as though the Mexican government is actively considering this, which is not quite what Lopez-Gatell said.
But certainly, Mexico has the right to bar Americans from entering its territory.
One more thing. Given that COVID-19 is more likely to enter Mexico from the U.S. than vice versa, does that mean Trump was wrong when he tweeted that
Trump has been ridiculed over this tweet (just look at the responses on the tweetstream).
But did Trump, not known for his precision, actually say that coronavirus comes from Mexico? I don’t see that in the tweet.
Strong borders unquestionably do make it easier to deal with these situations.
And don’t forget that, if both the U.S. and Mexico hadn’t strengthened their borders in recent months, there would be many more non-Mexicans (including people from outside our hemisphere) in Mexico crossing into the United States—certainly including some with coronavirus along with many other diseases.
From The Guardian:
Concerns are growing that the deportation of migrants from the US and Mexico could accelerate the spread of coronavirus in Central America, after authorities in Honduras suspended repatriation flights and confirmed the first two cases in the country…… three men deported from the US also arrived presenting symptoms of the virus. The three deportees – aged between 18 and 26 – have been placed in isolation, and President Juan Orlando Hernández called for calm, saying on Wednesday: “We cannot allow ourselves to be guided by panic or hysteria.”
US migrant deportations risk spreading coronavirus to Central America, by Jeff Ernst, March 12, 2020
An American “migration expert” called on both the U.S. and Mexico to stop deporting:
…activists fear that the constant flow of deportees from the US and Mexico could complicate the region’s ability to contain the virus…. “Those countries need to be reviewing a moratorium on deportations right now in light of this illness,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a migration expert based in Central America.
As of March 16, this Central American nation bordering Mexico had 8 confirmed cases. However, even when it just had one, the Guatemalan government announced a ban on flights from the U.S. and Canada and requested Mexico to stop deportations back to Guatemala [Guatemala bans flights from US, Canada to contain coronavirus spread, by Sara Dorn, New York Post, March 14, 2020]
Guatemala had already banned flights from China, North Korea, South Korea, Iran and France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
This Central American country has as yet no confirmed cases, but isn’t taking any chances, with a three-week school closure. And illegal entries to El Salvador?
[President Nayib] Bukele said 2,000 soldiers would be deployed to patrol 142 non-official entry points into the country, and that anyone attempting to enter would be imprisoned. Anyone caught entering illegally would have to report their infringement on videos and upload it, he noted, before publicly shaming a man he said had snuck into El Salvador. "This person was making fun on social media of having entered El Salvador through a blind spot," Bukele wrote. "He's already been captured and will spend quarantine in prison." Bukele, who has 1.3 million Twitter followers, deleted the post minutes later.
El Salvador president seeks emergency powers to fight coronavirus, by Nelson Renteria, Reuters, March 13, 2020
As of March 16, Honduras had 6 confirmed cases. Even when they had only 3 (with 15 under observation) the Honduran government announced a two-week “red alert” which prohibits public events with more than 50 persons [Emiten alerta roja para los 18 departamentos de Honduras por coronavirus, La Prensa, March 14, 2020].
And, of special interest to the United States, Honduras has suspended flights of deportees from the United States to Honduras.
Other Latin American countries are also taking measures. It appears that most of the Coronavirus in these countries was imported from Europe, although several have a lot of trade with China [Where Is the Coronavirus in Latin America?, by Luisa Horwitz and Paola Nagovitch, Americas Society/Council of the Americas, March 13, 2020]
Bottom line: Latin American leaders are looking out for their countries, even if that includes restricting travel from the United States.
But, given that (for reasons that bear looking into) the U.S. has more coronavirus cases than all of Latin America put together, isn’t that reasonable?
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.