For almost a year, the province of Formosa, one of the poorest in Argentina, has been completely isolated from the rest of the country. Only residents can enter it, and even then, only after implementing long and draconian health measures imposed by the local government to fight the coronavirus.
Images of crowded gyms, without isolation of infected people, crowded border camps and people crying for help from inside hotel rooms have shocked Argentines.
In addition to requiring a test with a negative result to enter the territory, the government requires quarantines, in places designated by the authorities, which exceed 20 days – exceeding the recommendation of the WHO (World Health Organization) .
Currently, 18,800 residents are held in gymnasiums, schools and hotels, who suffer from a lack of water, food and access to hygiene and do not receive medical care. The premises, locked and guarded by the police, are full, which prevents compliance with social distancing measures.
Tests for the diagnosis of Covid-19 take days to be performed and results are only given orally, with no reports. This is also how, without presenting any official documents, authorities tell people how many days they should stay at the site – there are reports of residents who have been quarantined for over a month. .
At the provincial borders, there are more than 7,500 inhabitants who camp in precariousness, some trying to return home since March.
Many of them have the necessary documents and still cannot enter the territory. Others do not have the money to pay for the PCR exam. Thus, they end up staying in the camps, where food and water are also lacking – human rights entities have distributed donations in these places.
Accusations of human rights violations have escalated and Amnesty International issued a statement that the Formosa government’s health measures go beyond the rule of law and violate human rights. The organization calls for intervention by the national government.
On October 11, Mauro Rubén Ledesma, 23, was found dead by a fisherman on the Bermejo River, on the border between Formosa and neighboring Chaco. The boy had requested special permission to return to his home, where his 2-year-old daughter and wife are, but it was refused. For months, he waited for the opportunity to cross the border, until he became desperate and tried to enter the province illegally by swimming.
Earlier this month, pregnant Zunilda Gómez, her husband and their three children were taken from their homes in the town of Clorinda and taken by police to a sanitary isolation center.
They took the test and the result was negative. Yet they were isolated for more than ten days in a room without water or cleaning and with few visits from a doctor. Zunilda lost the baby.
Both stories are part of a series of statements gathered by local lawyers and politicians, who intend to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The Catholic Church has also spoken out, rejecting the methods used in Formosa. Journalists from abroad or from other Argentine provinces are not allowed to enter the region, even with transit permits issued by the national government and which, in theory, are valid for the whole country.
Last week, counselor and lawyer Gabriela Neme was arrested on her way to several isolation centers to demand the release of people who had been there for more than a month with negative tests or without symptoms. of illness – in this case, to comply with home quarantine.
“The environment is so unhealthy for everyone that it is causing the spread of people who did not have the virus,” she told Folha.
She was arrested in front of television cameras and released hours later, but will face trial. “I have bruises and injuries already documented, I will also take legal action against the state,” he said.
For Senator Luis Naidenoff, what is being done in Formosa is a demonstration of power that has nothing to do with health. “It’s an abuse of power. We have several examples of other quarantine measures, in Argentina and other countries, in which it is possible to respect protocols, avoid settlements, maintain social distance and hygiene without causing such suffering or human rights violations. “, did he declare.
Formosa has been governed since 1995 by Gildo Insfrán, affiliated with the Justicialista Party (the Peronist acronym), who commands the province like a caudillo – regional legislation allows for indefinite re-election.
According to official data, 41.6% of the 630,000 inhabitants of Formosa lived below the poverty line in 2019, the second worst result in the whole country and above the national average of 35.4% – in Brazil, the The index is 24.7%, underlines the IBGE. In the HDI (Human Development Index), the region is the lantern of Argentina’s ranking.
Over 80% of the population has government-related jobs and there is hardly any opposition. Even with charges of being linked to smuggling (the province borders on Paraguay) and embezzlement of federal funds, Insfrán is protected by Peronism – a political movement that includes President Alberto Fernández and his deputy, Cristina Kirchner, among its main members. .
Naidenoff, who belongs to the opposition União Cívica Radical party, says that “Insfrán relies on one of Latin America’s oldest power practices, patronage and fear. Nobody stands up to him because there is no rule of law here. Justice of the province is in your hands, the citizen has no protection, has no justice to turn to and fears his power ”.
Responding to criticism of measures to try to contain the coronavirus, Insfrán responds that “our goal is to save lives” and cites ten deaths from the disease – the number, over which doubts weigh for lack of evidence, is the lowest parents. “Do you think it is pleasant for us to take these steps? Of course not.”
Insfrán says the attacks on him for sanitary measures are “political persecution because it is an election year,” he said, referring to the October legislative elections.
This Thursday (28), 5 million new doses of vaccine from Russia should arrive in the country. So far, two doses of Sputnik V have received 200,000 Argentines working in the health field in all provinces of the country.
Now the government is preparing to start immunizing the general population, starting with the elderly and the population at risk. Argentina also has a deal with the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to arrive in March. And there are still open negotiations with Pfizer, Sinovac and Sinopharm, in addition to Moderna.
Argentina, with a population of 44.45 million, has already recorded nearly 1.9 million infections and 47,000 deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.