Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Iraq Hospital Fire; England Players Face Racist Abuse; Internet Blackouts In Cuba; Reports of Internet Blackouts after Protests Roil Island; Latin American Government Face Unrest over COVID; Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and Caribbean; Graphic COVID Ad in Australia Sparks Backlash. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:00:21]

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Dozens of people are dead in a hospital fight in Iraq. Many of the victims were inside a COVID ward. Plus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Shame on you. And I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.

CHURCH (voice-over): Unforgivable and shameful. Support pours in for three black England players who face racial abuse after the Euro 2020 defeat.

And later reports of internet blackouts and disruptions in Cuba after the country's biggest protests in decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: At this hour rescue crews of searching for survivors of a deadly hospital fire in Iraq. It's believed the fire started after oxygen tanks exploded in an ICU treating COVID patients in the south eastern city of Nasiriya. The fire is now out but at least 50 people were killed and 33 critically injured. Iraq's president blames the tragedy on corruption and mismanagement. And CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joins me now from Amman, Jordan with more on this.

So, Jomana, what is the latest on this tragedy and what more are you learning about how this might have happened?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we're still trying to piece together what happened. This massive fire broke out late on Monday night at Al-Hussein Hospital in Nassiriya. The City of Nassiriya to the south east of Baghdad. We understand that this hospital was set up mainly to deal with COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, you know, Iraq is going through a third wave and the numbers the hospitals have been dealing with a high number of COVID-19 patients just a few days ago Iraq, registering the highest daily number of confirmed cases. So as you can imagine, this hospital would have been packed at that time. And according to the interior ministry a short time ago they say that the fire broke out at 20 caravans that were set up on the hospital grounds as an isolation unit for COVID-19 patients.

They say that this was -- these caravans are made of a highly flammable material that caught fire in the fire spread across the hospital. According to local health officials they believe at this point that the fire started as a result of an oxygen tank exploding but we know that the Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered an investigation into the incident to find out what actually happened.

Now we understand that the fire is under control. So for at least 50 people confirmed killed and 33 others injured, we were expecting that the numbers could go up. They are still searching for people who are missing inside the hospital. This tragedy, Rosemary, hitting Iraq less than three months after another similar incident in Baghdad at Al Khatib hospital there were more than 80 people were killed in a fire that broke out at this hospital.

So you can imagine how angry Iraqis are that this is happening time and time again in their country. As you mentioned, Iraqi officials, including the Iraqi president Barham Salih tweeting and blaming this on corruption and mismanagement. He said in a tweet, the catastrophe of Al Hussein Hospital in the car and before that, Ibn Khatib Hospital in Baghdad. The result of persistent corruption mismanagement that underestimated the lives of Iraqis and prevented reforming the performance of institutions.

He's calling for a strict review. Something Iraqis have heard before, and it is always Iraqis who pay the price of what officials say is this corruption and mismanagement. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. This tragedy in Nassiriya, Iraq at this hospital. Jomana Karadsheh bringing us up to date from her vantage point there. Many thanks.

Well, European countries are wrestling with whether to ease or tighten COVID restrictions as the Delta variant sweeps across the region. Experts warn that the highly contagious variant will represent 90 percent of all COVID infections in the E.U. by the end of next month.

[02:05:08]

CHURCH: All those areas in orange and dark red indicate where cases increase last week when compared to the week before. The Netherlands soaring infection rate has the Prime Minister apologizing for reopening too soon and reimposing restrictions on nightlife and large events. Cases are also up in the U.K. but England is sticking to its plan to fully reopen next week. However, he says this, is the Prime Minister, the nation cannot simply revert to life as it was before COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: It is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution. And I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough. This pandemic is not over. This disease coronavirus continues to carry risks for you and your family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: European leaders are renewing calls for the public to get vaccinated. France is not making the shots mandatory yet but isn't ruling that out. For now, vaccinations are only required for a key group of French workers. Melissa Bell explains.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Mandatory vaccinations for those working in the healthcare system. A controversial measure that had been debated for some time here in France announced by the French president on live national television on Monday night. Emmanuel Macron also announcing that the COVID pass that allows the French to travel for instance to other European countries would now be used for things like concerts and shows, restaurants and cafes.

Essentially, people are going to have to prove either that they've been fully vaccinated, or that they have a PCR negative test. The idea to encourage the vaccine hesitant to get vaccinated as quickly as they can. We're seeing the same thing across many countries in the European Union and the United Kingdom. We heard from the British Prime Minister. Also on Monday, who announced that while England was going ahead with its planned reopening from next Monday, he was encouraging people to get vaccinated as quickly as they could.

The delay already of that announcement by four weeks has allowed more than seven million people to get an extra dose of the vaccine, either first or second. Since there's four weeks began in England. Now, the rest of Europe seeing a similar problem, how quickly they can get populations vaccinated to stay ahead of the variants. And specifically, the Delta variant that the ECDC, that is the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control expects should represent 90 percent of new cases by the end of August here in the European Union.

How to convince this population to get vaccinated? The European Union has announced that it has delivered enough vaccine to E.U. member states to vaccinate 70 percent of the block's adult population. The trouble of course, will be now both the vaccine rollout in individual countries and convincing those who are not yet convinced of the need to get vaccinated as quickly as they can. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

CHURCH: Well, most of the world is not vaccinated and there's still some confusion about vaccine risks and efficacy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says those taking the Johnson and Johnson vaccine could face increased risk of a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The FDA says it's not clear if the vaccine causes it but noted an increase in reports of the sometimes paralyzing condition.

For a briefing from Pfizer on Monday, American health authorities say there's still no need for a third shot. That's after the drug makers said last week that it was seeing waning immunity among vaccinated people and expects they might need a booster in six months to a year. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is making it clear that it's fed up with talk of booster shots when millions of people across the planet still have no access to any vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEDROS ADHANOM, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Instead of Moderna and Pfizer prioritizing the supply of vaccines as boosters to countries whose populations have relatively high coverage we need them to go all out to channel supply to COVAX, the Africa vaccine acquisition task team and low and middle income countries which have very low vaccine coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on Cuba. On Monday, health officials reported more than 6400 new infections. That comes one day after the country's set a new daily case record. Government officials have praised Cuba's homegrown vaccines, but so far, only about 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The pandemic and economic turmoil have caused thousands of Cubans to take a stand against their governments.

[02:10:03]

CHURCH: And we will have a report from Patrick Oppman in Havana coming up later in the show.

Well, new details on the assassination of Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise. Officials briefed on the matter tell CNN several of the suspects previously worked as informants for U.S. law enforcement and at least one of them worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration the agency has confirmed.

Meanwhile, Haitian police say Christian Emmanuel sent on who allegedly helped orchestrate the assassination had plans of becoming president himself. New elections are expected in Haiti by the end of the year after the country's president was gunned down last Wednesday. CNN's Matt Rivers shows us how the assassination unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after Haiti's president was assassinated, gunfire still crackled through Port-au-France. But this time it was the alleged assassins under attack. As bullets slammed into the concrete walls around the group one fighter called his sister. He told me they were in a house she says under siege under fire and fighting she added he's not a killer.

Just 36 hours after a group of more than two dozen Colombians and two Haitian Americans allegedly assassinated the president, most would either be detained or declared dead. This is how that happened according to a source with knowledge of the operation to track them down. Nighttime video from around the time of the President's death quickly went viral where you could hear a suspect claiming there was a DEA operation on going.

Later a convoy of five cars can be seen leaving the area with ease, but down the road, a trap was being set. As the convoy traveled down Kenscoff Road a roadblock was ready. Heavily armed security forces would not let them pass without a fight. Arriving and seeing they couldn't go any further the convoy stops, part of which you can see here. Our source says the suspects jumped out and saw this building across the road. They race toward it immediately taking the stairs to the second floor.

(on camera): It's in this building that these alleged mercenaries will begin defending themselves. But at the same moment, they're coming in here, according to our source, Haitian security forces are making a crucial decision. They know that these alleged attackers have limited food, water, ammunition, and no power. So they essentially decide to wait them out.

(voice-over): About 12 hours later after baking in 90-plus degree Haitian heat. Authorities throw tear gas in front of the building. It's enough to force negotiations and the Colombians inside eventually send out four people, including this man, one of two Haitian Americans who authorities have detained. He's joined by the other Haitian American and two Haitian hostages, a pair of police officers who were at the President's house.

(on camera): According to our source at some point during the negotiations, a group of the Colombians still here come out of this building and start heading up this hill on the backside of the building. And eventually they make their way to a seemingly strange destination.

(voice-over): Just about 100 meters up the hill from the building lies the Taiwan embassy. Our source things the Colombians went there because it wasn't an easy place for police to enter given its diplomatic immunity.

(on camera): In order to get all the way here to the embassy, though they had to walk through a pretty residential neighborhood. And according to our source, someone tipped off authorities that this group of heavily armed men was here. When they arrived at the embassy they found a largely empty building except for two security guards, whom they tied up.

(voice-over): Security Forces quickly surrounded the embassy and then turn their attention back to the building below where they believe the few suspects remained. It was time to go in. A small assault team went in on the ground floor and we're met with fierce fire that you can hear from the handful of Colombians that were still inside. The hour- long firefight shattered windows, scarred, concrete ceilings and walls.

And in the end, the government says at least three Colombians died in the fighting. The next day with Taiwan's permission authorities went into the embassy. Our source says authorities checks CCTV cameras and found nearly a dozen Colombians in a room who ended up giving up without more fighting. Nearly a half dozen still haven't been found. Matt Rivers, CNN Port-au-France Haiti.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: The Pentagon spokesman says it's clear the Taliban intend to take over Afghanistan by force and rule the country. The militant Islam as group is still gaining ground since the U.S. sped up it's pulled out of troops.

[02:15:03]

CHURCH: The Taliban now claimed to control 85 percent of Afghan territory. Government officials in the north tell Reuters the militants have taken over civilians' homes to fight security forces. But Afghanistan's National Security Adviser insists there will be no takeover by the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMDULLAH MOHIB, AFGHAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: To achieve peace, there are two parties. The Afghan Government and the Afghan people are resolute in wanting to see a peaceful return to Afghanistan, and so that we could live peacefully among others. But if the Taliban wish to continue to fight this, then there will be no choice but to continue and defend our country and hopefully, bring peace through to war, which is not an ideal situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is stepping down as the withdrawal is nearly complete. And General Austin Scott Miller is sounding the alarm about the risk of civil war as he leaves his post.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: I'm one of the U.S. military officers who's had the opportunity to speak with the Taliban. And I've told them, I said it's a -- it's important that the military sides set the conditions for a peaceful and political settlement in Afghanistan. We can all see the violence that's taking place across the country. But we know that with that violence that what -- very difficult to achieve is a political settlement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: In South Africa, the military has been deployed to restore order after days of violence and looting sparked by former President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment. At least six people have been killed and hundreds arrested since the start of the protests. And South Africa's current president Cyril Ramaphosa is calling for calm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Address you this evening South Africans with a heavy heart. Over the past few days and nights have been acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: CNN's David Mackenzie has more from Johannesburg where violence erupted Monday.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Johannesburg, there's been scenes of chaos all day. The firefighters are trying to put out a store that was set ablaze in these protests and looting. Throughout the country, specifically in this province and in KwaZulu- Natal province, there has been looting, police have had little impact on stopping people from doing this. Up ahead if we can push in.

That is mostly private security, some of them with live firearms. We were at a mall south of the city, where it was just total scenes of chaos. Three or four police trying to hold the line already that mall was looted. There is a sense that this protest action, the worst that South Africa has seen for many years and this looting is getting totally out of control. They've said the military will be deployed onto the streets.

It started because of the President Jacob Zuma, former president being put in prison for contempt. But then it seems to have gone beyond that. People taking advantage of the chaos in this country and looting in many malls and shops often near poorer areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. These are the scenes here, private security trying to stem the looting. But so far, they are having limited success. David McKenzie, CNN Johannesburg.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Twitter takes action against online racist abuse directed at several England football players. The latest just ahead.

And with just 10 days until the start of the Tokyo games, the head of the International Olympic Committee has some high praise for the host city despite a new COVID state of emergency. We will have the latest and the live report from Tokyo. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:21:31]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: (INAUDIBLE) Italy's football team receiving a hero's welcome in Rome after topping England in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Euro 2020 final, crowds pack the streets as the footballers made their way through the city. The team also attended a ceremony at the presidential palace marking Italy's first European Championship title in more than 50 years. For England the loss alone was heartbreaking of course.

Now adding to that defeat discussed over online racist abuse. It has been directed at three players who missed their penalty kicks for England in Sunday's final. Twitter says it has removed more than 1000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts certitude racist posts. The British Prime Minister had this reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players. I said, shame on you. And I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged because this entire team played like heroes. And I'm sure that this is just the beginning of their achievements, where I say, bring on Qatar next year and let's also dare to start to hope that together with Ireland our United Kingdom can host the World Cup in 2030.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And joining me now is CNN World Sports Patrick Snell. Good to have you with us in the studio. So, you know, it has been appalling to see some of this abuse what people are saying but at least we're seeing Twitter and some of the other social media companies step up. And we're saying this outpouring of support for these three players. But what about the International Football Association, what is it doing about this?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes. It's definitely a step in the right direction what you just referenced, Rosemary. But look, once again, this is the ugly, cowardly stain, isn't it? On the beautiful game. These hidden people with online racist abuse. I mean, when does it end? We report on it all the time. We call on the social media companies to step up and keep policing and policing their platforms to the very best of their ability.

But look to answer your question about the Federation's and the global powerhouses of the game. We've been monitoring those responses afterwards. On Sunday, England's F.A. condemning what happened in no uncertain terms saying he was disgusted calling for punishment in the strongest possible terms. And tournament organizers as well, Rosemary, EUFA strongly condemning what happened as well.

Saying no place in football or society. But look, there's a really powerful way I feel to tell this whole story and it's through the eyes of one of those players. I'm talking about the Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. From the City of Manchester in northwest England there is a mural there, Rosemary. It honors him what happened in the aftermath of Sunday. It was defaced despicably after his penalty miss in that spot kick shootout that yes, he decided the final but that shouldn't matter what he did from 12 yards out in a football match, right?

Police investigating the artwork just to reset here. It was commissioned initially recognizing Rashford's tireless, tireless work. It is in tackling child poverty in the U.K., just the plaudits he earned from that alone. And then what happened, and this is really, really encouraged to see what followed next. It was an outpouring of love and support.

[02:25:04]

SNELL: Look at those images there. Positivity, flowing words use like hero, role model, wonderful person that he is. Covering up that vile graffiti. That was so powerful to me. And then also I've just been breaking down and studying what Rashford said on Twitter. And he said that response alone in the mural, left him on the verge of tears. This is what he tweeted in part. He said, Rosemary, he said he felt like he'd let everyone down by missing that penalty.

He tweeted, I've grown into a sport, where I expect to read things about myself, whether it be the color of my skin, where I grew up, or most recently how I decided to spend my time off the pitch. I can take critique of my performance all day long. My penalty was not good enough. It should have gone in but I will never apologize for who I am. And where I came from. I'm Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe ni South Manchester.

If I have nothing else, I have that for all the kind messages, thank you. I'll be back stronger. We'll be back strong. And I think we just all need to reflect on those words because they are so powerful. And they just speak so many volumes for me and it's very moving just to even reflect on them. I feel but lessons have to be learned. We have to just get through this in a more impactful way. You know, football should matter in terms like this.

CHURCH: No. It shouldn't. It's unacceptable that racist behavior. But what a player he is. Look at him. What a sportsman.

SNELL: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SNELL: What does off the pitch and the messages of support as well, not just for his club site, Manchester United, but from the worldwide global community. We saw with that mural there. Manchester City as well tweeting their support. It's been great to see their response. You know, we love Marcus Rashford for what he does not just on the pitch, but for what he does off it. And that's been well documented. And may he never tire in that word, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And maybe this will be a turning point. Just extraordinary. But yes, it's good to see the stronger people coming out on top.

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH: Thank you. Patrick Snell joining us there. And Patrick will have much more ahead on World Sport in about 20 minutes. So stay with us for that.

Well, the president of the International Olympic Committee praise Tokyo a short time ago as the best ever prepared city for the Olympics. This despite the surging coronavirus outbreak in the host city. Tokyo is under a new COVID state of emergency with the Summer Games now just 10 days away. And security adjustments are being made. Now that spectators are banned from the vast majority of events. CNN's Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo. Good to see you,

Blake. So, I have (INAUDIBLE) praising Tokyo for being the best ever prepared city for the Olympic Games. A lot of people across Japan would totally disagree with that. Talk to us about reaction to what he said.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Rosemary, Tokyo, very well might be the best prepared city to host the Olympic games ever. But the same thing cannot be said for its handling of COVID-19 for the 23rd straight day, the daily count has risen week to week in Tokyo and experts with the Metropolitan Government believe infection levels of the -- of a potential fifth wave of infection will exceed the previous wave.

That's nationwide, not just here in Tokyo. That prediction is based on the highly transmissible Delta variant which is behind the most recent surge in cases and an increase in the people's movement despite the state of emergency order. People in Tokyo have been living under a constant state of emergency or quasi-state of emergency since April. And it's clear that the fatigue is setting in.

Unlike previous states of emergency orders, there's been a noticeable increase in the number of people out and about. It's also worth noting that the vaccination rate nationwide still remains low. At this time, only about 17 percent of the people have been fully vaccinated. And while the opening ceremony is still 10 days away with the Olympic Village now open, Olympic officials say that today marks the official start of the games.

Although the athletes have already been entering Japan for weeks. We will likely see even more arrivals in the coming days as the village gears up to host them. Now at the same time that the Olympic Village is open for business. Many bars and restaurants in Tokyo are closed as a result of this latest state of emergency order that will last until August 22nd and be in effect throughout the Olympics.

And rosemary, Thomas Bach also made a comment about the vaccination effort for the Olympians that will be coming in. And again, you know, part of the issue here with the Japanese public is the fact that only 17 percent of the entire population is vaccinated and while those athletes might be protected, the people living here are not.

CHURCH: Yes. It has outrage so many people, hasn't it? Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks.

And coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.

[02:30:00]

The Cuban government is facing violent and risk over its handling of the economy and the pandemic and I will ask a policy expert if it is time the U.S. stepped in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Returning to our earlier story, internet blackouts are being reported in Cuba, after the island saw rare protests over the weekend monitoring site, NetBlocks, says social media is being restricted and network data shows internet disruptions.

According to an exiled Cuban rights group, at least 100 protesters, activists, an independent journalist, have been detained.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has more from Havana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The protests have swept across Cuba, the largest in decades, stunned the communist run government and, quickly turned violent.

Demonstrators pelted patrol cars with stones and police forcibly arrested scores of people.

Repression, this woman told CNN, all that we have here is repression.

Counterprotesters organized by the government trying to shut them down.

OPPMANN: Some chanting, they are Fidel Castro but Fidel Castro died in 2016 and his brother, Raul, retired in April.

Now, the job of managing Cuba's worst crisis in a generation falls to their handpicked successor, Miguel Diaz Canel, who called the protesters criminals.

They stoned the police force, damaged cars, he said, a behavior that is completely vulgar, completely indecent.

Tensions have been building for months in Cuba over increased sanctions first imposed by the Trump administration.

The pandemic has further wounded in already ailing economy. Cubans wait for hours, in crowded lines, everyday to buy what little there is, as the number of COVID-19 cases surge.

Cuba's food crisis appears to be getting worse and worse as the pandemic goes on longer and longer. The people here said that they do not want to wait hours in these lines, but they feel that the choice they have is to run the risk of getting infected or go hungry.

The Biden administration warned the Cuban government to not crackdown on the protesters.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PREISDENT: We call on the government, the government of Cuba, to refrain from violence and their attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.

OPPMANN: But after a day of angry clashes, that warning may have already fallen on deaf ears.

[02:35:02] Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Cuba is not the only country where economic upheaval is linked to the pandemic over the last year. We have seen protests across the world over government handling of the pandemic. And out of the five countries with the highest death tolls, three spots belong to Latin America.

Brazil is facing a new COVID wave and protesters have demanded President Jair Bolsonaro be impeached, or resign over his handling of the crisis.

In Columbia human rights groups have accused security forces of using excessive force against demonstrators protesting a proposed tax bill. Critics say it would hurt the middle class and the country already struggling with COVID.

And in Venezuela, there was already shortages before the pandemic.Human Rights Watch warning back in march 2020, the country's health system was teetering on the brink of collapse.

Well, for more on this, let's bring in Christopher Sabachthani, a senior fellow at Chatham House in London. Thank you so much for joining us.

CHRISTOPHER SABACHTHANI SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW CHATHAM HOUSE: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So, why is it that these leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean have failed their people so miserably, the pandemic only highlighting, how they have abandoned their responsibilities, in terms of health services, medical supplies, food, water and other basic necessities?

SABACHTHANI: It is important to go back to 2019, the end of 2019 in particular. There was already a wave of protests. You had protests from Chile and Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, those were different reasons, and Venezuela, those protests were all because a rising middle class simply did not feel that they had the quality of social services that it deserved and the social mobility that it expected. And, of course, everything was put on hold because of COVID.

So what you have was basically a pressure cooker for the last year- and-a-half and now we are beginning to see that boil over. And what it's beginning to expose is a lot of the structural flaws of the system that those protests were already beginning to identify in 2019.

As you mentioned, access to social services, state capacity, social safety nets, and a large part of this, as you ask why, because over 60 percent of many people, in the Latin America, in places like Peru, Brazil are employed in the informal sector. That means they don't have access to insurance, like unemployment insurance or health insurance. And so, therefore, when these countries shut down they couldn't simply go back to their homes. They lived on a day-to-day wage, basically, so they had to eventually had to go back to work.

So we are just seeing not just the effects of a very weak health care system but also a very weak social safety net system that forces people back to work and, consequently, we're seeing a region with only 8 percent of the world's population, more than 30 percent of the infection rates.

CHURCH: And this was the first major protest in Cuba in decades, the protesters marching for regime change, as the government struggles to contain COVID there. They are hurting right now with food shortages, energy blackouts, restrictions on social media platforms. But what can they realistically achieve, or expect and how do you think the Cuban government will handle this with the world watching so closely now?

SABACHTHANI: Well, it is a good question, because for all of the ills of the other countries and their democracies, and they are nominally democracies at least, there are elections. And so that provides a safety valve for people's demands. In Cuba, that doesn't exist. They have not had a competitive election since 1959, since the revolution.

So, consequently, very much bread and butter issues, better health care, better jobs, better access to food are simply challenges to the regime. And the regime is going to act like any government that is feeling threatened, because it doesn't have a capacity to mediate those demands and so, it cracking down.

What is important, it was mentioned by Patrick in the beginning story, is that the Castros haven't been around. This is the first protest post-Castro. So, the current president, Miguel Diaz Canel, is demonstrating, and he said this, I'm going to respond in a revolutionary way, what that means is he is not a child of the revolution but he's going to respond with the same repressive tactics an iron fist, that the Castros did too. And he has to because you cannot look weak. And we are already seeing that with over 100 protesters jailed.

CHURCH: In the wake of these unprecedented protests across Cuba, President Biden said the U.S. stands with the people of Cuba, but he has not done anything concrete to help them so far even after promising to reverse Trump's Cuba policies during the 2020 election campaign. What should Biden be doing right now and why do you think that he has not acted on this yet?

SABACHTHANI: Well, let me answer the last question first. He largely has not acted on lifting the embargo, because he needs a series of appointments confirmed in the Senate. And in the Senate sit two very prominent Cuban Americans, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, and Senator Bob Hernandez from New Jersey. If he looks like he's going to tinker the embargo over their heads, they're going to hold up all those nominations.

[02:40:00]

So, he has to put his cabinet in place, he has to put ambassadors in place. Now, what can he do now? The problem is all the screws have been tightened as much as they can under the Trump embargo, so he really cannot -- he does not other leverage to do anything more. There are some people, including the mayor of Miami, who is arguing that the U.S. should intervene, which is ridiculous, especially given the U.S.- Cuban history.

What he has to do, and I think he's done this very artfully so far, is stand with the Cuban people, so he defends the right to protest and not do with the Trump administration did repeatedly, just call the Cuban government names, basically engage in regime change rhetoric, but to talk about the need to recognize the legitimacy of their demands, citizen's demands, and the right to protest. And, that's what he's done so far.

If the crackdown continues though, we will have to see what he can do. But now would probably not be the time to lift the embargo.

CHURCH: All right. Chris Sabachthani, thank you so much for your perspective, and we will be right back.

SABACHTHANI: Thank you.

CHURC: And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: A new COVID ad by the Australian government which seems to encourage young people to get vaccinated is being criticized as overly graphic, insensitive and it contradictory. Here is part of the ad which does contain disturbing images.

Officials say the site of the young woman gasping for air is intended to be graphic but critics say the ad is insensitive, a scare tactic in misconceived given that most Australians under 40 are not even eligible for vaccines yet.

Parts of Australia are struggling with recent outbreaks of the virus. Only 9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Well, fans of Naomi Osaka can now have their own Barbie doll modeled after the tennis star. Toy maker Mattel is working to make the iconic dulls more diverse as part of its Barbie Role Model series. The Osaka doll has a Nike outfit that matches what she wore at last year Australian Open. Osaka says she wants to empower young girls and remind them they can make a difference in this world.

Thank you so much for your company amorous Rosemary Church. I will be back in about 15 minutes with more Newsroom. World Sport is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:45:00]