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This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván, is 1,510 words, a 5.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Modified mosquitoes to the rescue

A child holds a sample of bioengineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes during an information session in a Brazilian classroom. Photo: Courtesy of World Mosquito Program

A program that uses genetically engineered mosquitoes in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico to reduce the prevalence of diseases that can be fatal may soon serve millions more people, Marina writes.

Why it matters: Outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya, zika and yellow fever —diseases carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito — have long hit the Americas and other tropical regions hard.

  • Climate change has worsened the spread of these diseases, experts say, as rising temperatures favor the life cycle of the mosquitoes and their proliferation in more areas — including, increasingly, the U.S.
  • These diseases also tend to affect impoverished regions where a lack of health care options mean mosquito bites can become deadly.
  • Diseases such as dengue "feed on poverty and inequity, and they fuel it also," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week during an event in Brazil.

What to know: Studies show that over the past few years, work led by the World Mosquito Program in collaboration with local groups and governments has contributed to 70% fewer dengue cases and 56% fewer chikungunya cases in Niterói, Brazil.

  • In another targeted city, Medellín, Colombia, dengue contagion reports dropped by up to 97% from 2022 to 2023.
  • The program, first launched in Latin America in 2014, has been slowly expanding and will grow even more with a new factory that will, by year's end, be able to manufacture up to 100 million bioengineered mosquito eggs a week.
  • That could protect 70 million people in Brazil over a decade, although researchers hope to use the factory to supply other nations, too.

How it works: Mosquito eggs are injected with the bacteria Wolbachia, which has been nicknamed a Trojan horse as it neutralizes the mosquitoes in several ways:

  • The bacteria slows down the replication of the virus mosquitoes carry, sometimes making it inactive so that the mosquito doesn't spread it even if it bites.
  • When male mosquitoes with Wolbachia mate with female mosquitoes without the bacteria, their eggs don't hatch.
  • When female mosquitoes with Wolbachia lay eggs, the larvae hatch already carrying the bacteria, making it far less likely that they'll be able to spread diseases for several generations.

What they're saying: The modified mosquitoes are released only with buy-in from local communities and governments, says Luciano Moreira, lead of the World Mosquito Program in Brazil and a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a leading public health institution.

  • "Partnerships with the communities and governments is part of what helps the program be successful," Moreira tells Axios Latino.

Keep reading

2. Latino voter turnout projected to grow

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

About 17.5 million Latinos are projected to vote in this year's U.S. election, with the biggest increases in turnout expected to take place in some battleground states, according to an analysis by the NALEO Educational Fund.

Why it matters: Latinos are expected to play a critical role in a tight election year, especially in swing states such as Arizona and Nevada, Astrid writes.

By the numbers: About 16.5 million Latinos voted in the 2020 presidential election, per NALEO, which analyzed Latino voter trends for the past six presidential election cycles to come up with its 2024 projections.

  • The fund estimates that Nevada will see a nearly 16% increase in Latino voter turnout, from 239,000 voters in 2020 to 276,000 this year.
  • Latino turnout in Florida is expected to see a 14% increase in turnout, from 1.8 million in 2020 to slightly more than 2 million this year.
  • The projected increases are 12% in New York and 5% in Arizona.
  • Overall, an estimated 36.2 million U.S. Latinos are eligible to vote this year, per a Pew Research Center analysis.

Keep reading

3. Poor reviews for U.S. border response

Asylum seekers sit in a tent as they wait to be processed by border patrol agents at an improvised camp near the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 7 in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif. Photo: Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

About 80% of Americans say the U.S. government is doing a bad job dealing with the large number of migrants at the border, including 45% who say it is doing a very bad job, Russell writes off a new survey.

Why it matters: Infighting, blame-shifting and indecision has plagued the Biden administration's struggle with the border crisis, Axios exclusively reported this week.

Details: About 78% of respondents say the large number of migrants seeking to enter the country at the U.S.-Mexico border is either a crisis (45%) or a major problem (32%), according to the Pew Research Center survey.

  • Republicans (70%) are much more likely than Democrats (22%) to describe the situation as a "crisis."
  • 60% of Americans say that increasing the number of immigration judges and staff to make asylum decisions more quickly would improve the situation.
  • 56% say creating more opportunities for people to immigrate to the U.S. legally would make the situation better.

The Biden administration has long defended its response to the crisis, saying the president has taken several measures to mitigate the number of crossings while pushing for bipartisan legislation to address the issue.

Keep reading

4. Maduro kicks out UN, cracks down on dissent

A Venezuelan holds a "Free Rocío" sign during a press conference by lawyers for detained activist Rocío San Miguel. Photo: Gabriela Oráa/AFP via Getty Images

In the lead-up to Venezuela's elections, President Nicolás Maduro's regime is ramping up actions against dissenting voices through arrests, a proposed ban on NGOs, and today's order for the United Nations' human rights office to cease operations in the country, Marina writes.

  • UN representatives did not immediately respond to an Axios request for comment.

The big picture: The moves come as electoral authorities finalize a date for presidential elections in the second half of the year.

  • The U.S. has warned it will reinstate oil and gas sanctions lifted after Maduro's government late last year promised to hold fair elections.
  • Maduro recently said in a public speech that he would win thse elections "por las buenas o por las malas," essentially by all means necessary.
  • The opposition's chosen candidate, María Corina Machado, is also facing attempts to discredit her primaries win and to bar her from running.

Driving the news: On Friday, authorities detained activist Rocío San Miguel at the airport and later accused her of allegedly helping plan an unproven assassination plot against Maduro, which her lawyers deny.

  • Four of her family members were also detained but later released.
  • San Miguel, an attorney who leads an NGO focused on human rights and accountability in the armed forces, remains under arrest in Venezuela's most notorious prison, the Helicoide, where there have been reports of torture.

Zoom in: NGOs have called attention to other abuses by Maduro's government amid its claims that it faces coup attempts — claims human rights organizations say are false.

  • In the last month, 33 military officers — nine of them high ranking — were expelled from the Armed Forces.
  • Attorney General Tarek William Saab, a Maduro ally who is sanctioned by the U.S. government, said the dismissed officers were making "conspiracy" plans for coups or assassination attempts. The officers have not spoken publicly.

Venezuela's National Assembly, which is controlled by Maduro allies, is in final debates on a draft bill that could criminalize NGOs, the U.N. has warned.

  • In recent months, the Maduro government has also made moves to claim the Esequibo, an oil-rich territory disputed with Guyana, as belonging to Venezuela.

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5. Stories we're watching

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

1. Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo announced yesterday the re-establishment of the National Anticorruption Commission, an agency that had been dormant for a few years.

  • He said it will help develop measures and legal actions to combat impunity in the Central American nation.
  • The commission will be advised by a citizen panel made up of representatives from academia, NGOs, private companies and Indigenous groups, Arévalo said.

2. The White House director of national drug control policy, Rahul Gupta, arrived in Ecuador yesterday for a three-day visit.

  • Ecuador is under a state of emergency to combat criminal groups associated with international drug-trafficking cartels.

6. 🪅 Pachanga: Patricia Hernandez

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Silverman

Today's pachanga celebrates Patricia Hernandez, the first Latina to serve as president of the Society of Comparative and Integrative Biology.

  • Patricia is a professor of biology at George Washington University, and she is passionate about science and helping first-generation college students.
  • Patricia is a first-gen college student herself with several degrees, including a doctorate from Harvard University.
  • Her research has been published in a number of academic journals.

Keep up the impressive work, Patricia!

🎤 Have you recently accomplished something you're proud of? Let us know by replying to this email!

📽️ Marina suggests everyone watch "The Eternal Memory/La memoria infinita," a film by Chilean Maite Alberdi nominated for best documentary at the Oscars.

🔑 Russell is trying to get keys to his office at the University of New Mexico, where he is teaching journalism.

💗 Astrid shared a yummy heart-shaped pizza with her husband, kids and parents for Valentine's Day. Shout out to Peter Piper Pizza!

Thanks to Carlos Cunha, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath and Axios Visuals for their contributions!