Latin America under COVID-19

July 1, 2020

From the July-August 2020 issue of News & Letters

Mexico City—With COVID-19 wreaking havoc, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned that the region will face the largest recession in its history. Twelve million more people will lose their jobs, bringing the total of unemployed people on the continent to 38 million, leaving 29 million more in poverty, bringing the total to well over 200 million. A food crisis looms, not because food is lacking, but because a huge sector of the population cannot afford to buy it.


The pandemic is revealing the grave contradictions of Latin American capitalism that, on the one hand, is strongly dependent on U.S., European and Chinese investment and extractive resources exploitation, and on the other hand, is “home-grown,” particularly in Brazil and Mexico, who are striving to join the so-called developed world. Making everything worse, the COVID-19 response is under the direction of incompetent leaders and is resulting in needless suffering and mounting deaths.

Brazil—Under the fascist rule of Jair Bolsonaro, as we go to press Brazil has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. The death toll may be reaching 100,000, no one knows. Bolsonaro demands that all the states open their economies, fires health ministers who disagree with him and tried to remove COVID-19 statistics from government web sites. The great Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has organized a petition demanding the protection of Indigenous peoples of the Amazon who are being devastated by the pandemic. Bolsonaro is seeking to further open up the Amazon to destructive developmentalist projects.

Peru—“Peru is now one of the world’s worst coronavirus hot spots—its hospitals overwhelmed, its people fleeing the cities,” notes The New York Times. It reflects a devastating inequality wherein the vast majority survive day by day in a country where few have any savings and only one in three Peruvian households have access to running water. Even Peru’s president Martín Vizcarra commented: “This isn’t just a health or sanitary crisis, but a social and economic crisis without precedent.”

Nicaragua—The government has downplayed and obscured the reality of COVID-19. President Daniel Ortega has not implemented social distancing measures and it is one of the few nations in the world where baseball and soccer with the public in the stands was not stopped. Recently Ortega admitted that the coronavirus “is progressing slowly,” but said that no one can stop working because “the country is dying.” Like Brazil, in Nicaragua, no one knows the real situation of the virus.

Mexico—With the vast majority of Mexico under a “red stoplight,” President López Obrador continues his travels to Mexico states, insisting on the need to rally the population to the “new normality,” and continue the country’s developmentalism. He is setting a terrible example in a country which needs to continue social distancing as a high rate of COVID-9 infections continues.

—Eugene Walker

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