Military roadblocks, curfews: Latin America tightens coronavirus controls

Countries around Latin America tightened restrictions on Monday to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, with Peru putting military personnel on the streets, Costa Rica and Colombia closing their borders and other countries ordering curfews.

While the region has yet to be hit as hard as Asia or Europe, Latin American governments have moved aggressively to contain the virus that has shut down cities and international transport hubs and battered its financial markets.

Still, not all are moving at the same tempo. A diplomatic tiff erupted when El Salvador’s president accused Mexico of allowing people with the virus to board a flight due to leave Mexico City for San Salvador. Mexico denied it.

In Colombia, authorities have overcome frosty relations with Venezuela to start sharing information about the coronavirus with their neighbor, but said that did not amount to politically recognizing the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Colombian President Ivan Duque also said the country would close its maritime, land and river borders from Tuesday to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and sometimes fatal respiratory disease, with plans to keep them shut until May 30.

Duque’s move was followed by tougher measures from Maduro, who ordered the widening of a social quarantine across the whole of Venezuela, starting on Tuesday, after the total number of cases in the country doubled to 33.

The coronavirus has been slower to reach Latin America than much of the world. Globally, over 174,100 people have been infected and nearly 6,700 have died.

In Peru, President Martin Vizcarra said leaders from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil spoke via conference call on Monday to analyze the situation and coordinate actions against the pandemic.

“We have agreed that together we are going to join forces,” he told reporters at the government palace, adding countries would look to coordinate demand for medical supplies and to calculate the economic impact on the region.