1. ARGENTINA’S PAST MAY RESEMBLE EGYPT’S FUTURE (The Washington Post)
1. ARGENTINA’S PAST MAY RESEMBLE EGYPT’S FUTURE (The Washington Post)
April 29, 2015
Letters to the Editor
Elliott Abrams’s April 26 op-ed, “A Pinochet in Egypt?,” raised a troubling question about Egypt’s course. In debunking the positive spin that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi might follow Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet in taking the path of modernization, Mr. Abrams implicitly questioned the appropriate analogy for Egypt. The appropriate analogy may not be Chile but rather Argentina under the junta.
When Gen. Jorge Videla overthrew Isabel Perón in 1976, the military regime he established put Argentina on a temporary path to economic recovery from the depredations of Perónism. But it also built Argentina into a military power that, under Leopoldo Galtieri, challenged Britain for control of the Malvinas/Falklands. Military defeat restored civilian rule to the country, but civilian rule proved to be no panacea. Indeed, Argentina has proceeded on an increasingly downward and leftward path ever since.
So, which path will Mr. Sissi take? Will he, as Pinochet did for Chile, guide Egypt onto the path of modernity, or, as Galtieri did for Argentina, take Egypt on a quest for military conquest? Given the upheaval in and around Egypt, with its attendant dangers and opportunities, the odds are loaded heavily in favor of the latter.
Richard C. Thornton, Arlington
2. WHAT GREECE FACES IF IT DEFAULTS (The New York Times)
By Uki Goñi
April 29, 2015
The Opinion Pages
BUENOS AIRES — WHEN President Adolfo Rodríguez Saá told Congress on Dec. 23, 2001 that “the Argentine state will suspend the payment of its foreign debt,” legislators jumped to their feet with joy. Their cheering quickly morphed into a chant of “Ar-gen-ti-na! Ar-gen-ti-na!”
Today, it is Greece, led by a recently elected populist left-wing party, Syriza, that is contemplating a similarly drastic unilateral declaration of independence from foreign creditors and international financial institutions. Economists like Nouriel Roubini, a professor at New York University, have long argued that “Greece should default and abandon the euro,” using “Argentine-style measures” to prevent “a disorderly fallout.” Far from the sky falling in, they say, Argentina’s economy soon roared back to prosperity; Greece should follow suit.
But were the years that followed really so rosy for the people of Argentina?
Day 1 of the great experiment was inspiring. Mr. Rodríguez Saá received adulation when he went before Argentina’s General Confederation of Labor. “I believe in social justice,” the president declared, to ecstatic cheers. “I believe in the revolutionary passion of María Eva Duarte de Perón.”
The president invoked Evita, the unofficial saint of Argentina’s descamisados, or “shirtless ones,” to distance himself from the free-market shock doctrine of his Ferrari-driving Peronist predecessor, Carlos Menem, who was president from 1989 to 1999. Mr. Menem privatized state assets and liberalized labor laws, but failed to place any social safety net beneath the growing army of the unemployed when the downturn came.
By 2001, the nation was caught in a painful crucible of recession and inflation. To Mr. Rodríguez Saá, reneging on a seemingly insurmountable foreign debt seemed a much better idea than cutting workers’ wages and benefits. It also appealed to Argentines as a rebellious cry of independence from the conditions imposed by foreign lenders.
The sense of triumph was short-lived. A week after announcing the default, Mr. Rodríguez Saá resigned. Soon, Argentina lurched into nightmarish chaos.
Economic activity was paralyzed, supermarket prices soared and pharmaceutical companies withdrew their products as the peso lost three-quarters of its value against the dollar. With private medical insurance firms virtually bankrupt and the public health system on the brink of collapse, badly needed drugs for cancer, H.I.V. and heart conditions soon became scarce. Insulin for the country’s estimated 300,000 diabetics disappeared from drugstore shelves.
With the economy in free fall, about half the country’s population was below the poverty line. The country’s middle class took to the streets by the tens of thousands with pots and pans held high, clanging them in what became the echoing beat to Argentina’s 2002 social collapse. “From now on, I sleep with my casserole beneath my bed,” said one woman, proudly proclaiming her commitment to the protest movement.
A run on the banks had already forced the resource-starved government to enact the most draconian economic measures in Argentina’s history. Savings accounts totaling $66 billion were frozen across the country.
Depositors started protesting inside banks. One man went into a bank with a stick of dynamite, demanding his savings to pay for a medical operation for his seriously ill wife. Soon, most of Argentina’s banks were boarded up with thick wooden panels, on which depositors angrily banged their pots and pans.
Well-off Argentines could get around the restrictions. In back rooms, large account holders were able to unofficially withdraw thousands of dollars at a time, or even wire their savings abroad through a growing black market.
For the rest, hundreds of barter clubs popped up around the country. Some were the size of shopping malls, set up in the abandoned hulks of closed factories. Thousands of cashless and hopeless Argentines flocked to them. One opened across the road from Alto Palermo, one of the showiest shopping malls built during the free-market ’90s.
At makeshift stalls, haircuts were traded for psychoanalysis sessions, apple cakes for clothes. By early 2002, the network of clubs was enrolling tens of thousands of glum-faced members every week. When the supply of pesos dried up because of the bank freeze, some of the biggest of the barter clubs began printing their own currency, the crédito.
Eventually, Argentina did recover. By 2004, the economy was booming again under a new Peronist president, Néstor Kirchner, who stared down the International Monetary Fund and applied his own brand of economic common sense.
It may fall to the historians to decide how much of the crash was attributable to Argentina’s defiant default and how much to the irresponsible application of the Menem era free-market reforms. But the price of the default was brutal for those who lost everything, most of them from the lower middle class, who did not have the resources to survive the freeze on bank withdrawals. Many cash-strapped families were forced to sell their homes at ridiculous prices to the better off who still had access to ready money.
Greeks would do well to realize what may follow if they back a Syriza-led default and leave the eurozone. They may be stamping their feet for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras today. Tomorrow, they could be banging their pots in protest.
3. KIRCHNERS’ LEFTIST LEGACY IN DOUBT IN ARGENTINA AS CENTER-RIGHT RIVAL RISES (The Washington Times)
By Andre F. Radzischewski
30 April 2015
BUENOS AIRES — Six months before Argentines pick a new president, the center-right mayor of the nation’s capital makes little effort to hide his confidence that he will replace unpopular two-term incumbent Cristina Fernandez. But whether Mauricio Macri gets to move into the Casa Rosada and undo the president’s leftist agenda — as he has promised — may depend largely on factors beyond his control.
A Macri victory would be a crippling defeat for Ms. Fernandez, who has long said that she and her husband and predecessor, the late Nestor Kirchner, have over the past 12 years merely begun to establish a “Kirchnerist” model to transform Latin America’s second-largest country, a model based on nationalism and protectionism. The presidents’ son, Maximo Kirchner, last month went so far as to try to tie the mayor to former President Fernando de la Rua, the deeply unpopular former leader who resigned in 2001 amid the country’s violent default.
Ever since he took the reins of the Buenos Aires city government in 2007, the 56-year-old engineer and former head of the Boca Juniors soccer club has served as the favorite political punching bag for the Kirchners. But Mr. Macri has managed to capitalize on the attacks thanks to his popularity with the capital’s middle-class electorate, which has shown little love for the president’s populism amid the country’s economic woes.
“The challenge is to do more in the next four years than in the last eight, and I know that we can do it,” he told a crowd of supporters this week. “Let us not be afraid. We deserve to live better, we can live better, and we know that we can do more.”
In 2011, Mr. Macri shrewdly declined to run in an election that Ms. Fernandez ended up winning in a historic landslide. But with the term-limited president set to leave office in December, Mr. Macri beamed with self-assurance this week as he celebrated the primary victory of his hand-picked mayoral successor and outlined his own presidential ambitions.
The vote is Oct. 25, with a possible runoff in November between the two top finishers if no party achieves a sufficient plurality.
Unlike Ms. Fernandez, whose $6 million net worth contrasts sharply with her family’s humble, working-class origins, Mr. Macri was born into wealth as the son of Italian-Argentine business magnate Franco Macri. His father’s support for Mr. Kirchner and Ms. Fernandez has led to a number of highly publicized family disputes, with Franco Macri at one point going so far as to say that his son lacked “the heart to be president.”
Mr. Macri joined his father’s conglomerate soon after earning a civil engineering degree and first entered the spotlight in 1995 when his fellow Boca Juniors members chose him to lead the famous soccer club. He used the post he held for 13 years to found his own political party, which in 2005 catapulted him into Congress and — two years later — into Buenos Aires’ mayoral chair.
Today, Mr. Macri stands out among Argentina’s opposition leaders as the Kirchners’ “best enemy,” said Marcelo Camusso, who heads the political science department at the Catholic University of Argentina.
“Macri’s career took off from the beginning,” Mr. Camusso said. “He was able to insert himself into the political landscape in a very successful way.”
Mr. Macri’s pragmatism and easygoing attitude are among his key selling points, said political analyst Graciela Romer, especially after the high-drama years of government under Ms. Fernandez.
“The public has tired of this rather confrontational leadership style,” she said.
Mr. Macri has vowed to fight corruption, eliminate tight currency controls and adopt a more U.S.-friendly foreign policy if he succeeds Ms. Fernandez. He also has promised a departure from the president’s often abrasive style, on display at this month’s Summit of the Americas, where she dubbed President Obama’s Venezuela policy “ridiculous” for its public clashes with populist President Nicolas Maduro.
“The axis of this government’s foreign policy has been only having close ties with Venezuela, and we believe that the axis of our foreign policy should be the entire world,” Mr. Macri told Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer in a recent interview, saying that would include improved ties with Brazil and Uruguay and closer collaboration with the Pacific Alliance economic bloc that includes Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.
Critics say that beyond rosy rhetoric, Mr. Macri has little to show for eight years of governing the Argentine capital. Among the charges leveled against the mayor are his over-the-top spending on political advertising, his unkept promise to significantly expand Buenos Aires’ subway system and the botched restoration of the famed Teatro Colon.
Axel Kicillof, Ms. Fernandez’s economy minister, previewed an expected line of campaign attack by telling reporters last month that Buenos Aires “is the richest district in the country, and he has done nothing if you compare it to what we have done with the provinces.”
Further complicating Mr. Macri’s presidential aspirations is Argentina’s peculiar electoral system that — under certain conditions — allows for a presidential candidate to be declared the winner if he captures as little as 40 percent of the popular vote.
Mr. Macri has forged an uneasy alliance with two center-left forces but ruled out a pact with Sergio Massa, a prominent Peronist and former Fernandez ally who is popular in the key electoral district of Buenos Aires Province. If Mr. Macri and Mr. Massa both end up on the ballot, a split in the opposition vote could very well benefit the likely nominee of Ms. Fernandez’s Front for Victory, Buenos Aires Gov. Daniel Scioli.
A former powerboat racer and vice president during Kirchner’s administration, Mr. Scioli has had a troubled relationship at times with Ms. Fernandez. But the governor of Buenos Aires Province — home to nearly 40 percent of Argentina’s population — has remained fiercely loyal to the president even as she publicly chided him over his requests for federal funding.
In a March survey conducted by the local firm Poliarquia, 31 percent of voters said they would support Mr. Scioli in the Oct. 25 first round of the presidential elections, while 25 percent backed Mr. Macri.
However, the governor’s numbers continued to improve, and Mr. Scioli eventually can count on the 35 percent of the vote from hard-line Fernandez supporters, Ms. Romer said. Mr. Macri, on the other hand, already has largely exhausted his base of support, pollsters noted.
Mr. Macri’s hopes, thus, are pinned on his opposition rival dropping out of the race, a move that would make it easier for him to force a runoff election with Mr. Scioli, journalist and political analyst Joaquin Morales Sola said.
“The only one who is able to win in the first round is Scioli,” the commentator said. But if the opposition unites around a single candidate, “it would be very difficult for [Mr. Scioli] to win in the second round.”
The mixed Kirchner legacy
Argentines still credit the Kirchners with the recovery from Argentina’s financial collapse in the previous decade, but they also have become increasingly uneasy with the tight import and currency controls imposed by Ms. Fernandez.
Stubbornly high inflation, an uptick in violent crime and the suspicious death of a prosecutor days after he accused the president of a cover-up also have taken a toll on the incumbent’s approval numbers.
Although he has promised to maintain the popular social welfare programs instituted by Kirchner and Ms. Fernandez, Mr. Macri never tires of painting the Oct. 25 vote as a change election.
“We have understood that we cannot entrust our future to those who for 25 years have promised us everything and delivered very little,” Mr. Macri added Monday on TN television.
But even if Mr. Macri’s electoral strategy pans out, his presidency likely would be hampered by the lack of a majority in Congress and confrontations with the traditionally Peronist labor unions, Mr. Morales Sola warned.
The prospect of this toxic mix, canonized in the local adage that “only Peronists can govern Argentina,” may turn out to be the biggest obstacle on the mayor’s path to the presidency.
Mr. Macri, in his Miami Herald interview, rejected the idea that he would be unable to put together an effective government, given the levers of power still in the hands of Ms. Kirchner and her allies.
“Let’s stick to the facts,” he said. “We have been governing the city of Buenos Aires for the past seven years despite having the hardest, most domineering [national government] in decades working against us. It will be much easier to govern if we are in the position of governing all of Argentina.”
4. ARGENTINE PORT STRIKE MAY CUT SOY FLOW, RAISE WORLD FOOD PRICES (Reuters News)
By Hugh Bronstein
29 April 2015
BUENOS AIRES, April 29 (Reuters) – Argentina’s main grains port of Rosario was paralyzed at midday on Wednesday by an open-ended wage strike by boat captains needed to help dock incoming cargo ships, the country’s port management chamber said.
At a busy time of the year for exporters, smack in the middle of Southern Hemisphere soy and corn harvest season, the country’s dock workers also threatened a work stoppage if their own pay demands are not met.
The strikes threaten to slow supply from grains powerhouse Argentina, putting upward pressure on world food prices. The country is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, its No. 3 supplier of raw soybeans and a major producer of corn and wheat.
The captains of small vessels that take river pilots out to meet incoming grains ships are demanding higher wages, Guillermo Wade, president of the Port and Maritime Activities Chamber, told Reuters.
The pilots must board cargo ships in order to guide them to their berths in Rosario ports such as San Lorenzo.
“There is no way to replace the service of the boats that take the pilots to the incoming cargo ships,” Wade said.
The union representing the boat captains says the strike will continue until its wage demands are met. Tough pay negotiations are common in Argentina, as workers negotiate wages in line with the country’s double-digit inflation rate.
Meanwhile, ships entering Rosario’s port area are dropping anchor along the Parana River to wait out the work stoppage, Wade said.
On top of the captains’ strike, the powerful CGT labor federation announced that its dock and soy crushing workers would begin a 24-hour strike at midnight Wednesday, also over pay.
“And if we do not reach a deal we will start another strike at midnight on Monday, for an indefinite period of time,” Edgardo Quiroga, spokesman for the CGT told Reuters.
The union is negotiating a pay package with CIARA-CEC, Argentina’s chamber of grains exporting and soy crushing companies.
The government said Argentina’s inflation rate was 1.3 percent on the month in March. Many private analysts question the credibility of government data and estimate inflation in Latin America’s No. 3 economy about 29 percent annually.
5. HERBICIDE: CAMPAIGNERS SEEK BAN ON GLYPHOSATE IN LATIN AMERICA (Inter Press Service)
By Fabiana Frayssinet
29 April 2015
BUENOS AIRES, Apr. 28, 2015 (IPS/GIN) – After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, the campaign has intensified in Latin America to ban the herbicide, which is employed on a massive scale on transgenic crops.
In a Mar. 20 publication, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that the world’s most widely used herbicide is probably carcinogenic to humans, a conclusion that was based on numerous studies.
Social organisations and scientific researchers in Latin America argue that thanks to the report by the WHO’s cancer research arm, governments no longer have an excuse not to intervene, after years of research on the damage caused by glyphosate to health and the environment at a regional and global level.
“We believe the precautionary principle should be applied, and that we should stop accumulating studies and take decisions that could come too late,” said Javier Souza, coordinator of the Latin American Pesticide Action Network (RAP-AL).
The precautionary principle states that even if a cause-effect relationship has not been fully established scientifically, precautionary measures should be taken if the product or activity may pose a threat to health or the environment.
“We advocate a ban on glyphosate which should take effect in the short term with restrictions on purchasing, spraying and packaging,” Souza, who is also the head of the Centre for Studies on Appropriate Technologies in Argentina (CETAAR), told IPS.
Carlos Vicente, a leader of the international NGO GRAIN, told IPS that the herbicide first reached Latin America in the mid-1970s and that its use by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto spread massively in the Southern Cone countries.
“Its widespread use mainly involves transgenic crops, genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate, such as RR (Roundup Ready) soy, introduced in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and other countries,” said Vicente, a representative of GRAIN, which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity.
There are 50 million hectares of transgenic soy in the region, and 600 million litres a year of the herbicide are used annually, he said.
According to Souza, there are 83 million hectares of transgenic crops in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay alone.
The WHO report “is very important because it shows that despite the pressure from Monsanto, independent science at the service of the common good rather than corporate interests is possible,” Vicente said.
Monsanto sells glyphosate under the trade name Roundup. But it is also sold as Cosmoflux, Baundap, Glyphogan, Panzer, Potenza and Rango. And among small farmers in some countries, it is popularly referred to as “randal”.
It is used not only on transgenic crops but also on vegetables, tobacco, fruit trees and plantation forests of pine or eucalyptus, as well as in urban gardens and flowerbeds and along railways.
But in traditional agriculture it is used after the seeds germinate and before they are planted, while in transgenic crops it is used during planting, when it acts in a non-selective fashion, thus destroying a variety of plants and grass, according to RAP-AL.
“This rain – literally – of glyphosate has a direct impact on ecosystems, communities, the soil and water – and these impacts cannot be hidden any longer,” Vicente said.
“We can no longer accept the use of these poisons because they destroy biodiversity, aggravate climate change, destroy the soil’s fertility, and contaminate the water and even the air,” said Joao Pedro Stédile, leader of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). “And above all, they bring more illness, such as cancer,” he told IPS.
Rafael Lajmanovich, an expert on ecotoxicology at Argentina’s Universidad Nacional del Litoral, has heavily researched glyphosate.
“Although the studies do not refer to human health or carcinogenesis, they have demonstrated in animals (amphibian embryos) that glyphosate is ‘teratogenic’ – in other words it causes malformations during the development of these vertebrates,” Lajmanovich, who is a member of the government’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), told IPS.
“In addition, we found that it has effects on the activity of very important enzyme systems (cholinesterases), which means it has a certain degree of neurotoxicity,” he added.
Epidemiological studies have found effects of glyphosate spraying in communities.
“The main effects that scientists and rural doctors have linked to the spraying are specifically respiratory diseases, allergies, miscarriages, an increase in children born with malformations, and a higher incidence of tumors,” said Lajmanovich.
Vicente, meanwhile, noted that applied research carried out in several Latin American countries point in the same direction as the WHO study. In Argentina, for example, studies in the provinces of Rosario and Córdoba “clearly demonstrate the rise in cases of cancer, which in some instances are three or four times the national average.”
In Colombia, agronomist Elsa Nivia, director of the Pesticide Action Network in that country, found that in the first two months of 2001 local authorities reported 4,289 people suffering from skin and gastric disorders, and 178,377 animals – including horses, cattle, pigs, dogs, ducks, hens and fish – killed as a result of exposure to the pesticide.
Cases of intoxication have also been reported in Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, according to RAP-AL.
Souza complained that in Latin America, glyphosate is sold without restrictions by animal feed and agrochemical suppliers, hardware stores and other businesses, often “in smaller quantities, in soft drink bottles.”
Stédile, who is also a member of the international small farmers movement Vía Campesina, hopes this region and Europe will ban its use in agriculture, as Mexico, Russia and the Netherlands have done.
As an alternative, he proposed “agroecological production that combines scientific know-how with the age-old knowledge of peasant farmers, to develop crops without the use of poisons, suited to each ecosystem.” That methodology has increased “the productivity of the soil and labour, better than practices that use poisons,” he said.
It is not, said Vicente, a question of replacing glyphosate with new weed killers, several of which are even more toxic, “but of switching to a model of agroecological smallholder agriculture aimed at achieving food sovereignty for our people.”
Stédile said governments in South America continue to support transgenic agriculture despite the evidence of damage to health and the environment, because they believe “agribusiness can help the economy by increasing exports of commodities, contributing to achieving a positive trade balance.”
“This exports illusion keeps governments from taking a stance against a veritable genocide,” he said.
Vicente called for concrete government measures that reflect the results of research carried out in this region, now that the WHO has issued conclusions backing it up.
In a statement, Monsanto criticised the IARC report as “junk science”, saying “this result was reached by selective ‘cherry picking’ of data and is a clear example of agenda-driven bias.” They demanded a rectification.
In response, the researchers pointed out that they stated that glyphosate was a “probable carcinogen”.
Monsanto said “This conclusion is inconsistent with the decades of ongoing comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world that have concluded that all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health.”
Lajmanovich argued that the position taken by a company “cannot prevail over that of an international institution of renowned prestige, the WHO, which is the guiding body in world health.”
He also noted that Monsanto considered WHO reports reliable “when they indicated that glyphosate was innocuous.”
6. RUBELLA HAS BEEN ELIMINATED FROM THE AMERICAS, HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY (The New York Times)
By Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
30 April 2015
Rubella, a disease with terrible consequences for unborn children, has finally been eliminated from the Americas, a scientific panel set up by global health authorities announced Wednesday.
The disease, also known as German measles, once infected millions of people in the Western Hemisphere. In a 1964-65 outbreak in the United States, 11,000 fetuses were miscarried, died in the womb or were aborted, and 20,000 babies were born with defects.
”Although it has taken some 15 years, the fight against rubella has paid off,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which made the announcement in conjunction with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Unicef and the United Nations Foundation. ”Now, with rubella under our belt, we need to roll up our sleeves and finish the job of eliminating measles, as well.”
The Americas region is the first World Health Organization region to eliminate rubella. The European region — which includes Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia — hopes to follow next.
Some regions are still not close enough to set firm target dates, so there is no chance that the disease will be eliminated worldwide before 2020, said Dr. Susan E. Reef, team lead for rubella at the C.D.C.’s global immunization division, who joined in the announcement.
Around the world, about 120,000 children are born each year with severe birth defects attributed to rubella.
Two other diseases were first eliminated in the Americas: smallpox in 1971, and polio in 1994. Smallpox is now eliminated worldwide. Polio is nearly gone, but has clung on stubbornly for decades; almost all remaining cases originate in Pakistan.
Although rubella usually produces only a relatively mild rash and fever in children and adults, it is devastating to fetuses in the first trimester; many are born deaf, blind from cataracts and with severe permanent brain damage.
The last endemic case in the Americas was confirmed in Argentina in 2009.
It took six more years to declare the disease eliminated because its symptoms are harder to detect than, for example, polio, which causes paralysis, or smallpox or measles, which cause intense, easily diagnosable rashes.
Public health authorities had to review 165 million records and do 1.3 million checks to see if any communities had rubella cases. All recent cases had to be genetically tested at the C.D.C. to confirm that they were caused by known imported strains of the virus, not by quietly circulating domestic ones.
As with measles, there is no cure for rubella, but the disease is prevented by a very effective vaccine. In the United States, the shot usually contains three vaccines and is known as M.M.R., for measles, mumps and rubella.
Measles cases in the United States have surged recently because some parents who believe that the measles vaccine causes autism do not let their children receive the shot.
Endemic measles was eliminated from the hemisphere in 2002, but imported cases can surge in pockets of unvaccinated children, as happened last year in an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California.
Rubella is less contagious than measles, and the vaccine for it is somewhat more effective, so the rare imported cases have not spread as rapidly.
The rubella vaccine was first developed in 1969 by Dr. Maurice Hilleman, a prolific vaccine inventor.
In 1964-65, a strain of the virus from Europe caused an epidemic of an estimated 12.5 million cases across the country. Of the 20,000 infected infants born alive, 2,100 died soon after birth, 12,000 were deaf, 3,580 were blind, and 1,800 had permanent mental disabilities.
Perhaps the most famous American rubella victim was the actress Gene Tierney. In 1943, newly pregnant, she volunteered to be in a show at the Hollywood Canteen, a film-industry nightclub for American troops. She caught the disease that night, and her daughter Daria was born weighing only three pounds, deaf, with cataracts and with brain damage so severe that she never learned to speak.
According to Ms. Tierney’s biography, two years later, at a tennis match, she met a fan, a former member of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, who said she had slipped out of a rubella quarantine to go to the Canteen that night.
”Everyone told me I shouldn’t go, but I just had to,” Ms. Tierney recalled the woman telling her. ”You were always my favorite.”
Ms. Tierney wrote that she was too stunned to answer.
Agatha Christie used that story as a plot device in ”The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side.” In it, an actress murders the woman whose thoughtlessness destroyed her child.
The campaign to eliminate rubella in the Americas was formally declared by the Pan American Health Organization in 2003, but many countries had long suppressed their outbreaks through various campaigns.
The island nations of the Caribbean began with a pilot program in the Bahamas in 1997, said Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, a Jamaica-based Pan American Health Organization adviser.
By that time, most children were protected by vaccinations given in school, but many adult men were not because earlier campaigns had focused on vaccinating only girls starting at age 10 because they were in the highest-risk group.
Vaccination teams set up tables at shopping malls, construction sites, union halls, bus stops where workers returned from field labor, high schools, universities and any place where unvaccinated men could be reached.
By then, the campaign was conducted largely with M.M.R. shots, and men were told that the rubella component would protect their unborn children, and that the mumps component would prevent mumps complications, which in post-pubescent men include painful swollen testicles and sterility.
Not only did the men line up for the shot, ”but they brought their wives and girlfriends to construction sites to get it,” Dr. Lewis-Bell said.
As with all disease elimination campaigns, there were regular setbacks.
For example, by 2006, confirmed cases in the Americas had dropped to fewer than 3,000. But in 2007, a surge in Argentina, Brazil and Chile pushed the hemisphere’s count over 13,000. Most cases were in teenage boys and young men who had been skipped for vaccinations, as they previously had been in the Caribbean.
In the United States and Canada, routine childhood shots are relied on to prevent measles, rubella and mumps, but local mass vaccination campaigns are rolled out whenever there is a measles outbreak, and rubella protection increases as a consequence.
Since 2003, many other countries in the hemisphere have held an annual vaccination week in which as many as 60 million people may be vaccinated. This year’s began on Saturday.
Limited rubella outbreaks are still common in other wealthy countries. Japan had 15,000 cases in 2013.