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WHO Warns of Spreading Zika Virus; Nasheed, Clooney Push for Maldives Reform; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: no vaccine, no cure. Women in El Salvador urged not to have children for two years.

What can stop the Zika virus spreading and threatening every unborn child across the Americas?

We go to El Salvador and to ground zero in Brazil.

Plus: the island president who famously held his first cabinet meeting underwater is free from jail. The former leader of the Maldives

joins me with the woman who sprung him, at least temporarily, high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney.


AMAL CLOONEY, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: At the moment, the government still says we want him back in a prison cell in 30 days. And his only

crime is being a real threat to the government.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The Zika virus continues to stalk the Americas. In more than 20 countries, pregnant women fear for the lives of their unborn children, as

it's strongly believed that the virus causes horrible birth defects, including shrunken heads.

Governments are frantically spraying their streets and towns, trying to eradicate the mosquito that carries the virus. Brazil is deploying the

army and has sent fumigators to the stadium that's hosting the famous Rio Carnival, as other cities have already called theirs off.

The Zika virus is causing so much alarm in El Salvador that the government has advised women not to have babies for the next two years;

while in Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil, they have told women to put off getting pregnant for now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If I wasn't pregnant at the time of the news, I would have waited for sure, so I wouldn't --


AMANPOUR: A horrible dilemma and the Zika virus is also believed to be sexually transmitted, as the World Health Organization warns that it

could spread to almost every corner of South, Central and North America.

We explore this crisis with a leading expert right here in the studio and from the ground in San Salvador and with our Shasta Darlington, who

joined me from Recife, Brazil, as the government there tries pulling out all the stops now.


AMANPOUR: Shasta, you are in Brazil, at what I believe is ground zero of the authorities' attempt to get a hold on this. Give me a sense of how

out of control it is there.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, it's pretty frightening. In a normal year, you only see about 140 cases of

microcephaly, these birth defects in Brazil. And here in this state, you only see about nine. They're seeing hundreds of them, in fact, more than

1,000 cases of microcephaly.

So we've been to see some of the doctors who are treating these patients, we've talked to some of the mothers. This is just devastating

for the entire state, for the city of Recife right here. This used to be a vaccination clinic. They've had to turn it into a center for physical


So you see mothers bringing their babies in and out. The Zika virus itself really cropped up in the first half of last year here in Brazil, for

the first time, and doctors tend to shrug it off. The symptoms are pretty mild.

But a few months later, they noticed a huge spike in this microcephaly, these birth defects. And during their tests, they discovered

a link between the Zika virus and the microcephaly. And with up to a million and a half cases of Zika, this really just has people panicking,

doctors are warning women not to get pregnant if they can put it off until they really figure out what's going on.

The health minister has now come out, saying they're going to dedicate 200,000 troops to go door to door, to make sure there isn't any standing

water in homes. That really serves as the breeding ground for the mosquitoes, the Aedes aegypti, which is the transmitters of Zika virus as

well as dengue and chikungunya, other diseases, which are pretty endemic here in Brazil.

But it's this new Zika virus that has people worried. We talked to one doctor today, who said, the scary thing is we just get the feeling that

this is the tip of the iceberg. What we're seeing now after less than a year of the Zika virus being here, what will we see six months from now?

So it's pretty frightening.

AMANPOUR: Yes, Shasta, you have painted a pretty frightening picture. And of course, for pregnant women, it must be especially terrifying. Thank

you from Brazil.

And we're going to turn now to Dr. David Heymann, who is professor of infectious diseases.

It sounds like hell.

Have we ever seen anything quite this frightening before?


DR. DAVID HEYMANN, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, we have seen many emerging infections, which this is a new infection in human

populations that spreads rapidly. We have not seen this particular infection --

AMANPOUR: What is so special about this one?

I mean, for pregnant women, this is the ultimate nightmare.

HEYMANN: That's right. What's special about this is that it's transmitted by mosquitoes to humans and when humans get infected, they

sometimes are sick, most times are not sick and they don't know they're infected. And if they're pregnant, then they can have a birth detect, such

as this.

AMANPOUR: So look at our map here. This is where the infection is currently. So we've got quite a lot, if not most of Latin America.

We've got Mexico, Central America -- and if I press my hand on here, we'll see that the WHO Is predicting that all of Latin America, except for

Chile, and all of this part, except for Canada, could be infected. I mean, this is huge, including the United States of America.

HEYMANN: That's right, it's huge. And also, the danger is that it will come to Europe, eventually, as well, because one infection in one

country is an infection in all countries today.

AMANPOUR: So how does one stop it?

I mean, if you go back to when it was apparently in the '40s, first discovered in Uganda, how come it wasn't such a big deal in Uganda?

Why are we just seeing it, A, cross oceans and continents and, B, be such a big deal we're so afraid of it right now?

HEYMANN: Well, that's the big question but we know that in the 2000s, 2007, it was on the move. It was in Micronesia, then it went into

Polynesia and in Polynesia, it was actually associated with some microcephaly but it wasn't known at that time. It's only known now by

retrospective, looking at the records, that it was causing microcephaly there.

AMANPOUR: In the not-too-distant past, we've had AIDS, we have had just recently Ebola in Africa.

Each and every one of those was considered to have been recognized sort of too late.

What is it that makes this recognizable too late?

You heard Shasta Darlington, the health minister, originally said, oh, don't worry, it's a benign disease.

HEYMANN: Nothing is known about this virus really, this -- we know that it was present in Uganda in the 1980s, 1970s, even 1940s, it was in

Uganda. That's all we know until recently, when it started on the move. Now that it's on the move, it will continue to move.

AMANPOUR: Is there a cure?

HEYMANN: There's no cure for this infection. It's a new infection, so, therefore, there wouldn't have been research to develop either a cure

or a vaccine. But that will be the ultimate challenge, is to develop a vaccine that can prevent infection.

AMANPOUR: Now you've heard and you've read and you know all this, all these governments are trying to tell their people, their women, don't have

children. don't have children. You know, in some cases, for months, until the government has got a grip on it. In El Salvador, for two years.

What do you think about that?

HEYMANN: The most important is for women to understand the risk. For all people, really, to understand the risk and to understand how this

disease is transmitted to humans and how, individually, one can protect themselves from becoming infected.

Long sleeves, insect repellents, a whole series of things, screened-in houses will prevent transmission and will prevent infection.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to go to San Salvador now, because we have standing by Azam Ahmed, who is "The New York Times" reporter based there.

Azam, if you can hear me, how afraid are the people there?

AZAM AHMED, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Actually, the people don't seem all that worried. It's more the government seems to kind of be expressing

these extreme sort of ideas about women not having kids for two years.

But when you talk to people in El Salvador, there's been modest (INAUDIBLE) but most people -- a strange sort of humorous response, when

they hear that they're not supposed to have children for two years.

It hasn't reached the level where people are really feeling this.

AMANPOUR: And the government is sort of, I suppose, trying to encourage people to use contraception -- and it's a very Catholic country.

Have the churches got involved in this at all?

AHMED (PH): You know, the church has actually been very cautious. The Roman Catholic Church hasn't come out and said anything yet. The most

they've said is basically, this is complicated. We need more time to review it.

So they're not coming out and saying, two years of contraception is unacceptable but they're also not coming out and saying, listen, this is a

humanitarian issue, we need to be -- we need to put aside our sort of moral preoccupations.

The Anglican Church here did say that they're completely supportive of using contraception, and whether that's pills or condoms, to prevent


But the Roman Catholic, which is the largest church here, I think 50 percent of the country is -- subscribes from Catholic, they have not said

anything yet.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll wait to see how that continues there. Azam Ahmed, as we saw, the government sending fumigators around various houses

and locations. Thank you so much for joining us from San Salvador.

Dr. Heymann, is there something about our world today, is there something about the way the climate is?

I mean, it is --


AMANPOUR: -- some have said that, you know, there's so much warm weather, where it didn't used to be, that it's is a perfect storm of a

breeding ground for these diseases, particularly now with these mosquitoes.

HEYMANN: That's right, it is a perfect storm. And that storm is even worse because of globalization and easy travel. People can travel around

the world when they're infected and not even know they're infected; take a disease to another continent, to another place.

Insects travel around the world in airplanes. They can transmit diseases in new areas, as well as food and livestock. So we're seeing a

world that's globalized, that spreads infections around.

AMANPOUR: You were talking a little bit about insect repellent, wearing long sleeves but, you know, people who think they're going to have

babies with terribly deformed and abnormalities are going to want a lot more than that.

HEYMANN: They will. They'll want a vaccine, eventually. And that vaccine isn't available.

So now what has to be done is individual empowerment to understand how to prevent infection. And in places where there's air conditioning in the

household and where there are screens on the windows, it's not really a difficult thing to prevent, because these mosquitoes that transmit this,

bite during the day, not at night.

AMANPOUR: How long do you think until a cure?

And with that, what about when everybody goes to Rio for the 2016 Olympics?

HEYMANN: That's right. It's not -- there's no way to predict when there will be a cure or a vaccine. I'm sure that the pharmaceutical

industry is already working hard on this. I'm sure that institutions like the National Institutes of Health have this on their horizon, scanning, and

are ready to begin research -- but it will take time.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that this enormous population from all over the world, coming to Brazil, ground zero in this fight right now,

could exacerbate it?

Are they a danger?

HEYMANN: It depends what happens in Rio, whether they're able to control the mosquito vector or not. It's possible to control vectors. Get

rid of standing water, spraying, get rid of mosquitoes. And so if that can be done, then it won't be a risk at the Olympics.

If it can't be done and Zika is present in Rio, it will be a risk to people at the Olympics.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Heymann, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

HEYMANN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And this just in to CNN: one person in the U.S. state of Arkansas has tested positive for the Zika virus after recently returning to

the country. That comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And we leave this health and environmental crisis for a recently liberated environmental champion. My interview next with the former

president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, and his lawyer, Amal Clooney, celebrating success and asking, what's next?

We'll be back after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Well, should he stay or should he go?

That's the question facing the Maldives' deposed president, Mohamed Nasheed, who is now here in London. He became famous for winning the

Maldives first democratic elections in 2008 and promptly holding his first cabinet meeting underwater to warn what climate change and rising seas

could do to his low-lying island nation.

Now he was deposed in 2012 and was jailed two years later. But he's now got a 30-day medical reprieve, thanks to international pressure and to

the renowned human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney.

So should he stay in London after treatment or --


AMANPOUR: -- go back to the Maldives and face certain jail again?

I asked him all of that when we sat down all together here earlier today.


AMANPOUR: President Nasheed, Amal Clooney, welcome to the program.

You've been in solitary confinement, in prison for so long, how does it feel just to be out and reunited with your family?

MOHAMED NASHEED, FORMER PRESIDENT, Maldives: Well, it's always lovely to be free, even for a short period of time.

I've spent most of my adult life in jail --

AMANPOUR: That's a pretty remarkable thing to say, actually.

"I've spent most of my adult life in jail."

It's not usual. It's not normal.

NASHEED: I wouldn't recommend even doing that, either. But, unfortunately, we've had a situation in the Maldives, where freedom of

expression, freedom of assembly and most basic individual human rights are denied.

And my work has taken me into conflict with the dictatorship that has been entrenched in the Maldives for so many years.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Amal, from that point of view, first of all, you've done it again. You've got another guy out of jail.


CLOONEY: We're so happy obviously to have President Nasheed here in London. It was a really emotional moment to be at the airport with his

wife and then he being reunited with his children. And, yes, we went almost straightaway to Downing Street following --

AMANPOUR: Which we have that picture right there.

CLOONEY: -- an invitation from Prime Minister Cameron. So it's been a whirlwind but --

AMANPOUR: And what was that about?

Why did you go straight to Downing Street?

CLOONEY: Well, we've been engaged with the U.K. authorities as well as the U.S. government and the E.U. on this case. We've had the support,

the strong support of the prime minister himself and also the foreign office here and Secretary Kerry in the U.S.

We've all been making statements throughout President Nasheed's ordeal, recognizing that there were due process violations and calling for

him to be released and calling for real reform by the government.

AMANPOUR: Where do we go from here?

I mean, you have been granted, I believe, a 30-day reprieve in order to have back surgery.

Is that going to happen?

NASHEED: Well, I've had these chronic backaches for quite some time. I was tortured twice during my -- in my 20s. And then again to have

restrained being in these conditions, have not -- you know, it doesn't help -- it doesn't help my condition. So the doctors, the prison doctors said

that I should have surgery.

AMANPOUR: You can imagine -- and this is to both of you -- the Maldivian government is already probably having second thoughts about

releasing you, because they've already said, this is not medical leave; this is media leave. They don't like the fact that you're taking to the

media, that you're talking.

What do you say to them about that?

CLOONEY: I think they're doing the least that they think they have to do, based on the amount of international pressure that they feel. So they

say that they're doing this for humanitarian reasons.

His medical issues have subsisted for a long while and they've known that he had to seek medical treatment abroad and they've been reluctant to

agree to it until, I think, we took our case of the targeted sanctions to the U.S. and have brought it to the E.U., too.

And only when they felt there could be real consequences to their intransigence and to their increased authoritarianism did they actually

budge. And they will do it in the most limited manner that the international community allows them to get away with.

AMANPOUR: You must have thought you'd died and gone to heaven when she took your case.

NASHEED: She's an excellent lawyer and she has helped us, me and the people of the Maldives, immensely.

AMANPOUR: What do you do now, though?

Do you go back after 30 days?

Do you risk staying out and never being allowed to go back?

What happens next?

NASHEED: Well, that's what I'm having this conversation with my lawyers and see what I should be doing, you know.

Ideally, I would like to go to a Maldives which is free, where political -- peaceful political activities can happen.

AMANPOUR: Do you want to be president again?

Do you want to fight the next election?

NASHEED: I think I will have to fight the next election. It's unfinished business. It's -- everything seems to be very half-baked. But

I would rather sit and read and watch a film. But I think, you know, there's a lot that has to be done.

AMANPOUR: They charged you on terrorism charges, right?

You've said publicly that, because of ISIS and all the terrorism, you know, to date, around the world, it's only a matter of time before we see a

major attack on the tourist beaches of the Maldives, like in Tunisia.

Explain why you say that?

CLOONEY: I think people are shocked when they understand that the Maldives, at the moment, has the highest per capita rate of recruitment to

ISIS of any country in the world. That's over 200 Maldivian fighters who have gone to Iraq or Syria. And the government at the moment is just

turning a blind eye to that.

So when people return to the country, they don't prosecute them. There was a pro-ISIS rally held in the streets of Male and nobody was

arrested. And, instead, the people they are arresting are journalists and human rights activists and opposition leaders.

So the leadership of every opposition party is behind bars. And President Nasheed was behind bars --


CLOONEY: -- but let's not forget and he's here in London, we're delighted that he's here but, at the moment, the government still says we

want him back in a prison cell in 30 days.

And his only crime is being a real threat to the government. They don't want to see him run in 2018, because they probably think he'll win

the elections. And he's been the most moderate, liberal, inspirational leader that country's ever had.

And, you know, they shouldn't have the right to just take away the right of the Maldivian people to vote for him if that's what they want.

AMANPOUR: Why, if you're so moderate and liberal, is there this flourish of a really hard-line Wahhabi Islam in the Maldives?

It didn't just happen last year. This must have been going on even under your presidency.

NASHEED: Since the '70s, the Maldives society, like many other Islamic societies, have been changing. We've taken on a very narrow

understanding of Islam. And that understanding has very much become the mainstream.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, like Amal, and everybody's terrified, tourists who go to places like the Maldives are just terrified that they

could pick up AK-47s and do, you know, carnage on the beaches?

NASHEED: Well, I think we have to be very, very careful. I think the government needs to do a lot more in securing our people, securing our

society, as well as our trade. I think there's a whole lot more that has to be done.

And I think there's a lot of money involved in recruitment of terrorists to Syria and if those recruitment rings, networks, are not found

and rooted out from the Maldives, as in other countries, it's going to be difficult for us to address that. We had just last week, again, 11 more

people going.

AMANPOUR: Eleven more Maldivians have gone to ISIS.

NASHEED: Yes. We've heard of --

AMANPOUR: So it's increasing?

NASHEED: It hasn't stopped.

AMANPOUR: You have defended journalists who are in prison in Egypt. Luckily, they're all free. And now you're defending Khadija Ismayilova,

somebody who I know and we've presented a prize to in New York a few years ago, who's under imprisonment, accused of exposing corruption or whatever.

What hopes do you have for her case?

CLOONEY: Well, first of all, she's not accused of exposing corruption but that's the real reason they're going after her is because she exposed

corruption by the Aliyev regime.

They've charged her with -- initially they charged her with inciting somebody else's suicide and then they manufactured a whole host of other

charges, like tax evasion and illegal entrepreneurship, which is quite creative.

I mean, I have some hope that we will see justice in that case. Initially, it's a purely legal proceeding that we're using; because the --

because Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe and so we're taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The court has accepted that the case is admissible. So we will be arguing it.

We've got lots of third-party NGOs intervening in the case, because they realize this is a really important case for freedom of expression in

Europe and also for -- to expose a lack of fair trial. So I --

AMANPOUR: Have you been able to see her?

CLOONEY: Not yet. I've only recently taken on the case. So we're going to be arguing it in Strasbourg and then of course, if we win and the

government doesn't comply, it becomes a different kind of battle but we very much hope that we will win and that the government will comply and

she'll be able to be free.

AMANPOUR: Mohamed Nasheed, Amal Clooney, thank you very much indeed for joining us today.

CLOONEY: Thank you, Christiane, for having us.

NASHEED: Thank you, Christiane.

And from newfound freedom for Nasheed in London to the high price tag for freedom in Denmark.

Last week on this program, a Danish member of parliament told us that asking Syrian refugees or others to pay what they can for housing is the

same as they ask for their own citizens.

But in the face of international criticism, the Danish parliament today went ahead and overwhelmingly voted to make refugees sell whatever

they own over $1,500, except for sentimental items, in order to pay for themselves.

After a break, a different kind of controversy. Imagine a world where Rome's romanticism gets redacted. It's one we see and one we don't --






AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, rounds off his Roman holiday, he's been the first Iranian leader

to enjoy the sights and scenery of Italy in over a decade.

After wrapping up a trade and spending bonanza, Rouhani visited the pope at the Vatican and went to Rome's Capitoline museum to see the ancient


Well, some of it.

Tonight we imagine a world afraid to bare all because while Rouhani enjoyed this equestrian statue, many of ancient Rome's other great beauties

have been, well, covered up or censored.

This video shows the white boxes installed to protest the modesty of the museum's nudes or perhaps the sensitivity of an Islamic president.

No such sensitivity from the Oscar-tipped actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who visited Rome while plugging his new film "The Revenant" 10 days ago.

He was positively glowing as he came face to face with this barely-covered bust.

Giggles aside, one question does remain, if Rouhani didn't see any of this museum's marvelous marbles, what exactly did he see?

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can now also listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.