What We're Watching: Latin America's deepening recession, DRC beats Ebola, Macron's next move

Latin America's economic pain: Back in April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the pandemic would push Latin America into its worst recession in half a century, plunging a third of the population into poverty. That, it turns out, was the rosy view. The IMF now says, "the human toll has gone up," projecting that the region's economy will contract by 9.4 percent in 2020, a sharp drop from April's forecast of a 5.2 percent recession. Government-mandated lockdowns and travel restrictions have hit emerging market economies in the Caribbean and Latin America particularly hard because many of them rely on jobs in the informal sector and tourism industry to keep afloat. Taken with the effects of shutdowns in China, Europe, and the US, which have cratered demand for Latin America's exports while also decimating remittances, the region's economic recovery could take many years.


Ebola eradicated in DRC: The Democratic Republic of the Congo's worst Ebola outbreak in history, which has ravaged that country for two years, is officially over, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Ebola, an infectious disease that kills around half of those who contract it, has claimed more than 2,000 lives in that country since August 2018. Treatment and containment efforts have been complicated by decades of conflict (more than 100 armed groups operate within the DRC's borders) as well as government corruption. A team of more than 16,000 front line workers, along with a new effective vaccine program, helped eradicate the outbreak, the tenth Ebola epidemic in the DRC since the 1970s.

Macron's next move: With two years remaining of his five-year term, President Emmanuel Macron is already firmly in election mode. While no French head of state has clinched a second term since Jacques Chirac won in a landslide two decades ago, Macron faces a particularly grueling battle in trying to convince the electorate that he can resuscitate the country's pandemic-battered economy. French media is abuzz with conjecture regarding what big moves the president might have up his sleeve. After Macron earlier this month hinted at a post-pandemic "government reset," some predicted that the president might ditch his all too popular Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, replacing him with a new PM who can help him gain credibility with the left. Macron's poll numbers have been sliding since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, with a majority of French people disapproving of the government's handling of the pandemic. We're watching to see what happens when Macron elaborates on his new agenda in a much-anticipated address scheduled for next month.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

How is coronavirus jeopardizing the legitimacy of a 2020 presidential election?

Well, what coronavirus is doing is a lot of states are worrying about people who aren't going to want to come to the polling places in the fall, and they're worried about a shortage of polling workers who are going to want to come out and volunteer to get sick by interacting with a bunch people in person. So, what they're doing is they're looking at making a shift to vote-by-mail. Most states allow some form of absentee balloting today. Five states just automatically mail you a ballot and they don't do any in-person voting. But the challenge here is that a lot of states are unprepared for the sharp increase that's expected. In the last election, 25% of ballots were cast by mail. You may see 50, 60 or even more percent of ballots cast by mail this time, which could overwhelm election administration, which happens at the state level.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have diverged. As of July 8, the average number of new deaths every three days in the EU had fallen 97 percent since peaking at the beginning of April. The US number, however, has fallen only 67 percent over the same period. That means that although both regions' death tolls peaked with only two weeks difference, the EU has flattened its COVID-19 fatality curve faster than America. Some experts attribute the difference to EU countries' more robust public health systems and better compliance with mask-wearing and other social distancing measures.