News Timeline: Latin America 2021

January 21 – Brazil / Mexico

The coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Brazilians, the second highest number in the world after to the United States, but the country secured only six million doses of vaccine (Brazil has 213 million people). President Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly accused scientists for exaggerating the seriousness of the virus. Despite rising Covid-19 cases, bars and restaurants stayed open at full capacity. In recent weeks, Brazil has often reported more than 1,000 deaths a day.[1]

(Jan 28): Mexico’s records 155,145 deaths from coronavirus making it the world’s third highest. The country’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been downplaying the virus; now the government is struggling to control it with hospitals reaching its capacity.[2]

April 9 – Chile

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

The number of daily cases in Chile reaches a new record high of over 9,000 for the first time since the pandemic began.  Hospitals are again overwhelmed, and for the second time the country announces another lockdown and closes its borders.  Critics accuse President Sebastián Piñera’s government of loosening the Covid restrictions and opening the economy too early considering that the vaccination campaign in Chile has been fast, but started only in late December.[3]

April 12 – Mexico / Honduras / Guatemala


The United States comes to a deal on immigration, which makes Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala commit more troops to tighten their borders and keep down the flow of migrants crossing into the U.S.  US Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 172,000 people attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in March, a 71 percent increase from February.  They also detained a record number of unaccompanied minors, with 18,890 in March, twice as many as in February.  The Biden Administration is engaging with the leaders from countries in Central America to address the root causes of the migration by improving job opportunities and living conditions in their region.[4]

April 16 – Cuba

Raúl Castro resigns as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, ending more than 62 years of rule by the Castro brothers in Cuba.  The Castros have been in power since 1959 when Fidel Castro toppled the Cuban government and took over the country’s leadership. His brother, Raul Castro took over from him in 2008.  The change comes in the midst of Cuba’s serious economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.[5] 

(Apr 19): TheCuban communist Party nominates Miguel Díaz-Canel to take over as first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from Raúl Castro. In 2018, Díaz-Canel succeeded Castro as Cuba’s president. He is seen as loyal to the Castros and their economic model.[6]

In pictures: Raúl Castro’s career over six decades

About Miguel Díaz-Canel

Cuba’s digital revolutionaries (video)

May 18 – Latin America

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

The coronavirus crisis in Latin America has taken a turn for the worse.  Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia have hit record numbers of daily deaths from Covid-19.  Even authoritarian Venezuela known for hiding health statistics says its coronavirus deaths are up 86 percent since January.  Last week, Latin America accounted for 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world, despite having just 8 percent of the global population.  Some of the reasons of the crisis are limited vaccine supply (Colombia has so far vaccinated only 6 percent of its population, with other countries in the region even less), weak and overburden health systems and poor economic situation that makes stay-at-home orders difficult to enforce.[7]

More about the Covid-19 situation in South America

May 29 – Colombia

Anti-government protests

Violent and deadly nationwide antigovernment protests in Colombia have been going on for over a month.  The protests began in April over a proposed tax increase.  Although the tax plan was withdrawn, the protests expanded to include grievances over police violence, poverty, and Colombia’s health crisis.   Dozens of people have been killed in clashes with police, and President Ivan Duque says he is deploying army troops to Cali, the epicenter of the protests, as well as to other cities.   During the pandemic, poverty in Cali increased three times more than in the rest of the country.[8] 

Why Colombia’s protests are unlikely to fizzle out?

June 8 – El Salvador

Economy/Finance: Bitcoin

El Salvador is the first country to adopt the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as legal currency in the country alongside the U.S. dollar with September 7 as the official start date.  The new law means every business must accept Bitcoin as legal tender for goods or services, unless it is unable to provide the technology needed to do the transaction.  President Nayib Bukele promises that this will bring “financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation and economic development for our country.”  The critics, however, raise concerns about the cryptocurrency’s volatility and no direct connection to the real economy.[9]

What is Bitcoin?

More about Bitcoin in El Salvador and El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele

Nayib Bukele: El Salvador’s Bitcoin messiah

June 20 – Brazil

Global Health: coronavirus, or COVID-19

Brazil becomes the second country (after the United States) to surpass half a million deaths from COVID-19.   Among the reasons are slow progress in vaccinations and no restrictive measures.[10]

July 8 – Latin America

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

The number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide surpasses 4 million. It took nine months for the virus to claim one million lives.  The second million were lost in three and a half months, the third in three months, and the fourth in about two and a half months.

Spikes in new Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the new variant and low vaccination rates take place throughout Africa, Asia, and the Latin American region.   In Brazil, Covid-19 had has led to a significant decrease in life expectancy.   To date, about 3.3 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.  Regions where large numbers of people have been vaccinated, like the United States and much of Europe, have seen sharply lower death rates.[11] 

More on the coronavirus situation worldwide

How Nations Are Learning to Live With Covid

July 7 – Haiti

Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, is assassinated and his wife injured during an attack by a group of assailants who stormed their home in Pétion-Ville.  He was sworn in as president in 2017 after winning the November 2016 election. Prime Minister Claude Joseph takes over as acting President.

Background: Opposition in Haiti claimed Moïse’s term in office ended in February 2021, but he refused to leave and insisted he had one more year to serve.  Because of a delay in parliamentary elections, Moïse ruled by decree.  He also faced accusation of corruption that caused widespread anti-government protests calling for his resignation. 

The worsening living standards in Haiti have recently pushed nearly 60 percent below the poverty line.[12]

Protests in Haiti explained, (video 02:16 min)

How the Assassination of Haiti’s President Follows Years of Strife and Gridlock

Who killed President Moïse

July 11 – Cuba

Anti-government protests

Thousands-strong rare antigovernment protests in Cuba take place throughout the country.  People are angry about the collapse of the economy, food and medicine shortages, rising prices, and the government’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.  Tourism, one of Cuba’s most important sectors, has been devastated by the Covid-19 travel restrictions.  Protesters clash with the security forces and dozens are detained.  President Miguel Díaz-Canel blames sanctions imposed by the United States on Cuba for the economic problems.[13]  

Three reasons behind rare demonstrations in Cuba

U.S.-Cuba Relations

US-Cuba Sanctions: Are They Working Yet?

August 4 – Latin America

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpasses 200 million worldwide due to the spread of more infectious delta variant and low vaccination rates, especially poor countries.   The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine boosters until at least 10 percent of the population in every country is vaccinated.

The United States, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Iran represent about 38 percent of all global cases each day.  The United States accounts for one in every seven infections reported worldwide.  Florida with its low vaccination rates becomes new epicenter of Covid cases.  Unvaccinated people represent nearly 97 percent of severe cases.[14]

More on Covid’s Toll Compared With Other Things That Kill Us

August 14 – Haiti


A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Haiti, killing at least 2,000 people and injuring more than 12,000, with many more missing.  An estimated 600,000 people are in need of assistance.  Combined with the Covid-19 crisis, hospitals are overwhelmed to provide treatment to the sick and injured.  Haiti has been recently hit and devastated by a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016, while dealing with a political crisis after the assassination of its president last month.  Armed gangs attack convoys of aid agencies and rescue workers.[15]

In pictures: Desperate search after Haiti quake

More on Haiti – political and economic crises and natural disasters

November 8 – Brazil

Global Health: coronavirus, or COVID-19

More than 250 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported globally and more than 5 million people have died from it since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020. The United States, India and Brazil account for more than 40 percent of all reported cases.  It is believed that actual case numbers are much higher than what is officially reported.   About 4 billion people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine worldwide, and about 3.1 billion people are fully vaccinated.[16]

November 30 – Barbados

Becoming a Republic

After 396 years, a small Caribbean Island of Barbados votes to stop pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II becoming a republic with its newly elected President Sandra Mason as the country’s head of state.  However, Barbados will remain in the Commonwealth.  Announcing this decision, Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley said the time had come for Barbados to “fully leave our colonial past behind”.[17]

About the Commonwealth


[1] Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado. “Bolsonaro Talked Vaccines Down. Now Brazil has Too Few Doses.” The New York Times. January 18, 2021. Updated March 3, 2021. Accessed March 2, 21.

[2] “Mexico’s death toll becomes the world’s third highest, surpassing India’s.” The Coronavirus Outbreak. The New York Times.

[3] Jane Chambers. “Chile sees Covid surge despite vaccination success.” BBC News. April 16, 2021. Accessed June 1, 2021.

[4] Priscilla Alvarez. “Biden admin secures agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to secure borders, official says.” CNN. April 12, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021

[5] “Raúl Castro steps down as Cuban Communist Party leader.” BBC News. April 16, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.

[6] “Cuba leadership: Díaz-Canel named Communist Party chief.” BBC News. April 19, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.

[7] Julie Turkewitz and Mitra Taj. “After a Year of Loss, South America Suffers Worst Death Tolls Yet.” The New York Times. April 29, 2021. Updated May 18, 2021. Accessed June 19, 21.

[8] “Colombia protests: Duque sends military to Cali.” BBC News. May 30, 2021. Accessed June 15, 21.

[9] “Bitcoin: El Salvador makes cryptocurrency legal tender.” BBC News. June 9, 2021. Accessed July 20, 2021.

[10] “Brazil Records More Than 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths.” VOA News. June 19, 2021. Accessed July 30, 2021.

[11] Daniel E. Slotnik. “The world’s known Covid death toll passes four million.” The New York Times. July 8, 2021. Accessed August 25, 2021.

[12] “Haiti President Jovenel Moïse killed in attack at home.” BBC News. July 7, 2021. Accessed August 16, 2021.

[13] “Cuba protests: Arrests after thousands rally against government.” BBC News. 13 July13, 2021. Accessed September 13, 21.

[14] Reuters. “Covid cases surpass 200 million around the globe as delta variant spreads.” NBC. August 4, 2021. Accessed September 20, 21 from

[15] “Haiti earthquake: Devastation and more than 2,000 dead. BBC News. August 19, 2021. Accessed October 14, 2021.

[16] Deidre McPhillips. “Global Covid-19 cases surpass 250 million.” CNN. November 8, 2021. Accessed February 8, 2022.

[17] Michael Safi. “Barbados parts way with Queen and becomes world’s newest republic.” The Guardian. November 30, 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.