When Krasnik and other towns adopted “free of L.G.B.T.” resolutions in early 2019, few people paid attention to what was widely seen as a political stunt by a governing party that delights in offending its foes’ “political correctness.”

But that changed early last year when Bartosz Staszewski, an L.G.B.T. activist from Warsaw began visiting towns that had vowed to banish “L.G.B.T. ideology.” Mr. Staszewski, a documentary filmmaker, took with him an official-looking yellow sign on which was written in four languages: “L.G.B.T.-FREE ZONE.” He put the fake sign next to each town’s real sign, taking photographs that he posted on social media.

The action, which he called “performance art,” provoked outrage across Europe as it put a spotlight on what Mr. Staszewski described in an interview in Warsaw as a push by conservatives to “turn basic human rights into an ideology.”

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Mr. Staszewski of generating a fake scandal over “no-go zones” that don’t exist. Several towns, supported by a right-wing outfit partly funded by the government, have filed defamation suits against the activist over his representation of bans on “ideology” as barring L.G.B.T. people.

But even those who support the measures often seem confused about what it is that they want excluded.

Asked on television whether the region surrounding Krasnik would become Poland’s first L.G.B.T.-free zone, Elzbieta Kruk, a prominent Law and Justice politician, said, “I think Poland is going to be the first area free of L.G.B.T.” She later reversed herself and said the target was “L.G.B.T. ideology.”

For Mr. Wilk, Krasnik’s mayor, the semantic squabbling is a sign that it is time to drop attempts to make the town “free” of anyone or anything.

But Mr. Albiniak, the initiator of the resolution, vowed to resist what he denounced as blackmail by foreigners threatening to withhold funds.

“If I vote to repeal,” he said, “I vote against myself.”

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.

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Argentina’s President Has Preliminary Positive Virus Test Despite Vaccination

BUENOS AIRES — President Alberto Fernández of Argentina had an initial positive test for Covid-19 and is awaiting the results of a more precise analysis to determine whether he has contracted the coronavirus despite being vaccinated earlier this year.

Mr. Fernández sent a series of tweets early Saturday morning saying he took a quick antigen test after suffering from a “light headache” and having a fever of 99.1 degrees.

The president, who received the test result on his 62d birthday, said he will remain in isolation while waiting for the results of the more rigorous PCR test.

“I am physically well, and although I would have liked to end my birthday without this news, I’m also in good spirits,” the president wrote on Twitter.

an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent, it is fully effective in preventing critical cases.

the institute wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We wish you a quick recovery!”

Word of Mr. Fernández’s test result comes shortly after Argentina tightened its borders amid an upsurge of Covid-19 infections. Several of its neighboring countries, particularly Brazil, are experiencing a sharp increase in cases as new, more contagious variants of the virus engulf the region.

Argentina recently canceled all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico in an effort to block the new strains.

Argentina was the first country in Latin America to approve the use of the Sputnik V vaccine in late December, but mass inoculations are taking longer than the government had initially predicted amid a global shortage of the vaccine. It has also been administering China’s Sinopharm vaccine and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Of the nation’s 45 million people, 683,771 have received two vaccine doses, and there have been 4.18 million doses injected over all.

Argentina said on March 26 it would delay applying the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for three months in an effort to ensure as many people as possible get at least one dose. The country has reported nearly 2.4 million Covid-19 infections and more than 56,000 deaths.

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Russia Trumpets Coronavirus Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V to a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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Russia Trumpets Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V from a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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Argentina Delays 2nd Vaccine Doses, Fearing Variant Surge

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is delaying the administration of the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines for three months in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible get at least one dose amid a sluggish vaccination drive.

The move “seeks to vaccinate the largest number of people possible with the first dose to maximize the benefits of vaccination and diminish the impact of hospitalizations and mortality,” the government said in announcing the decision on Friday.

The country has been applying Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since its vaccination campaign began in December, Argentina, a country of 45 million people, says it has administered a total of 3.55 million doses of vaccine, including 658,426 who have received the two doses called for in the protocols for all three vaccines.

delaying second doses, including Britain, which pursued a plan to separate doses by up to three months. And federal health authorities in the United States have indicated flexibility on expanding the gap between first and second doses to six weeks. But the vaccines in those cases are the same in both doses.

Sputnik, however, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, uses a different adenovirus in each of its two doses to deliver bits of the coronavirus’s genetic code. Russia has said it will soon release a one-shot version of its vaccine — essentially using the first dose as the only dose, which it is calling “Sputnik Light.” It is not clear what benefit there would be to delaying a second dose of Sputnik, since there is no recommendation that the second version be administered as a single dose.

Argentina’s decision to delay second doses comes amid increasing concerns of the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, fueled by the new variants of the virus that have engulfed several of Argentina’s neighbors, particularly Brazil, but also Chile and Paraguay.

Argentina is canceling all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting Saturday in an effort to block the new variants. It had already blocked flights from Britain and Ireland.

International travelers already face new restrictions in Argentina, including a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival and enforced quarantine in a hotel if it comes back positive.

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Rage Spreads in Paraguay as Virus Surges, Exposing Corruption

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — For nearly a year, Paraguay was a leader in keeping the pandemic at bay, and despite its persistent troubles, the country remained fairly calm. Not any more.

Paraguay’s coronavirus infection rate has soared, becoming one of the worst in the Americas, and its already shaky health system has been stretched to the breaking point. In the last few days, demonstrators by the thousands have filled streets, demanding the ouster of President Mario Abdo Benítez, and in a few instances there have been bloody clashes with the police.

For many Paraguayans, corruption and elite entitlement that were once just unpleasant facts of life have become intolerable in the face of the pandemic. There is a shortage of basic drugs that doctors and nurses blame on graft; nonemergency surgery has been suspended because of a shortfall in medical supplies, and there are few vaccines to be had.

The crisis has spilled into the streets with a level of rage the county’s leaders have not faced in years. Daily protests started last Friday with medical workers, who were quickly joined by other frustrated people. Most have been peaceful, but in some cases security forces have met the demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.

alert.

“Paraguay is determined to obtain vaccines from anywhere, by any means,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “Here everyone needs to get vaccinated, and for free, that’s the government’s intention.”

But many young demonstrators say they have waited long enough for decent governance.

“We won’t stop until Marito resigns,” protester Melisa Riveros said.

Santi Carnieri reported from Asunción, Paraguay. Daniel Politi reported from Buenos Aires. Ernesto Londoño contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

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Argentina Tries to Tax and Spend Its Way Out of Crisis

Argentine farmer Javier Rotondo says he should be reaping a historic bounty with grain prices surging to their highest level in years.

Instead, he reduced his corn crop by 20% after authorities temporarily suspended exports to reduce food prices, one of several measures by Argentina’s leftist government that economists say are suffocating business. Mr. Rotondo expects to take on debt to pay a new wealth tax, and he is bracing for price controls after President Alberto Fernández recently warned ranchers that rising beef prices won’t be tolerated.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. They are implementing crazy policies that don’t make much sense,” Mr. Rotondo said from his farm in the central Córdoba province. “There will be less investments, less production, and that’ll be very negative.”

Three years into a grinding recession, Argentina’s economy is in the worst shape it has been since a 2001 debt default that led to rioting and deaths in the streets. For Mr. Fernández, the solution is to kick-start the economy and tax a prosperous farm sector and wealthy individuals, while avoiding austerity measures such as cutbacks to billions of dollars a year in subsidies.

“Industry will be the motor of the country’s reconstruction,” the president said recently.

The challenges are steep. The country’s total stock-market valuation has collapsed from $350 billion in 2018 to $20 billion last year, according to EcoGo, an economic consulting firm. The economy shrank 10% in 2020, one of the world’s worst contractions during the coronavirus pandemic. Poverty has risen to more than 44%, according to the Catholic University, the highest since the early 2000s.

Business owners—from tech titans to airline executives and the farmers and ranchers who power what was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations—say they see little hope for a recovery in Latin America’s third-biggest economy.

“I’m not sure where growth will come from,” said Eduardo Levy Yeyati, a former central-bank chief economist and current dean of Torcuato di Tella University’s School of Government in Buenos Aires. The government doesn’t have the resources to stimulate the economy, he said, “and businesses are pulling back on investments.”

Out of Reach

Food prices are skyrocketing in Argentina as a growing number of people are forced into poverty

Food basket prices, change from a year earlier

Vegetables

Salted crackers

Out of Reach

Food prices are skyrocketing in Argentina as a growing number of people are forced into poverty

Food basket prices, change from a year earlier

Vegetables

Salted crackers

Out of Reach

Food prices are skyrocketing in Argentina as a growing number of people are forced into poverty

Food basket prices, change from a year earlier

Vegetables

Salted crackers

Out of Reach

Food prices are skyrocketing in Argentina as a growing number of people are forced into poverty

Food basket prices, change from a year earlier

Vegetables

Salted crackers

With debt payments looming, Argentina is virtually broke, with just $5 billion in cash and gold reserves, half of what is on hand in neighboring Uruguay, whose population is 8% of Argentina’s 45 million.

Facing the crisis, Mr. Fernández’s government is implementing interventionist policies that will undermine hopes of increasing investments needed to generate employment, said Carlos Melconian, an economist and former chief of the country’s top state-run bank.

“The measures are going to fail,” he said. “There are no investments.”

Argentina has banned companies from laying off workers, frozen telecom prices and increased export taxes on soybeans, wheat and corn. The government last year paid up to 50% of the salaries of workers at tens of thousands of small businesses. It has also restricted corporations from accessing dollars needed to service foreign debt.

The government says the measures will protect jobs and households struggling with a 36% inflation rate. The economy is starting to recover, Finance Minister Martin Guzmán said in an interview. He explained that capital controls are needed to prevent a depletion of reserves.

“It is a remedy to a worse evil,” Mr. Guzmán said.

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Several foreign companies, including Walmart, Nike and regional airline Latam, have abandoned Argentina. Some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs have packed their bags for Uruguay, which offers what Argentina doesn’t: A business-friendly and stable economy.

“The day-to-day became unbearable,” said Marga Clavell, a Harvard-trained corporate lawyer who moved to Uruguay’s coastal city of Punta del Este in October. “There is a feeling like the country is closing itself off to the world, once again.”

The ban on firing workers was intended to protect jobs during the start of the pandemic when the government enacted a strict lockdown. But a year later, business owners say it is saddling them with more costs in what already was a restrictive labor market.

“It is really serious, it’s a big problem for the economy,” said Blas Briceño, the chief executive of Finnegans, a software company. “We have people who are not performing, who are not adequate for the position, but we can’t let them go.”

After Chilean airline Latam said last year it would halt operations in Argentina, workers held a demonstration in July at Buenos Aires Airport.

Photo: Roncoroni/Zuma Press

Mr. Fernández, a member of the nationalist Peronist movement, inherited a highly indebted economy upon taking office in December 2019. A currency crisis had forced his predecessor, Mauricio Macri, to request a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, which now seeks payment on $44 billion.

Mr. Fernández is betting that the global economic recovery will mean higher prices for grain exports, helping rebuild reserves. The idea is to spend, even if it means accelerating the money printing that has sustained Argentina thus far.

There have been some gains. Whirlpool has plans to open a new plant that the government says will create 1,000 jobs. Canada’s Lundin mining company said in February it will invest $3 billion to build a gold and silver mine.

Mr. Guzmán, the finance minister, said the economy should grow fast enough this year to reduce the fiscal deficit to 6% of gross domestic product from 8.5% in 2020.

With the government putting off cuts to public spending needed to help rekindle the economy, Mr. Levy Yeyati says the higher commodity prices won’t be enough to turn things around. Private bondholders, who agreed to restructure $65 billion in debt after Argentina defaulted last year, said the policies are undermining a recovery, describing them as “short-term palliatives that are bound to fail.”

Meantime, Argentina remains locked out of international capital markets.

Some of Argentina’s most important companies are reeling. In February, state oil company YPF was pushed to the brink of its first-ever default after it couldn’t access dollars to pay $413 million in debt. Private creditors agreed to restructure even as YPF faces falling oil production.

“If the company continues to shrink, it could become unsustainable,” said Alejandro Lew, YPF’s chief financial officer. He said YPF differs from other oil companies in the world, which enjoy ample liquidity to sustain operations. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that,” he said.

And then there are obstacles for companies whose employees have been laboring at home during the pandemic. A new law requires companies to have space standing by for employees in the event that they want to return to the office.

To comply, Sebastian Stanieri, the chief executive of cybersecurity company VU Security, had to open an office in Córdoba even though employees have been working from home without problem. The law prevents him from calling employees outside their established work schedule.

“If a bank has a problem with one of our solutions, we need to take care of it until 2 a.m., but the law prevents you from calling your employee,” said Mr. Stanieri. “It’s frustrating.” He now plans to hire 30 new workers in Uruguay, where he has been residing since December.

The crisis that has forced out companies such as French pharmaceutical group Pierre Fabre SA and the automotive-parts maker Saint Gobain Sekurit has hurt people like Geraldine Elola and her husband. They lost their jobs as flight attendants at Latam, the Chilean firm that left. Her family is now cutting back on eating beef, unable to afford the Argentine staple. “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” she said.

Some of Argentina’s most prominent executives have moved abroad as Argentina in December passed a tax on the superrich—up to 3.5% on assets in Argentina and 5.25% on assets outside the country—that the government hopes will bring in $3.7 billion. Many are now across the River Plate, in Uruguay.

Among departures since have been Marcos Galperin, who founded Mercado Libre, Latin America’s version of Amazon, and Gustavo Grobocopatel, known in Argentina as the “Soy King” for his giant industrialized farms. Spokesmen for both men declined to make them available for comment.

“There is a massive exodus of the majority of the founders of the super-successful Argentine technology companies,” said Andrés Cerisola, chairman of Uruguayan investment firm EMTV Holdings, who knows many of Argentina’s top tech entrepreneurs. “It’s a huge opportunity for us.”

A soybean harvest on the outskirts of Buenos Aires in April. Argentina has increased the tax on exports of the commodity.

Photo: agustin marcarian/Reuters

Write to Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com

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Paraguay’s President, Mario Abdo Benítez, Faces Unrest Over Covid Missteps

President Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay faced calls for his resignation and large street protests over the weekend as Paraguayans decried the dismal state of the public health system, under strain amid a record number of coronavirus infections.

Paraguay, one of the poorest countries in South America, has received just a few thousand doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Julio Mazzoleni, the health minister, resigned Friday as critical care units in hospitals became full and doctors ran out of basic drugs.

Hours after Mr. Mazzoleni stepped down, thousands took to the streets in downtown Asunción, the capital, to call for the resignation of Mr. Abdo Benítez, a conservative leader who assumed office in August 2018.

Protesters and opposition lawmakers said the country’s health crisis had been exacerbated by pervasive corruption at all levels of public procurement and spending.

“Paraguayans have already paid for drugs and vaccines that aren’t here,” said lawmaker Efraín Alegre, the head of the main opposition party, the Liberal Party. “It’s not the fault of Paraguayan people — it’s a serious corruption problem.”

As lawmakers called for his impeachment, Mr. Abdo Benítez on Saturday called on all his ministers to draft resignation letters. By the end of the day, he accepted the resignations of three ministers, including the minister of education.

The outcry began on Wednesday when medical professionals held a protest in Asunción to call attention to the scarcity of basic medical supplies. The health care workers said they had run out of drugs for chemotherapy treatment and sedatives for patients who needed to be intubated.

For now, Mr. Abdó Benítez appears to have enough support in Congress to avoid impeachment. But protesters across the country have said they intend to continue holding demonstrations until his government falls.

Paraguay shut down its borders and implemented strict measures early in the pandemic, which spared it initially from the large outbreaks seen in neighboring countries like Brazil and Argentina. But infections have surged in recent weeks, reaching a peak on March 4, when health officials reported 1,439 new cases.

The health ministers of three other countries in South America — Peru, Ecuador and Argentina — have stepped down in recent weeks amid scandals and criticism of the ways in which governments have handled vaccine distribution and other aspects of the response to the pandemic.

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Abortion Is Now Legal in Argentina, but Opponents Are Making It Hard to Get

BUENOS AIRES — For the first time in more than a century, women in Argentina can legally get an abortion, but that landmark shift in law may do them little good at hospitals like the one in northern Jujuy Province where all but one obstetrician have a simple response: No.

Abortion opponents are reeling after a measure legalizing the procedure was signed into law in December, but they have hardly given up. They have filed lawsuits arguing that the new law is unconstitutional. And they have made sure doctors know that they can refuse to terminate pregnancies, a message that is being embraced by many in rural areas.

“The law is already a reality, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay still,” said Dr. Gloria Abán, a general practitioner and abortion opponent who travels the remote Calchaquí Valleys of Salta Province to see patients. “We must be proactive.”

In neighboring Jujuy, 29 of the 30 obstetricians at the Hector Quintana Maternity and Children’s hospital have declared themselves conscientious objectors, as the law allows. So have all but a handful of the 120 gynecologists in the province, said Dr. Rubén Véliz, head of the obstetrics department at Hector Quintana.

Chile.

But even officials in President Alberto Fernández’s administration, which introduced the bill, acknowledge that hard work remains to ensure that women are able to gain access to the procedure. “Activists will have to play an key role,” Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Argentina’s minister of women, gender and diversity, said in an interview.

denied an abortion. The baby was delivered in a C-section but died shortly thereafter. The case inflamed passions across the country.

Officials say the opposition by doctors will have limited impact because the vast majority of abortions within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy are carried out with pills and do not require a medical procedure. Even when a procedure is needed, they said, there will be ways to work around roadblocks.

“The practice is guaranteed, because if a certain hospital does not have professionals who are not conscientious objectors we will transfer the patient,” said Dr. Claudia Castro, who leads the women’s health department in the maternity and infancy division of Jujuy’s Health Ministry.

In rural areas, though, it may be difficult for women to ask for help in the first place.

María Laura Lerma, a psychologist in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a remote mountain valley in Jujuy, said doctors often tried to scare pregnant women off abortion. Health care workers, she said, “will often tell young women her fetus will become an elf.”

“It’s one of many popular beliefs that are in the collective imagination,” said Ms. Lerma, who belongs to an abortion rights coalition of health care providers.

Recently, Ms. Lerma said, a woman in her early 20s came to see her and said she was terrified about the prospect of having an abortion because a gynecologist had told her it would cause cancer.

more than 1,500 prosecutions directly related to abortion and 37 for “obstetric events,” which typically refers to miscarriages.

The first category may be easier to handle. Since abortion is now allowed, any pending cases may be thrown out, though “this won’t be so automatic,” said Diego Morales, a lawyer with the legal center.

a book published last year that brought to light how common such prosecutions had become. Sometimes, she said, the women said they had not even known they were pregnant — “but nobody believed them.”

“There should be a presumption of innocence in our judicial system,” Ms. Saralegui Ferrante said, “but in these cases it was the other way around, there was a presumption of culpability.”

One woman, Rosalía Reyes, who was placed under house arrest after being sentenced to eight years. She says she suffered a miscarriage when she was seven months pregnant.

Judges declared it murder.

As a mother of four, the judges reasoned, Ms. Reyes should have known how to cut the umbilical cord, even though she lost so much blood she fainted, said her lawyer, Fabiana Vannini.

Ms. Vannini hopes she may now have a way to reopen the case. The new law, she argues, does more than just legalize abortion.

“It also changes the paradigm of what is a woman, and who has control over her body, her uterus,” the lawyer said.

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