President Iván Duque of Colombia, a self-proclaimed conservative and stern critic of Chinese allies in Latin America like Venezuela, allowed Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to broadcast a speech directly to the Colombian people Sunday.
Xi addressed Colombia on the occasion of the arrival of 774,320 doses of “Coronavac,” a Chinese coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac. Coronavac is believed to be the least effective of the vaccines and vaccine candidates against the Chinese coronavirus currently circulating on an international scale, testing at a 50-percent efficacy rate in preventing coronavirus infections compared to the over 90-percent success of American vaccines.
The Chinese Communist Party has experienced significant success in selling “Coronavac” to Latin America, expanding into the markets of Chile and Brazil, the latter after conservative President Jair Bolsonaro initially canceled an order of Coronavac doses made by a state governor. Chile, which has relied heavily on Coronavac, is currently experiencing its most severe wave of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began despite widely outpacing vaccinations elsewhere in the continent.
According to China’s Global Times state propaganda outlet, Xi used his address to the Colombian people to boast that, under self-proclaimed conservative leadership, China had risen to be Colombia’s second-largest trade partner, threatening to dominate the nation’s economy.
“Xi said he hopes that the governments and peoples of the two countries will make joint efforts to strengthen friendly cooperation in various fields including the anti-pandemic fight, so as to elevate China-Colombia friendly cooperation to a new level from a new historical starting point and bring more benefits to the two peoples,” the Global Times reported.
The vaccines arriving from China in Colombia on Saturday are the third shipment from Beijing. The details of the agreement for the vaccine distribution, including the exact price and other commitments, remain unclear at press time.
Duque also made some remarks during the broadcast carrying Xi’s speech, thanking the Chinese Communist Party and Xi for his words and hoping that bilateral ties “grow stronger and more solid day by day, that they allow the free flow of information and good experience as well as scientific information.”
Colombia has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in the world, having documented 2.3 million cases within its borders as of Monday. Doctors have determined 62,028 people have died as a result of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began in Colombia.
“Coronavac” has become one of the world’s most administered coronavirus vaccines despite its poor performance. While the Chinese government attempted to claim that it was much more effective initially than studies ended up proving, the results of Phase III clinical trials in Brazil showed only a 50.38-percent efficacy rate in preventing infections. Chinese state media outlets defended the vaccine on the grounds that it was significantly more effective in preventing severe cases of coronavirus that require hospitalization and thus has the ability to save lives.
The Sinovac product has been the backbone of Chile’s vaccination program, which as of last week has resulted in at least one-third of the nation’s population receiving at least one dose of a vaccine against the Chinese coronavirus. Chile is the most vaccinated country in Latin America has one of the highest rates of vaccination against coronavirus in the world. The country received 4 million doses of Coronavac in February.
Despite the mass vaccination campaign, Chile’s rates of infection have skyrocketed in the past week, leading observers to describe it as undergoing a “far more aggressive” second wave with the vaccine than its first wave of cases when the pandemic began. Doctors confirmed 7,084 cases of coronavirus Saturday, the highest number of cases recorded in a single day in the country.
The center-right government of Chile confirmed last week that it has contracted with the American company Pfizer to import 150,000 doses of its coronavirus vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine tested at a 95-percent efficiency rate in preventing coronavirus infections.
Chile, a country of about 19 million, has documented 931,939 cases of Chinese coronavirus since the pandemic began and 22,279 deaths.
Brazil, whose Butantan Institute hosted clinical studies for Coronavac, has documented the second-highest number of Chinese coronavirus cases in the world, not counting for mounting evidence that suggests rogue states like China, Russia, and Iran have grossly underestimated the number of cases within their borders. Nearly 12 million people have tested positive for coronavirus in Brazil and nearly 300,000 have died.
Despite repeatedly insisting he would not import vaccine candidates from China, President Jair Bolsonaro announced in January that his government had contracted with Sinovac, the company that makes Coronavac, to mass import ingredients to make the vaccine at home. Bolsonaro added that his country had also contracted with the Swedish company Astra-Zeneca for ingredients to make its vaccine, now under scrutiny after mounting concerns about blood clots.
“I appreciate the sensibility of the Chinese government, as well as the effort of the ministers of [the Foreign Ministry], [Foreign Minister] Ernesto Araujo, [Health Minister] Eduardo Pazuello, and [Agriculture Minister] Tereza Cristina [Corrêa da Costa Dias],” Bolsonaro said in a statement on Twitter.