The coronavirus epidemic is giving authorities exceptional powers that in countries with fragile democracies are exacerbating social tensions or problems that were previously under international criticism.RELATED
Guayaquil, the economic capital of Ecuador and one of the main outbreaks of the epidemic in Latin America – the area with the most cases behind Brazil – has witnessed two days of police violence against the city’s poorest population, where People live on the street trade, mainly, crowded into tiny houses and in environments of crime and marginality. In Guayaquil, the local population denounces the unworthy conditions suffered by the victims of the virus and their families, with coffins that remain in houses for days without anyone moving them or bodies wrapped in sheets that accumulate in streets and ditches.
Speaking to eldiario.es, Adrián Tarín, a Spanish professor of social communication at the National University of Ecuador and a journalist in a community media, relates that after the announcement of measures to alleviate the progression of the virus, both in poor neighborhoods and in the wealthy nobody complied with the recommendations so the police decided to intervene.
“It was the forces of order themselves that recorded and posted the scenes on social networks, where you can see how they are forced to do physical exercise but also combine it with blows with whips, sticks or belts,” he explains. “There have been cases of people having their faces painted, their hair cut, in the middle of the street.”
After the images began to circulate to other parts of the country they stopped transcending. “It may continue to happen but there is no record of it because it is not reported,” says Adrián Tarín.
Ecuador began to apply containment measures since mid-March and has progressively increased the restrictions. Now there is a curfew between 2 in the afternoon and 5 in the morning. The rest of the day people are allowed to leave to go to essential jobs and the purchase of basic necessities, according to the identification number, to avoid crowds. In addition, in Guayaquil there is a strong militarization of the streets and a closure of the city to which only supply transport has access.
In India, which announced the confinement of 1.3 billion people last week, police are spraying workers returning from large cities to their places of origin to quarantine with chemicals in what appears to be an attempt to disinfect them before enter their localities. According to the local newspaper Indian express, a sodium hypochlorite solution was used, a product used for cleaning swimming pools and which can cause burns to the skin, eyes and lungs.
But this was not the only case, the Indian police have also resorted to violence to repress people who go out. They use bamboo sticks to hit civilians that violate confinement.
Since a curfew was imposed in Kenya on March 27, various organizations in defense of Human Rights, including International AmnestyThey have been denouncing the police and army brutality and the use of tear gas against those who try to return home from their jobs.
According to EFE reports, the Kenyan authorities are investigating the death of a 12-year-old boy who died, allegedly, of a police bullet while he was on the balcony of his house last Tuesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that he will release 100,000 of the nearly 300,000 people behind bars in the country to prevent the spread of the virus in prisons. Although the proposal is still a draft that needs to be debated in parliament, it would not allow the release of people accused of terrorism, an accusation used on many occasions against political opponents. In this way, and as Human Rights Watch denounces, the measure would be “a tool to attack political prisoners.”
Russia announced last week, according to reports Foreign Policy, which canceled the annual amnesty granted to celebrate the anniversary of Russia’s victory in World War II (although commemorative parades will continue to stand). In this way, the 230,000 people who were planned to be released from Russian prisons would be imprisoned, for an alleged “fear” of the population of infections in prisons and that “could infect the entire population,” according to explained the deputy director of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, an advisory body reporting to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin has announced that he extends the declaration of nonworking every day until January 30, which has caused the cancellation of parcel services, a consequence that is also aggravating for the prison population, who could eat and receive medicines thanks to the packages that their relatives send, since according to what they denounce “the government does not give access to medicines the food is of very low quality“
The United Nations has asked it’s a statement governments to avoid putting in place excessive security measures that could be a way to silence dissent. Several UN human rights experts have recalled that the decisions “must be notified to the relevant bodies” and “in no case as an objective against particular groups, minorities or individuals.”
This week the Hungarian parliament approved an amendment to give the ultra-nationalist Viktor Orbán more powers to govern indefinitely by decree to fight the coronavirus. The measure, widely criticized by the opposition and human rights organizations, gives the government the possibility of suspending laws and blocking the dissemination of information “that may hinder or make defense impossible” (against the epidemic) and apply penalties of up to five years jail for violators.
In the Philippines, parliament has also granted “special powers” to the president, Rodrigo Duterte, during the national emergency declared in the country by the epidemic. In this way, Duterte can act without having the Legislative, modify the budgets at will and intervene private companies.
In addition, it has reduced the control of the Department of Health on the measures to be applied to place the Armed Forces at the forefront of crisis management. In the past three weeks, according to a Human Rights Watch complaint, more than 17,000 people have been detained for violating the confinement, and many of them have been kept in cages in full sun for hours as a form of punishment.
In recent days, in poor neighborhoods of the capital, there have been protests to ask the state for help in coping with the quarantine, and this Thursday, the president has gone one step further and ordered the security forces to “shoot to kill “anyone who skips confinement, reports EFE. “Dead. In exchange for causing trouble, I will send you to the grave,” he said in a televised message.
China has not only closed several cities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it has also implemented a series of security measures to control the population in a new episode of government intrusion on their privacy: access controls to enter the home, mobile operators they track population movements and conversations, and even facial recognition systems capable of distinguishing among the crowd those with fever or those without masks.
Moscow, which has ordered confinement for the entire population, is using the more than 170,000 cameras that already exist in the city to monitor that citizens comply with the measures. Last week alone, the police reported 200 fines to people who had violated the quarantine, CNN details. In addition, they intend to use video surveillance, as in China, to find possible cases of coronavirus, notify health authorities and others who may have had contact with them.
In Israel, as reported The New York TimesPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the national security agency to track the devices of people who tested positive for COVID-19 and to quarantine others who had direct contact with those infected. According to this same means, the measure should have passed through the parliamentary subcommittee on Secret Services, but ultimately it did not. In addition, he has imposed penalties of up to six months in prison for skipping quarantine and has prohibited visits in prisons, including defense attorneys.