On the receiving end are customers who don’t need another source of anxiety. First-time parents often research heavily before selecting strollers, cribs, car seats and other wares. And out-of-stock items can crimp registries; Babylist says new parents often select 100 to 200 items.

After Gina Catallo-Kokoletsos, 33, and her husband finally agreed on a crib from Pottery Barn Kids, her father placed the order as a gift in July. Originally, the crib was supposed to ship in October, giving just enough time before the couple’s baby was due in November. But when Ms. Catallo-Kokoletsos checked in September, she saw that the shipment date had been pushed to January.

“I called them, and they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s going to be delayed.’ And I said, ‘Well, my baby is due before that,’” said Ms. Catallo-Kokoletsos, who lives in Chico, Calif., and works at an animal shelter. She ended up canceling the order and choosing a crib from a small company she had never heard of. That crib arrived on time, but other items on her baby registry, including a rocking chair, went out of stock before she could get them.

“I knew none of it was the end of the world,” she said. “It just kind of gets frustrating after a while.”

Further complicating matters for some expectant parents are deeply ingrained beliefs about buying or receiving items before their babies are born.

Joelle Fox, 35, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Ariz., who is expecting a baby boy in January, said she was wary of ordering anything in part because of a custom among many Jewish people of not having baby things in the house until the baby arrives.

“It’s kind of a tradition that women have done, and I was kind of following that,” she said, adding that she also wanted to research items carefully to make sure they were not harmful. But the supply chain issues compelled her to start buying some items for the nursery at the end of October, a decision that she said prompted “a lot of emotions.”

Even still, she said, the dresser she ordered from Wayfair is not supposed to ship until mid-January. “That has definitely put a bit of a damper on everything, because I can’t get the room completely set up,” she said.

At around 36 weeks pregnant, Ms. Yates in Florida, whose daughter was born in October, gave up on receiving the West Elm dresser and bought one from Ikea. She cut off its legs and replaced them with metal ones that matched the crib she had bought.

She had less luck with her Pottery Barn Kids chair, which she had ordered in June. After it failed to arrive, she felt so desperate that she emailed corporate customer service and copied the chief executive. By the time she was told in October that the chair had been lost, the color and fabric she wanted were no longer available. The company ended up sending her a loaner chair, in a different color, “so I at least had something in the room for me to use.”

Ms. Yates said that she was sympathetic to the companies’ struggles, but that the ordeal still had left her in tears.

“I was not a very emotional pregnant woman — I had a very short temper, rather than being a crier,” she said. “But when it came to the nursery, I cried a lot, because I had this picture of exactly what I wanted, and then it just felt like one thing after another.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

1+1=4? Latin America Confronts a Pandemic Education Crisis.

SOACHA, Colombia — Already, two of Gloria Vásquez’s children had dropped out of school during the pandemic, including her 8-year-old, Ximena, who had fallen so far behind that she struggled with the most basic arithmetic.

“One plus one?” Ms. Vásquez quizzed her daughter one afternoon.

“Four?” the little girl guessed helplessly.

Now, Ms. Vásquez, a 33-year-old single mother and motel housekeeper who had never made it past the fifth grade, told herself she couldn’t let a third child leave school.

“Where’s Maicol?” she asked her children, calling home one night during another long shift scrubbing floors. “Is he studying?”

have returned to the classroom, 100 million children in Latin America are still in full or partial distance learning — or, as in Maicol’s case, some distant approximation of it.

The consequences are alarming, officials and education experts say: With economies in the region pummeled by the pandemic and connections to the classroom so badly frayed, children in primary and secondary school are dropping out in large numbers, sometimes to work wherever they can.

1.8 million children and young people abandoned their educations this school year because of the pandemic or economic hardship, according to the national statistics agency.

Ecuador lost an estimated 90,000 primary and secondary school students. Peru says it lost 170,000. And officials worry that the real losses are far higher because countless children, like Maicol, are technically still enrolled but struggling to hang on. More than five million children in Brazil have had no access to education during the pandemic, a level not seen in more than 20 years, Unicef says.

Increased access to education was one of the great accomplishments of the last half century in Latin America, with enrollment soaring for girls, poor students and members of ethnic and racial minorities, lifting many toward the middle class. Now, an onslaught of dropouts threatens to peel back years of hard-won progress, sharpening inequality and possibly shaping the region for decades to come.

some of the world’s worst outbreaks, yet several South American nations are now experiencing their highest daily death tolls of the crisis, even after more than a year of relentless loss. For some governments, there is little end in sight.

But unless lockdowns end and students get back into the classroom soon, “many children may never return,” the World Bank warns. And “those who do go back to school will have lost months or even years of education.” Some analysts fear the region could be facing a generation of lost children, not unlike places that suffer years of war.

Even before the pandemic, graduating from high school in Ms. Vásquez’s neighborhood was no small feat.

She and her children live at the end of a dirt road, just beyond Bogotá, Colombia’s sprawling, mountain-flanked capital, a deeply unequal city in one of the most unequal regions in the world. Violence and crime are as common here as the ice cream cart that circles the block each afternoon. For some children, the pandemic has been yet another trauma in a seemingly endless succession.

Many parents in the neighborhood make their living as recyclers, traversing the city with wooden wheelbarrows hitched to their backs. And many of their children don’t have computers, internet or family members who can help with class work. Often there is one cellphone for the family, leaving students scrambling for any connection to school.

Ms. Vásquez dropped out at 14 to help raise her siblings, and it has been her greatest regret. The motel she cleans is far from home, sometimes forcing her to leave her children for more than a day — 24 hours for her shift, with at least four hours of commuting. Even so, she rarely makes the country’s monthly minimum wage.

She had hoped her children — Ximena, 8, Emanuel, 12, Maicol, 13, and Karen, 15 — whom she calls “the motor of my life,” would leave the neighborhood, if only they could get through this never-ending pandemic with their schooling intact.

“I’ve always said that we have been dealt a difficult hand,” but “they have a lot of desire to learn,” she said.

Before the virus arrived, her children attended public schools nearby, wearing the colorful uniforms typical for Colombian pupils. Karen wanted to be a doctor. Maicol, a performer. Emanuel, a police officer. Ximena was still deciding.

By late May, the two boys were still officially enrolled in school, but barely keeping up, trying to fill out the work sheets their teachers sent via WhatsApp each week. They have no computer, and it costs Ms. Vásquez 15 cents a page to print the assignments, some of which are dozens of pages long. Sometimes, she has the money. Sometimes not.

Both girls had dropped out altogether. Ximena lost her spot at school just before the pandemic last year because she had missed classes, a not-so uncommon occurrence in Colombia’s overburdened schools. Then, with administrators working from home, Ms. Vásquez said she couldn’t figure out how to get her daughter back in.

Karen said she had lost contact with her instructors when the country went into lockdown in March 2020. Now, she wanted to return, but her family had accidentally broken a tablet lent to her by the school. She was terrified that if she tried to re-enroll, she would be hit with a fine her mother had no money to pay.

The family was already reeling because Ms. Vásquez’s hours at the motel had been cut during the crisis. Now they were four months behind on rent.

Ms. Vásquez was particularly worried about Maicol, who struggled to make sense of work sheets about periodic tables and literary devices, each day more frustrating than the last.

Lately, when he wasn’t recycling, he’d go looking for scrap metal to sell. To him, the nights out with his uncle were a welcome reprieve, like a pirate’s adventure: meeting new people, searching for treasure — toys, shoes, food, money.

But Ms. Vásquez, who had forbidden these jaunts, grew incensed when she heard he was working. The more time Maicol spent with the recycling cart, she feared, the smaller his world would become.

She respected the people who gathered trash for a living. She’d done it when she was pregnant with Emanuel. But she didn’t want Maicol to be satisfied with that life. During her shifts at the motel, cleaning bathrooms, she imagined her children in the future, sitting behind computers, running businesses.

“‘Look,’ people would say, ‘those are Gloria’s kids,’” she said. “They don’t have to bear the same destiny as their mother.”

Over the last year, school began in earnest only after she came home from work. One afternoon, she pulled out a study guide from Emanuel’s teacher, and began dictating a spelling and grammar exercise.

“Once upon a time,” she read.

“Once upon a time,” wrote Emanuel, 12.

“There was a white and gray duck —”

“Gray?” he asked.

When it came to Maicol’s more advanced lessons, Ms. Vásquez was often lost herself. She didn’t know how to use email, much less calculate the area of a square or teach her son about planetary rotations.

“I try to help them with what I understand,” she said. “It’s not enough.”

Lately, she’d become consumed by the question of how her children would catch up when — or if? — they ever returned to class.

The full educational toll of the pandemic will not be known until governments bring children back to school, experts warn. Ms. Di Gropello, of the World Bank, said she feared that many more children, especially poorer ones without computers or internet connections, would abandon their educations once they realize how far behind they’ve fallen.

By mid-June, Colombia’s education ministry announced that all schools would return to in-person courses after a July vacation. Though the country is enduring a record number of daily deaths from the virus, officials have determined that the cost of staying closed is too great.

But as school principals scramble to prepare for the return, some wonder how many students and teachers will show up. At Carlos Albán Holguín, one of the schools in Ms. Vásquez’s neighborhood, the principal said some instructors were so afraid of infection that they had refused to come to the school to pick up the completed assignments their pupils had dropped off.

One recent morning, Karen woke before dawn, as she often does, to help her mother get ready for her shift at the motel. Since leaving school last year, Karen had increasingly taken on the role of parent, cooking and cleaning for the family, and trying to protect her siblings while their mother was at work.

At one point, the responsibility got to be so much that Karen ran away. Her flight lasted just a few hours, until Ms. Vásquez found her.

“I told my mother that she had to support me more,” Karen said. “That she couldn’t leave me alone, that I was an adolescent and I needed her help.”

In their shared bedroom, while Ms. Vásquez applied makeup, Karen packed her mother’s blue backpack, slipping in pink Crocs, a fanny pack, headphones and a change of clothes.

Ms. Vásquez had gone out to march one day, too, blowing a plastic horn in the crowd and calling on the authorities to guarantee what she called a “dignified education.”

But she hadn’t returned to the streets. If something happened to her at the marches, who would support her children?

“Do you want me to braid your hair?” Karen asked her mother.

At the door, she kissed Ms. Vásquez goodbye.

Then, after months of hardship, came a victory.

Ms. Vásquez received messages from Maicol’s and Emanuel’s teachers: Both schools would bring students back, in person, in just a few weeks. And she finally found a spot for Ximena, who had been out of school entirely for more than a year.

“A new start,” Ms. Vásquez said, giddy with excitement.

Karen’s future was less certain. She had worked up the courage to return the broken tablet. Administrators did not fine her — and she applied to a new school.

Now, she was waiting to hear if there was space for her, trying to push away the worry that her education was over.

“I’ve been told that education is everything, and without education there is nothing,” she said. “And, well, it’s true — I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

Reporting was contributed by Sofía Villamil in Bogotá and Soacha, Colombia; José María León Cabrera in Quito, Ecuador; Miriam Castillo in Mexico City; Mitra Taj in Lima, Peru; and Ana Ionova in Rio de Janeiro.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Massacre in Peru Leaves 18 Dead

Eighteen people died in a massacre in a remote coca-growing region of Peru, the national police said, reviving memories of the country’s brutal left-wing insurgency, just weeks ahead of presidential elections.

The murders, one of Peru’s worst atrocities in decades, occurred in the town of San Miguel del Ene, the head of national police, Gen. César Cervantes, told local television on Monday.

Police officers are on their way to the town, which is eight hours from the closest police base, to investigate the crimes, he said.

Local media reported that pamphlets were found with the bodies that are attributed to a dissident faction of the Maoist rebel group, the Shining Path, which had terrorized the Peruvian countryside before being brutally put down by security forces in the 1990s by the authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori.

The mountainous region around San Miguel del Ene, a sparsely populated, forested area known for cocaine production and trafficking, is believed to be the last significant operating area for Shining Path remnants.

The massacre could shake up Peru’s political landscape just two weeks ahead of the country’s highly charged presidential vote, which has pitted Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the now-jailed Mr. Fujimori, against Pedro Castillo, a radical left-wing teachers’ union organizer.

Mr. Castillo’s opponents have sought to portray him as a Shining Path sympathizer who would plunge the country back into the chaos of the insurgency. Mr. Castillo has denied the charges and has sought to play down his party’s Marxist economic proposals since emerging as the leading candidate in April.

The latest polls show Mr. Castillo still slightly ahead in the race, though his lead has steadily shrunk in recent weeks, putting Ms. Fujimori within striking distance of victory in most national surveys.

The pamphlets reportedly found on the massacre victims called for residents to boycott the vote and called Ms. Fujimori’s supporters traitors.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Colombia, Strained by Pandemic and Economic Hardship, Explodes in Protest

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A teenager shot to death after kicking a police officer. A young man bleeding out on the street as protesters shout for help. Police firing on unarmed demonstrators. Helicopters swarming overhead, tanks rolling through neighborhoods, explosions echoing in the streets. A mother crying for her son.

“We are destroyed,” said Milena Meneses, 39, whose only son Santiago, 19, was killed in a protest over the weekend.

Colombians demonstrating over the past week against the poverty and inequality that have worsened the lives of millions since the Covid-19 pandemic began have been met with a powerful crackdown by their government, which has responded to the protests with the same militarized police force it often uses against rebel fighters and organized crime.

This explosion of frustration in Colombia, experts say, could presage unrest across Latin America, where several countries face the same combustible mix of an unrelenting pandemic, growing hardship and plummeting government revenue.

Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Each country’s protest was different. But in all of them, people voiced their grievances over limited opportunity, widespread corruption and officials who appeared to be working against them.

Then came the pandemic. Latin America was one of the regions hardest hit by the virus in 2020, with cemeteries filling past capacity, the sick dying while waiting for care in hospital hallways, and family members spending the night in lines to buy medical oxygen in an attempt to keep loved ones alive.

The region’s economies shrank by an average of 7 percent. In many places, unemployment, particularly among the young, spiked.

significant popularity since the beginning of the pandemic, according to polling from the firm Invamer. And analysts say he is at his weakest point since he came to office in 2018.

The police and military response has made a national conversation built around compromise extremely difficult, said Sandra Borda, a political analyst and columnist for the newspaper El Tiempo.

a video, a witness can be heard shouting.

“Is he OK?” the witness says. “Can he breathe? Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!”

A passing deliveryman loaded Mr. Murillo onto his motorbike and rushed him to a clinic. There, his mother’s anguished cries were captured on tape. “Son, take me with you! Son, I want to be with you!”

Doctors could not revive him, and residents of Ibagué held a protest vigil in his name the next day.

“I asked them to protest civilly,” said his mother, “in peace.”

View Source

Class and Covid: A Key Link in Layoffs Worldwide

In the United States and many other nations, lower-income and less educated adults have been hit harder economically by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the relationship between class and Covid-19 is not inevitable: It doesn’t exist in some of the most egalitarian societies of Europe and Asia, according to a new global survey from Gallup, conducted from July 2020 to March 2021.

Globally, 41 percent of workers in the poorest 20 percent of their county’s income distribution said they lost their job or business as a result of the pandemic, compared with 23 percent of workers in the richest 20 percent. That gap in job loss is similar between those with a college degree (16 percent who have lost a job or business) and those without (35 percent).

Gini coefficient for household income), workers with lower incomes and less education were protected from mass unemployment, in part through national policies that sought to prevent job loss.

socioeconomic status is closely related to health outcomes and susceptibility to contagious diseases. Evidence from a handful of countries — including the United States, England and France — shows that Covid-19 has caused a higher death toll in lower-income communities and among Black people and some ethnic minorities.

These gaps appear to largely be a result of exposures generated through work, rather than noncompliance with safety guidelines. Black people in the United States are more likely than white people to report social distancing and mask use, but at the onset of the pandemic they were about 30 percent more likely to work in occupations requiring close physical proximity, according to research scheduled for publication in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The income-based divide is even sharper: Workers in the bottom third of the income distribution were four times more likely than workers in the top 10 percent to be in a job that required close physical proximity. Except for doctors and a few other professions, highly educated workers rarely need to be in direct contact with other people.

The overexposure of low-income workers to in-person and face-to-face work has created double risks for the less affluent: heightened threats of both physical and economic harm. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate for workers in food preparation and serving jobs increased to 19.6 percent from 5.5 percent from 2019 to 2020, as people stopped dining out.

Oxford University scholars, as well as other factors that vary by country.

trusting populations, research shows, creating conditions that seem to lead to cooperation and effective collective action.

It’s possible that elected officials in more egalitarian countries are likelier to create policies to protect workers from layoffs — as was the case in Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand, which are in the bottom quintile of global inequality measures, as well as Ireland, Australia and Britain, which are in the second-lowest quintile of inequality.

These policies directed income support to businesses affected by the pandemic to maintain their work force. Other more egalitarian countries — like France, Germany and Switzerland — drew upon and expanded existing employer-subsidy programs devised to keep employees attached to employers.

No such policies were enacted in Chile or Israel, whereas the U.S. government created the Paycheck Protection Program. That program shared characteristics with the successful policies of Europe, but came too late to prevent mass layoffs, as Federal Reserve economists have found, with too many administrative and eligibility complications.

Still, even with those limitations, U.S. layoffs would have been drastically worse without it, according to analysis from economists at the U.S. Treasury Department. The federal government vastly expanded spending in other ways to lesson the harm to those laid off, such as subsidized unemployment insurance and direct payments to low- and middle-income households.

But there’s a good reason it’s best not to be laid off in the first place: Evidence from previous recessions shows that millions of laid-off workers will never return to their employer.

Moreover, recent data from Gallup’s Great Job Survey shows that people who were laid off because of the pandemic and rehired experienced a large drop in job satisfaction and continued to struggle to meet monthly expenses. Globally and in the United States, the world poll shows that those laid off as a result of the pandemic were significantly more likely to report a decline in their standard of living relative to the previous year.

A Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society.” You can follow him on Twitter at @jtrothwell.

View Source

Why India’s Outbreak Is a Threat to the wWorld

The coronavirus surge that is lashing India, where countless funeral pyres cloud the night skies, is more than just a humanitarian disaster: Experts say uncontrolled outbreaks like India’s also threaten to prolong the pandemic by allowing more dangerous virus variants to mutate, spread and possibly evade vaccines.

The United States will begin restricting travel from India later this week, but similar limitations on air travel from China that President Trump imposed in the early days of the pandemic proved to be ineffectual.

“We can ban all the flights we want but there is literally zero way we can keep these highly contagious variants out of our country,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

As the coronavirus spreads among human hosts, it invariably mutates, creating opportunities for new variants that can be more transmissible or even deadly. One highly contagious variant, known as B.1.1.7, crushed Britain earlier this year and is already well entrenched in the United States and Europe.

60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the virus. Another worrisome variant, P.1, is wreaking havoc across South America.

Over the weekend, India recorded 401,993 new cases in a single day, a world record, though experts say its true numbers are far higher than what’s being reported. Peru, Brazil and other countries across South America are also experiencing devastating waves.

Virologists are unsure what is driving India’s second wave. Some have pointed to a homegrown variant called B.1.617, but researchers outside of India say the limited data suggests that B.1.1.7 may be to blame.

With 44 percent of adults having received at least one dose, the United States has made great strides vaccinating its citizens, though experts say the country is far from reaching so-called herd immunity, when the virus can’t spread easily because it can’t find enough hosts. Vaccine hesitancy remains a formidable threat to reaching that threshold.

In much of the world, however, vaccines are still hard to come by, especially in poorer countries. In India, less than 2 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. “If we want to put this pandemic behind us, we can’t let the virus run wild in other parts of the world,” Dr. Jha said.

effective against the variants, although slightly less so against some.

“For now the vaccines remain effective, but there is a trend toward less effectiveness,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

Vaccine makers say they are poised to develop booster shots that would tackle especially troublesome variants, but such a fix would be of little help to poorer nations already struggling to obtain the existing vaccines. Experts say the best way to head off the emergence of dangerous variants is to tamp down new infections and immunize most of humanity as quickly as possible.

Dr. Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the longer the coronavirus circulates, the more time it has to mutate, which could eventually threaten vaccinated people; the only way to break the cycle is to ensure countries like India get enough vaccines.

“In order to stop this pandemic, we have to vaccinate the whole world,” Dr. Diamond said. “There will be new waves of infection over and over again unless we vaccinate at a global scale.”

View Source

After a Year of Loss, South America Suffers Worst Death Tolls Yet

If the world doesn’t stop the region’s surging caseload, it could cost us all that we’ve done to fight the pandemic, said one health official.

Julie Turkewitz and


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — In the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, the mayor is warning residents to brace for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

Uruguay, once lauded as a model for keeping the coronavirus under control, now has one of the highest death rates in the world, while the grim daily tallies of the dead have hit records in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru in recent days.

Even Venezuela, where the authoritarian government is notorious for hiding health statistics and any suggestion of disarray, says that coronavirus deaths are up 86 percent since January.

As vaccinations mount in some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people cautiously envision life after the pandemic, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders.

abandoned on sidewalks and new burial grounds cut into thick forest. Yet even after a year of incalculable loss, it is still one of the most troubling global hot spots, with a recent surge in many countries that is even more deadly than before.

longest schools closures and largest economic contractions in the world.

Inequality, a longstanding scourge that had been easing before the pandemic, is widening once again, and millions have been tossed back into the precarious positions they thought they had escaped during a relative boom. Many are venting their anger in the streets, defying official pleas to stay home.

“They’ve taken so much from us that we’ve even lost our fear,” read a sign held by Brissa Rodríguez, 14, at a protest with thousands of others in Bogotá on Wednesday.

recent essay. “I want to think that the worst is over. But that turns out, I believe, to be counter-evident.”

devastated by the virus in mid-2020. But the second wave there was worse than the first.

While the data is far from conclusive, initial studies indicate that P.1 is more transmissible than the initial virus, and is associated with a higher death rate among younger patients and patients without pre-existing conditions. It can also reinfect people who have already had Covid, though it’s unclear how often that occurs.

37 countries, but appears to have spread most thoroughly through South America, said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University.

Across the region, doctors say that the patients coming into hospitals are now far younger and far sicker than before. They’re also more likely to have had the virus already.

In Peru, the National Health Institute documented 782 cases of likely reinfection in the first three months of 2021 alone, a surge from last year. Dr. Lely Solari, an infectious disease doctor with the institute, called this “a very significant underestimate.”

Official daily death tolls have exceeded previous records in recent days in most of South America’s biggest countries. Yet scientists say that the worst is yet to come.

Our World in Data, a project at the University of Oxford. Several of its neighbors have achieved half that, or less.

the first in the world to record more than 100 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

The actual death toll is far higher, because many of the dead have not been included in the official count of coronavirus patients.

government study in the capital, Lima, found that 40 percent of residents had coronavirus antibodies. Officials said the population had reached such a high level of immunity that a second wave might not be so bad. The government opted not to impose a lockdown during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

jumped the line to get vaccinated first. More recently, multiple government agencies have begun investigating whether some health workers have asked for bribes in exchange for access to scarce hospital beds.

“It was that or let her die,” said Dessiré Nalvarte, 29, a lawyer who said she helped pay about $265 to a man who claimed to be the head of the intensive care unit at a hospital in order to get treatment for a family friend who had become sick.

The crisis has plunged nations like Peru into grief, ripping at the social fabric. This month, thousands of poor and newly poor Peruvians began to occupy empty swaths of land in southern Lima, with many saying that they were doing so because they had lost their livelihoods amid the pandemic.

Rafael Córdova, 50, a father of three, sat on a square drawn in the sand that marked his claim to land overlooking the Pan-American Highway and the Pacific Coast.

Before the pandemic, he explained, he was supervisor in the human resources department of a local municipality, and had a grip — or so he thought — on stability.

Then, in May, he became sick with Covid and was fired. He believes his bosses let him go because they feared that he would sicken others, or that his family would blame them if he died.

He now struggles to pay for minutes on the one family phone so that his children can do class work. Meals are small. Debts are mounting. “Today I went to the market and bought a bag of fish bones and made soup,” he said.

He says he has lost an aunt, a sister-in-law and a cousin to Covid, as well as friends. In June, his wife, who had also had Covid, gave birth to twins prematurely. One daughter died days after birth, he said, and the second died about a month later. He had no money for a proper burial.

“I left the hospital with my daughter in a black plastic bag and got in a taxi and went to the cemetery,” he said. “There was no Mass, no wake. No flowers. Nothing.”

When he heard about the occupation, he said he was three months behind on rent and feared eviction. So he made a run for the hill, pitching a tent that became his new home.

“The only way they’ll get us out of here,” he said, “is if we’re dead.”

A week later, the police arrived, set off tear gas — and booted him and thousands of others from their camp.

Reporting was contributed by Isayen Herrera in Caracas, Venezuela; Sofía Villamil in Bogotá, Colombia; and Daniel Politi in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

View Source