From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online’s news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
H1N1 Scare Shows Signs of Ebbing
More than a week after a global swine flu scare, some are sounding notes of cautious optimism. Speaking on Sunday’s Meet the Press, the Center for Disease Control’s Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser spoke of “encouraging signs.” He suggested that deaths related to the disease in Mexico may be related to the widespread nature of the disease there. Still, the optimism has also been tempered with caution. As The Economist notes, the World Health Organization’s Margaret Chan warned that, even though H1N1 could subside in the near future, the world must be prepared in the case that it returns.
Stratfor offers an analysis of how and why panic spread about H1N1.
Mexico, Feeling Flu’s Impact, Restarts Engine
On May 6, as Mexico City businesses reopened after five days of mandated closure, Mexican Health Minister José Ángel Córdova Villalobos confirmed 42 deaths related to H1N1. Finance Minister Agustin Carstens warned that Mexico’s economy, already battered by the global financial crisis, would lose $2 billion because of the outbreak and see it’s growth rate decrease by as much as 0.5 percent as a result. Carstens announced a $2 billion stimulus package to push recovery, particularly for tourism and small business sectors.
Minister Carstens will join the Council of the Americas on May 13 for the 39th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas. Access a complete list of speakers and a conference agenda. Registration for the event closes on May 8.
Flu Outbreak Causes Mexico-China Spat
Controversy over treatment of Mexican citizens sparked tensions with Beijing in recent days. Mexico’s Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa called China’s decision to quarantine 70 Mexicans “unacceptable” and “without foundation.” Financial Times reports that the World Health Organization asked China to justify its decision to confine dozens of Mexicans as well as 22 Canadian citizens to hotel rooms, as well as its cancellation of flights to Mexico. The Washington Post’s John Pomfret asks, “[W]ill targeting people with Mexican passports really stop H1N1’s spread?”
As AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini explained in an H1N1 special on PBS’ Worldfocus, Mexico has found itself a victim of widespread discrimination. “Many Mexicans feel rightly aggrieved that they’re being targeted,” said Sabatini, who touched on the economic consequences of the epidemic within Mexico, noting that several industries have been hit hard and that tourism may suffer for months to come.
The New Republic’s “Treatment” blog examines why blaming Mexicans for the flu “is immoral. And foolish.”
Supermarket Magnate Wins Panamanian Elections
Business leader Ricardo Martinelli, the opposition candidate, easily won Panama’s May 3 election, defeating rival Balbina Herrera with 61 percent of the vote. TIME takes a look at what the millionaire’s victory means for the country, a bilateral trade deal with the United States, and the canal’s development. Bloggingsbyboz offers a five-point-perspective on Martinell’s win, including economic and security challenges.
Read an interview with COA’s Eric Farnsworth about Panama’s presidential election.
Russia Expels Canadian Diplomats in Tit for Tat
The Globe and Mail reports on a Russian move to expel two Canadians working for NATO and based in Moscow. The step came in response to NATO’s decision last week to revoke accreditation of two members of Russia’s mission to its