By Beatrice E. Rangel
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued travel warnings to citizens planning on visiting South America on account of what seems to be an outbreak of the Zika virus.
This disease was first identified in 1947 in the Zika jungles of Uganda and was carried by rhesus monkeys. Quite appropriately the virus is spreading on the eve of the arrival of the Chinese year of the Monkey. But this time the chosen setting is the Americas.
18 countries in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean are reporting people hit by the microcephaly producing virus.
And while many might think that leadership in the region has suffered from microcephaly -- a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads -- well before the Zika virus spread, this new adversity is bound to negatively impact growth prospects for many countries that are seeing their tourism income dwindle.
And as tourism is impacted by this health scare, economic woes will carry the day in the Caribbean, Central America and even Mexico.
Worse, as tourism takes a hit, infrastructure development will be postponed, making a quick economic rebound in those economies more unlikely.
The episode, once again, brings to the forefront two endemic development bottlenecks in the Americas.
First is the weakness of preventive health care.
Second, lack of effective coordination among health care authorities.
Indeed, should countries adopt policies to convert mosquitoes from carriers of disease into pollinators of strengths -- as has been done in Colombia -- Zika would have never gained ground in the region.
But even the simple treatment of swamp waters and extensive use of repellents could have saved many individuals from falling to the Zika scourge.
Also a year ago when the first surges of Zika were being recorded in Brazil (and in the pages of the Latin American Herald Tribune), health authorities should have created a regional task force to conduct public awareness campaigns throughout the Americas about the disease and its dangers.
Lack of preventive action has now condemned thousands of children to be born with microcephaly in a continent that lacks institutions to effectively support handicapped citizens.
U.S. authorities confirmed on Saturday the birth of a baby with a small head in Hawaii to a mother who had been infected with the Zika virus while visiting Brazil.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control has now issued an advisory against travel to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The health adversity was countered by a joyous development that took place in Madrid showing that great inroads are being made in the fight against the corruption pandemic shaking the Americas.
In a ground breaking operation, Spanish police detained Humberto Moreira -- former governor of the State of Coahuila in Mexico and former president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico's ruling party.
After conducting an 18-month investigation into money laundering, embezzlement, bribery and association with organized crime, Spanish Judge Jose de la Mata ordered Moreira's arrest and sent him to a maximum security prison without bail on the grounds that the politician presented a flight risk. He was later given restricted bail and forbidden to leave the country.
For many years, Mr Moreira had been suspected of holding close relations with organized crime operating in his Northern state bordering Texas.
The death of his son in 2012 under very strange circumstances raised suspicions about Mr Moreira's relations to organized crime. Intelligence agencies in the U.S. had registered him as a Zeta Cartel resource.
And through the very effective intelligence cum law enforcement network created by the UN Treaties Against Corruption (UNCAC) and Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCATOC), Mr. Moreira -- who had been "cleaned" by Mexican courts -- was caught by a Spanish court.
The case was built resorting to international intelligence information and following leads, money trails and lifestyles.
The effectiveness of these networks is in sharp contrast with the incompetence of health authorities who have been unable to protect the lives of so many unborn children by not stopping the spread of Zika. Looking at the future it would perhaps be great to see health progress evenly in both its spiritual as well as its physical dimensions.Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.
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