MEXICO: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Thursday that he will introduce legislation that would ban the outsourcing of jobs by private companies, except for those that obtain prior government authorization. The proposal says that personnel, staffing and temp companies can help private firms hire, but they cannot be listed as their employer.
Outsourcing in Mexico grew from 1 million workers to about 4.6 million by 2018. Labor Secretary Luisa Maria Alcalde said that the practice has been abused to avoid paying employees the benefits they are due by law. She also said that some companies fire workers before Christmas and rehire them in January to avoid paying year-end bonuses. In 2019, this appeared to have happened to about 380,000 workers, according to authorities. Although Mexico’s minimum wage is $5.50 a day, companies are required to pay health and retirement plans for their employees and provide year-end bonuses if applicable.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
ARGENTINA: Argentina on Thursday legalized the self-cultivation of marijuana and sale of cannabis products in pharmacies for medicinal use. The decree signed by President Alberto Fernández ensures private and public medical insurances cover cannabis medications for therapeutic purposes. The ruling establishes that doctors have a fundamental role in accompanying patients who will use the plant and it will be provided for free to anyone who might need it.
CHILE: Chile’s health workers went on strike to demand the approval of a COVID-19 bonus meant to grant special aid for families affected by the pandemic. Chile’s National Federation of Health Workers announced a two-day strike to address social requests such as the approval of the COVID-19 special aid and the increase in the budget for 2021 since spending in the health sector was cut by 3.2% this year.
BOLIVIA: President Luis Arce signed two laws to add $704 million to the anti-hunger initiative “Bono Contra el Hambre” (bonus against hunger). The objective of both loans is to combat the financial strain COVID-19 has put the country through. According to Arce, the anti-hunger bond is supposed to strengthen the country’s working class, and internal demand and revenue. He assured the media that the bonus will be available in December. He said the payment will be 1,000 bolivianos ($145 USD) and every Bolivian 18 and up will receive it.
COLOMBIA: Colombia’s government is currently developing a five-year coronavirus recovery plan that will inject more than 46 billion pesos in economic recovery, according to El Espectador. The Finance Ministry and the National Planning Department are currently working together to develop a plan that will help the country recover from its economic recession caused by the pandemic. The investment could add as much as 13% to the country’s GDP.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The island’s executive branch has extended the country’s curfew for an additional 20 days in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The curfew will last until December 1. Residents must not leave their homes after 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next day. The curfew begins two hours earlier on weekends. President Luis Abinader also ratified the order to use masks in public. The Health Ministry recorded 528 new cases and 2 deaths from COVID-19, with the country seeing a total of 2,269 deaths.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: A commission in the country’s parliament on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit child marriage. A controversy broke out when it was revealed that five of the commission’s members defended child marriage in certain exceptions. President Luis Abinader responded to the controversy on Twitter and announced that he will take actions to “definitively penalize this abnormality by law.”
Reiteramos la posición de este Gobierno contra el matrimonio infantil. Es también la posición oficial del @PRM_Oficial. El lunes próximo informaremos al país las acciones que estamos organizando para definitivamente penalizar por ley esa anormalidad.
— Luis Abinader (@luisabinader) November 12, 2020
The approved text states that “under no circumstances” will marriage of minors under 18 years old be allowed. The project also proposes to repeal articles of the Civil Code that allow girls of 15 years of age and older to marry. The Dominican Republic has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 35% of Dominican girls and teens marrying before the age of 18. This is a much higher rate than the Latin American region, which stands at about 23%. In 12% of registered unions in the Dominican Republic, the bride is under 15 years old, over double the average of 5% for Latin America.
COSTA RICA: A “special temporary status” of protection has been created for Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Cubans who have been denied their request for refuge in the country. The protection measure will allow nationals from these three countries to stay and work legally in Costa Rica for a period of two years, which is extendable, as long as applicants meet all established requirements. Only those who received a denial of their refugee status between January 2016 and March 18, 2020 will qualify. Costa Rica created this category after analyzing an argument from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in favor of political migrants, recognizing that migrants from these three countries face human rights violations and persecution.
HONDURAS: Over 1.7 million people have been affected by Hurricane Eta, and the Red Cross is mobilizing to provide aid to the country and the rest of the region. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has issued an emergency appeal for funds to provide shelter, sanitation, hygiene and health assistance. Many of those impacted by the hurricane are from Indigenous communities who were left without access to food and water. Some economists project that the loss from Eta could be even greater than that of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the most destructive storm to hit Central America, as the region now faces the fallout from a natural disaster amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNITED STATES: Despite the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in detention facilities, detainees are at a disproportionately high risk of contracting the virus, according to a report published late October in JAMA. Researchers analyzed data from 92 out of the 135 ICE detention centers and found the case rate among detainees to be about 13 times higher than the rate of the general population each month from April to August. The authors of the report said the spread in detention facilities might be a lot worse, as the lack of transparency, minimal testing and anecdotal reports suggest that the numbers are higher. ICE only reports detainees that have been tested but not the number of tests given. The case rate is also higher than those reported by United States federal and state prisons.